Quadcopter 1: Preparing to fly

I’m publishing this post a bit out of order as I already published the post about flying because it was simpler and shorter. However, lets not get hung up on small details. So here I explain the last stages of preparation before flying.

The stages are:
  1. Pair the receiver to the transmitter
  2. ESC calibration
  3. Naza calibration
  4. Attach the propellors  – they must be completely parallel to the ground
  5. Hold it by hand to  see that it responds correctly to RC commands (if it is a small model). Alternatively, you can ask someone to help as I’ll explain.
  6. Find an empty field large enough to fly without crashing into something, or worse, some spectators
All the steps from 1 to 5 should be carried out with the propellors NOT attached to the engines.

 Pairing the receiver to the transmitter

Usually most transmitters and receivers have buttons that place them in pairing mode. Follow the procedure for your devices. I found that my Hitec transmitter works with the Hitec Optima receiver (obviously) and with the cheap Minima receiver.

ESC Calibration

The purpose of ESC calibration is to set the throttle range onto the ESCs. Follow these steps to do that:

  1. Connect the signal cable of the ESC (its color is usually white) to the throttle channel of the receiver. This is usually channel 3 and the signal connector is the upper one.
  2. Turn the transmitter on
  3. Push the throttle to the top most position
  4. Connect the quadcopter power. The receiver should come on
  5. The engine should beep twice
  6. Within 2 seconds move the throttle to the bottom position
  7. The engine should beep 3 times and the ESC should reset itself
  8. Move the throttle up and verify the engine starts. Note the direction in which the engine rotates – clockwise (CW) or counter clockwise (CCW)

The ESC programming instructions are usually the same for all ESCs because they all run the same SimonK firmware. The instructions for my 4-in-1 ESC can be found here.

Note that when the engine starts it should beep several times corresponding to the number of cells in the battery. If one or more engines beep a wrong count then these engines should be programmed. The programming instructions can be found in the ESC manual.

After all engines are calibrated connect the ESC signal cables to the correct engine ports on the Naza controller.

Naza calibration

Naza calibration is guided by the Naza configuration application DJI Naza-M V2 Assistant that runs on Windows and MAC. Here is a screenshot of it’s first screen.

naza first screen

I will not repeat here the information and instructions listed in the Naza-M quick start manual. I will only point out some important points that might be overlooked.

It is important to do all the configuration steps when calibrating the Naza for the first time especially the IMU calibration in the Tools window.

I recommend to do the Naza compass calibration as well. This procedure is described here.

Attaching the propellors

Note that there are two clockwise propellors (CW) and two counter-clockwise propelloers (CCW). The propellors must be attached so that the two CW and the two CCW propellors are at the edges of the diagonals.

You must also ensure that the engines rotate the right way, i.e. the CW propellor should rotate CW and the CCW propellor should rotate CCW. If an engine turns the wrong way then disconnect two of the engine’s three power cables and swap them, meaning that each should be connected to the other lead coming from the engine. This will reverse the engine’s direction.

Hold the quadcopter by hand and run a dry test

This is a risky step and I suggest to do it only if you are a cool headed grown up guy/girl and your model is small enough to hold it with one hand. If the model is large then you should ask someone to help and hold it above his head.

So, hold the quadcopter tightly, arm the system and bring the throttle up until all propellors spin. Be careful not to let go.

Now move the remote control sticks and verify that the quadcopter responds correctly.

Next release the sticks and let them return to their center position. Then hold the quadcopter and tilt it to each side. You should feel the quadcopter resist as it tries to stabilize itself.

Flying:

Before flying you should perform the following checklist:
  1. All screws are tight. Especially those that connect the engines to the frame
  2. The battery is attached securely
  3. The propellors are screwed on tightly
  4. The propellors are parallel to the ground
  5. The indicator lights are in their normal state

First flights 

My first flights were catastrophic. I crashed the quadcopter many times and broke many propellors and some engines. So here are some tips to get you started:

Be patient – its takes time for your fingers to learn the controls and respond quickly and correctly.

Start flying in normal mode – be aware where the “forward” direction is and stand behind the quadcopter.

Start with simple flights – lift of and land, lift off, move one meter to each direction and land. And so on …

Don’t start flying in strong winds.

Try to fly the quadcopter circles. I think that if you succeed (in normal flight mode) then you are doing nice progress.

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