24 Aug

Flying a MOVI m5 on UAV

There’s a thousand ways to get a camera airborne these days but as the camera weight increases so do the hardware requirements and equally, costs. Sure, you can drop $10,000 (after batteries, tax, shipping, FPV, etc) on a FreeFly Alta and have the ultimate setup (keep in mind it’s another $4,000 for a MOVI m5). But if you’re looking for something on a budget I’m offering up the most affordable way to get extremely professional aerial footage immediately, especially if you already have a MOVI or other lightweight gimbal.

I spent more than six months ordering parts from around the world (thanks DHL), dismantling and rebuilding the DJI s1000 UAV with numerous improvements (documented on my blog).

If you’re interested in getting a Sony a7s, GH4, Canon 5D Mark III or other DSLR airborne quickly – email me!

An overview of modifications to the s1000:

  • replaced the central stiffening board with an 8-point version (the stock connects only to 4 of the 8 booms).
  • Added the Kopterworx s1000 MOVI adapter
  • Replaced the landing legs with 500mm carbon fiber tubs to allow the needed vertical height to fit the MOVI suspended below the s1000
  • Added the DJI AVL-58 fpv using a Kopterworx HDMI to AV adapter to transmit the main camera image to the ground
  • Also purchased the IOSD mini which would show telemetry info but the data never did connect properly. I never troubleshot this issue though as the Alta arrived about that time.
  • I have two 5000mAh PULSE batteries and one additional 16,000 mAh PULSE. With the larger battery I could get around 10 minutes flight time with the MOVI and a SONY a7s camera.

26 Apr

Adapting the DJI s1000 with the MOVI m5

UPDATE

Between work and traveling to Europe for three weeks, I was still able to get a couple shots off with the setup. It was pretty rock solid, even in about 10 knots of wind and with the MOVI mounted on the Freefly Systems Toad-in-the-Hole. I picked up a PULSE 16000 mAH battery but realized after it arrived it only meets the DJI s1000 minimum requirement of 15c and so it isn’t but a few minutes before any significant power draw (ascent, bank or turn) results in the first, yellow LED warning. Initial tests suggest about 9:30 flight times but I’ve been landing around 7 when fully loaded with the gimbal and camera to be safe.

My big limitation now is that I have to have an operator or pilot – can’t really and operate solo. I know some people have been setting up basic gimbal functions on the main pilot remote or configuring the MOVI to run in majestic mode after takeoff, but for decent video you want a separate operator anyway.

The newly integrated DJI AVL58 video downlink seems OK – picture appears wildly overexposed in my monitor, which is fine – I choose and set exposure prior – but even framing can be a little rough in certain lighting situations.

Added the following from Kopterworx:

  • Movi M5/M10 adapter for DJI S1000 frame movim5s1000
  • 3K Carbon tube 550mm/25mm x 2 (landing gear extensions)
  • HDMIV converter mini

Also:

  • FreeFly Systems Toad-in-the-Hole Quick adapter
  • DJI AVL58 video TX/RX
  • DJI S1000 – UPGRADE Carbon Fiber Reinforcement Plate from http://globe-flight.de/

I purchased the copter used and there was light damage to the other parts so I replaced the upper and lower boards and one frame arm- I disassembled every single piece of hardware and rebuilt from scratch.

________________ original post below____________

I’ve been working towards marrying my DJI s1000 with my FreeflySystems MOVI m5 – it’s not a match made in heaven, but an arranged marriage with two hesitant parties.

Fortunately a few companies have stepped up in the marketplace and with the help of others who paved this path before me, I’m almost there.

I mentioned before that I bought the s1000 used, which is another long and sordid tale. There was a little damage but when I dismantled it for repairs, I discovered the damage was more extensive than expected. Numerous late night binge orders later and countless visits from FedEx, UPS and DHL, I was able to get the UAV back in the air today, briefly before the rain settled back into the area.

During that process I did have some trouble with Compass Calibration. As I attempted to calibrate it kept giving me the red LED and the flashing green/yellow (looks more green/orange to me) which indicates compass issues. Then suddenly I was able to take off in Attitude mode. After reseating some power connections it suddenly began working again as expected, picking up the GPS signals and switching to that sweet, purple GPS LED.

My final step is to find a decent battery (alternating two 5000 maH Pulse batteries now which give me about 5 minutes) so that I can carry the extra weight of the gimbal with a modest flight time. And also an FPV. I’ve had the DJI AVL58 sitting in my Amazon cart all day, thought I can’t figure out how to tap into the UAV power by looking at instructions, diagrams and pictures and DJI’s manuals are painfully vague in many areas.

 

17 Jan

Setting up the DJI s1000 with a GoPro Hero 4 Black

I must be crazy to have a larger UAV like the DJI s1000 and want to fly a little GoPro, but I want options. Eventually I plan to modify the aircraft to carry my MOVI m5 with longer landing gear legs, but for now I just want a simple camera setup and since the latest GoPro has 4K, it’s a worthy setup.

Funny though, that DJI and the UAV community have little info on this setup. In fact I was looking for a Zenmuse H4-3D, and previously an H3-3D for my s1000 and everywhere i looked they seem to indicate that the little Zenmuse GoPro gimbals were for Phantom only. Even B&H Photo which has a ‘standard‘ and ‘phantom‘ version, which last week listed both as ‘for Phantom only’ but I can’t seem to find that statement now on the standard. Multiple tweets to DJI have been fruitless.

UPDATE- Just noticed the listing on the B&H for the DJI H4-3D says:

  • Plug-and-Play with Phantom 2
  • Optional GCU for Other Aircraft

So it should work with my s1000.

Fortunately I found the company DSStyles.com and their carbon fiber gimbal mount which was a deal for around $35 (nothing in this world of UAVs seems to be less then $100). It just arrived and I have it mounted up, but still don’t have a gimbal. I think I’m waiting on the H4-3D and in the meantime I found this Carbon Fiber 4-Axis 6-Axis FPV Gimbal PTZ for Gopro 3 DJI Phantom on ebay, which isn’t really a gimbal at all but just a static GoPro attachment, but at less than $12, it will hold me over.

 

DSStyles Gimbal Mount for s1000

The DSStyles Carbon Fiber Gimbal mount newly attached to my DJI s1000 – ready and waiting for the Zenmuse H4-3D gimbal

28 Dec

While I Wasn’t Looking: Why Price Drops Make Me Sad

Caught up in the excitement of the UAV age (intentionally not using the word drone so I don’t sound like an amateur), I searched for a long time for a deal on a solid 8-rotor platform with the hopes of flying a DSLR or possibly one of the new mirror-less cameras like the Panasonic GH4 or Sony A7s.

Craigslist afforded me a prime opportunity to score a used DJI s1000 with the A2 flight controller and Futaba 14SG radio remote – buyer asking $4500. With the s1000 alone going for almost $4,000, the A2 around $1,300 and the Futaba about $600, it seemed like a great idea, especially when he threw in a couple LiPo batteries so I could get started. Upon inspection the aircraft had some minor damage which would require about $500 in parts and the seller agreed to discount as much so I dropped the $4,000 and went home excited and ready to take off.

Once home I started looking through the documentation and discovered that whomever had this before had no clue what they were doing and probably didn’t know how to read. The wiring was totally wrong on the controller and it took me a couple weeks to get organized enough, order the necessary battery connectors and solder them on, etc.

It was about this time I happened to pop on to DJI.com and browse their store and notice that they now listed the s1000 directly, previously I had looked and was quite sure they only carried the Phantom – the s1000 had to be purchased through a dealer. Not only was it there on the site but the price was now $2,670. I was shocked to say the least and immediately searched the dealer listings I had looked over previously to see their prices were still around $4,000 for the pair (about half have since dropped as of this post).

So here I was with a broken UAV that brand new would run me around $3,400 (for my setup) and I was in at $4,000 and needing $500 in replacement parts. If I had only waited a week. Buying gear in this market is a gamble. You wait and watch that Canon C100 for a year and finally make the jump and the next week the Mark II is announced for the same price (happened to my friend).

Or you can wait and wait and wait and never shoot a thing. Such is modern filmmaking.

26 Dec

Channel and function mapping on the Futaba T14SG remote

Futaba T14SG diagramAs I was getting ready to fly my DJI s1000 with A2 flight controller using the Futaba T14SG remote, I created form field enabled PDF that allows you to document the settings for each function then print and carry in the field. Hopefully others might benefit from this.

Many people use a labeler, which I’ll probably do as well, but this will be handy to keep a record and potentially share settings with others.

There are two versions:

To help with mapping channels and switches to functions

26 Dec

Channel mapping with the DJI A2 and Futaba T14SG

Overcoming some issues sorting out the configuration of the DJI A2 and the Futaba 14SG controller and I thought I would share. There are a ton of tutorials out there but it took some digging to figure out just how to apply a channel to a switch and then map that channel to a function on the A2.

On the controller push LNK 2 times and then scroll to FUNCTION and press RTN. The numbers on the left correspond to the channels. The designation next must be unique if you want the joined channel and switch to be independent so I immediately set each open channel to a unite AUX number.

Next you assign a CTRL by scrolling to the appropriate position, push RTN and then scroll to the button name (i.e. SA, SE, etc). This maps the channel to that specific switch.

In the A2 software click the channel mapping button (in the lower right of any control page) and then click the button to the right which will read ‘Unmapped’ and choose the channel you linked to a button on the controller.

Writing this out it now sounds obvious but on the tutorials I went through it was left out and I found a gap between the Futaba manual and the A2 manual that left me temporarily scratching my head.

If you have issues contact me by email – I’ve disabled the comments due the debilitating spam they generate.