Quadcopter 1 – Flying

Quadcopter 1 is built with the Naza M V2 flight controller from DJI. It is expensive but worth every penny for the novice pilot because it is very stable and very easy to fly. it will give you the satisfaction that you need so much and the confidence that you can do anything with it. My good friend Misha started flying with an Arducopter controller and quickly gave up.

Here is a recent video (published with permission of the participants) of me flying it in a small parking lot just a meter away from the excited crowd (children are the best crowd for this kind of stuff).

However, I must confess that I do this after relatively many hours of flying the Naza and, I’m not exaggerating, tens of broken propellors, two damaged engines and a fractured carbon fibre frame. DON’T DO YOUR FIRST FLIGHT IN A SMALL PARKING LOT.

My first flight was catastrophic. I bought only 8 propellors and I attached four of them to the engines in a random way. I remembered Misha laughing about people who buy ready made coppers like the Phantom, who don’t even know which way the propellors are attached, but I didn’t understand what he means and I didn’t know what to ask. So I attached the propellors, took it to a large parking lot at night, armed the controller, moved the throttle up and the quadcopter flopped on its head breaking two propellors. I replaced the propellors and tried again, same result with one broken propellor. I took it home and started reading the configuration instructions carefully I soon understood how to attach the propellors correctly (see the “Preparing to fly” post).

The next day I went to the parking lot again, this time with the propellors attached correctly. I armed the controller, moved the throttle up and the copter lifted off the ground, took a wide angle and crashed into a lighting pole. Two propellors broken again and I couldn’t continue flying. I went home and ordered a large number of propellors (I think 20) from a supplier in China but I couldn’t just sit and wait a month for them to arrive. So I went the next day and bought 2 propellors from an importer in a nearby city for six times the chinese price.

After a few more careful flights I could lift it off the ground an land. I decided that I must now start practicing on moving it sideways a bit. So I went to a large field, lifted off and it started flying away, assisted by the strong winds (I live in a mountain region, 800 meters above sea level with strong winds). I couldn’t understand how to make it return to me, so I panicked and switched to the RTH (return to home) mode. In this mode the Naza copter first climbs up to 20 meters and then heads “home”. I saw it climbing up then starting to fight the winds in order to return to the home position, suddenly something snapped and the copter fell from 20 meters to the ground not far away.

I ran to the crash spot and was amazed to see that 3 propellors were broken, one engine shaft was bent but the carbon fibre frame was intact apart from a very small dent. Now I really had to wait a month for new engines to arrive. When I inspected the copter I found the reason for the crash – the screws attaching one engine to the frame came loose, and the engine snapped off. This is something you don’t want to happen in mid-air, especially since I’m writing this post in an airplane on the way to the London Heathrow airport. Not a bright thought at all.

I now had some time to think and I understood that I must perform all the calibration steps and, most importantly, make sure that the propellors (and engines) are completely horizontal. If they aren’t then the copter will rotate or simply fly away. It is easy to detect which engine is not horizontal – it will be hotter than the other engines.

The next time I flew it, it lifted off cleanly, kept its position and height and responded to commands beautifully. Here is a video from that period.

After some more practice I became so confident that I let friends fly it with no training at all. I would give them the transmitter, stand behind them while holding their fingers, and show them the basic movements. They could fly it very nicely just like that without any practice. I stopped doing that after someone panicked and turned off the engines in mid-air and someone else borrowed it for a few days and returned it with 2 broken propellors.

Here is a video (published with permission) of some 2-legged friends and 4-legged friends flying my Quadcopter 1.

 

So, the main point is that anyone can fly a Naza and I strongly recommend paying more for a Naza at least for the first quadcopter.

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