Going to MultiGP International Open and other news

Well the news is in I’ll be heading to Muncie, Indiana for MultiGP International Open.  This will be the biggest drone related event I will have attended.  The wife and I will be arriving sometime on the 10th and I have tickets for the 11th – 13th.  Looking forward to finally meeting in person the guys I have been chatting and talking to for the past year and a half on FPVChat slack and hangouts.  To prepare for it I’ve been trying to get out and fly more as well as working on my ever frustrating aversion to turning right.   Hopefully I don’t embarrass myself too much.

On a sad note I wanted to belatedly put out my thoughts and feelings for the Culpepper family for their loss of JC aka Project Blue Falcon on YouTube.  He passed away in a motorcycle a few weeks back.  He was a asset to the community and a genuinely humble, gentle person.  He will be missed and I hope where ever he is knows how much he impacted so many strangers who he never met but helped so much in this hobby.  Please help the family with settling his debts and help cover his memorial by donating to the gofundme.

Take care and keep in the air.

Finding Flow in Freestyle

So I’ve struggled hard to figure out this thing called flow and freestyle.  I’m still struggling at this point and if I’m honest I’m probably going to continue to struggle with it.  I’m a very linear thinker and a logical thought process.  Flow is very creative and improvisational which I don’t do well.  This isn’t to say I can’t but those moments are few and far between for me.  To me flow is to be one with your gear and just fly like there is no transmitter and goggles between you and your craft.  Flying to me is freedom.  Freedom of the bounds of our earth bound bodies and allows you to expand your mind in all 3 dimensions in fluid non-stop momentum.  I don’t know a better way to explain it.  Lately I’ve been forcing myself to use smoother movements on the sticks and less jittery control inputs.  I’ve also been pushing my comfort zone with flying over things that could leave me with a complete loss of gear such as tall trees, buildings, and soon water.  I’m by no means pushing it like some others out there do as I don’t have the confidence in my gear or myself to do it but I hope to over the next year.  Here’s my latest creation to show some progress.  This video was footage taken over the past few weeks with concentration on flying smoother.  

Let me know what you think and feel free to post any comments on the videos.

Flying with friends

Ok something most of those who have flown with me know is I’m typically a lone wolf pilot.  Now with that said I have tried recruiting people around me such as co-workers.  As they are starting out it’s kind of like raising a kid.  They don’t know squat about the rules or the basics of flight.  Through this I have taught them the basics and found out that hey I really enjoy it.  I like teaching and showing them things and blowing their minds with the things as a pilot who’s flown for a while take for granted.

I have a busy family life with a wife and 2 young kids.  This makes flying with others kind of tough but I tell you flying with others is so much more satisfying than soloing it everywhere.  It forces you to keep pushing boundaries in your flying and your knowledge.  This is a great thing for the hobby in general as you get to the people who are interested and teach them to care about the things that will hopefully keep them flying safely and further the hobby in general.

What I call for all hobbyists out there I say find someone who’s interested in the hobby.  Help them pick out their gear.  Put it together for them and then when they break it be there to help them put it back together.  This is important as it helps expand the pool of people flying and increases the chances you’ll have someone to fly with anytime you get a free moment.

Keep to the skies and fly your heart out.


Rasvelg 5″ CF demise

Had a fun weekend of flying with the MAV meetup group.  After spending an evening fixing my Rasvelg 5″ replacing an arm and rewiring some components after a spectacular crash it happened again.  

This time I not only broke another arm but also broke the bottom and mid plates.

As I wait for this I’m reworking the Hive 210 build. Changing out the FC from the F303 Xracer v3 to a Flip32 F4 board, softmounting the FC, modifying the Cicada 30A ESC’s to DSHOT600, replace PDB (the old one if the voltage dropped below 13.9V killed the 12V out), and adding a PiggyOSD. Should be interesting to see how it all works together.

New builds and new warmer weather.

We’ve had some unusually warm weather well above average the past few weeks.  We also dodged a bullet of a snow storm that was supposed to lay down over a foot of snow.  Due to the weather I’ve been practicing a ton with the game Velocidrone  as it seems to be a better approximation of the real thing sans crashing and rebuilding that is.  It features a full betaflightesque PID controller as well as options to change just about every setting on it.  The guys in my FPV-Chat Slack and I have been playing the multiplayer which is awesome and allows you to play all the UTT tracks as well as create your own.  Highly suggest giving their trial a try and if you like it buy it as it’s only $20 and keeps your skills up.

I’d like to throw out a shout out to GapIT, Dirt Diver, and BlueGrassMultirotor for their epic new podcast “The FPV Show” as it’s different from the few others out there.  These guys are funny but informative and they are doing it from the perspective of their particular skill sets.  This isn’t your interview someone new every week type fare.  As of this writing they are only 3 episodes in but I’ve enjoyed them all so far.

Onto my flying.  I’ve been putting in between 15 and 30 packs a week trying to get more comfortable behind the sticks from a long winter of neglect.  2 things that are helping me tremendously right now.  1st the sims like the one mentioned above have been a godsend.  They have helped me focus more on learning to read a field and get my racing lines down.  2nd would be the new frame I have assembled.  The Räsvelg 5″ stretch frame and hardware makes it so much easier to carry a line.  It’s primarily a race focused frame and that’s what it’s really good at.  Super light and with a 4in1 ESC along with an Omnibus F4 V2 FC it’s clean and compact as well.  Can’t say enough good about this frame and it’s a treat to fly.

Waterproofing Your Drone; Winter Is Coming

So today 11/16/2016 I get word of rain/snow on Friday 11/18/2016.  This will be the first snow of the season and made me re-double my efforts to get at least one wet capable multirotor up and running.  Last year I had terrible luck and blew out more components then sessions I actually flew.  Water and salt from the roads kills things quick.  There are a few options out there that I know of that work.  (Disclaimer:  You do this at your own risk.  I am not responsible for any damage due to this modification.)

1.) DryDrone – I know nothing about this product but it’s supposed to be tailored directly for use with multirotors.

2.) CorrosionX – Great in a pinch but leaves a nasty residue and attracts dirt and debris.  FliteTest did a great video on using it here.

3.)  Conformal Coating – Silicone is the best.  Not very durable but makes for easier rework if you have to solder through it.

4.)  Clear Nail Polish – Any nail polish will work but a thick coat of this should protect things well.  Not easy to rework anything after it’s on there though.

5.)  Epoxy – The longer set stuff works best but don’t expect to do any work easily on the electronics after it’s on there.

6.)  Liquid Electrical Tape – Works good to keep water out but very messy and doesn’t look very professional.

Now some things to keep in mind.  You want to coat all PCB’s exposed surfaces to give you full protection including ESC’s but do not put any of these things on your motors.  The motors will run even when under water as they are already insulated.  Hot glue does not work as it’s permeable and does absorb moisture and doesn’t provide a water tight seal.

Something else to keep in mind some of these products do not react well to certain plastics and can cause them to deform or start desolving/melting.  It’s always best to test them on something before hand to make sure you don’t have an issue.

Now if you didn’t treat your multirotor prior to getting it wet or maybe you missed a spot and it’s shorting out all is not lost.  Best practice is to:

1.) Unplug Battery

2.) Rinse off any salt or other contaminants with distilled clean water.

3.) Spray WD40 on the electronics

4.) Wait for it to dry out completely 24-48 hours in a warm dry place

5.) Rinse and clean off the WD40 residue with more clean distilled water

6.) Dry it out completely

7.) Power up and see what does and doesn’t work.

This wraps up what I know works and if you would like to add a comment or suggestion feel free to contact me at the links in this blog.

Lost Sponsorship but Gained Self Respect

So a few of you may have known I had been sponsored back in July/Aug of 2016.  It was offered up by a local drone company here in MN as part of making a racing team.  I met with the team owner and what he explained was exciting.  We’d work together and build a brand and a team up to win races.  All in all it sounded great.

As time stretched on more and more red flags surfaced.  Meetings scheduled and upon arrival the owner wasn’t even in the state with no call or attempt to contact me.  Perks promised weren’t materializing nor were any type of sponsorship labeling or swag.  There were a total of 3 pilots in our group.  I was the oldest at 35 the other pilots 17 and 18 with a team manager that was 18 as well.  Things came to a head when finally some of us started receiving our gear.

When it was finally my turn to start getting my stuff I was concerned and reached out about it.  The concern was spare parts for our sponsor purchased gear.  There was some discussion when we met about keeping us flying and in the air by keeping an on hand stash of replacement parts but it turns out to be we are responsible for any damage done to the racing drone financially.  Although not the end of the world for me I saw it for what it was another red flag.  The issue being we hadn’t started winning races to pay for our investment yet.  This part stuck in my head as the biggest red flag of all.  This sport of drone racing isn’t very lucrative to pilots yet.  It will take time to get there as it grows but at the moment no matter who you are and how good you are you can’t make a living off of the purses being offered.  On top of that how little extra it would cost to keep a few extra critical spare parts around was small peanuts compared to the outlay of cash up front and would ensure everyone kept flying with the possibility to earn some wins and reputation for the company.  Lastly with the team assembled of a high school student and a college student with very limited funds can’t be expected to put all else aside to pay to keep their gear in the air with no assistance and be ready for each and every race you want them to run.

So to the crux of the matter.  I confronted the owner in our private group to clarify the issue and was promptly told to pound sand basically.  I argued the point a bit and pretty much ended any ability to work with the owner to which I promptly quit the team after a short consideration.  I found out later on that I would have been terminated from the group anyway as I had pissed off the owner.  Now as the title states I lost my sponsorship but I gained some self respect.  I put my foot down when I felt it really mattered hoping to give myself and in the end my remaining teammates some leverage moving forward.  Whether it works out that way is up to them but I harbor no hard feelings against them or the owner.  Business is business and although I’m a bit disappointed in his reaction it’s his business and he can run it with whomever and however he likes.

I still race and have a ton of fun doing it.  The pressure is lessened a bit and I feel like I can fly my own way with me being the only critic that matters.  You have to love to fly to get any good at this sport and talent helps a ton.  My biggest takeaway from this situation is don’t be afraid to speak your mind even if it costs you something it’s much cheaper than letting someone walk all over you.



Hive 210 build log

So I’ve been looking for quite some time for a new non-x racing frame.  One that is durable and well balanced.  I initially looked at the QAV-R frame but for one thing I wanted something a bit more unique and the other I didn’t like what I was hearing about it’s durability.  Long story short I was recommended by several people in my slack channel http://fpv-chat.com to take a look at the Hive 210 frame and so I did and I love it.  I wanted to yell out a special thanks to Florian of Florotors for sending me some of the 3d printed parts used in this build.  If you want a run down on the components used in this build goto rotorbuilds Below you’ll find some pictures and a build log for it.

I started with a mock-up and layout of all the components I plan to use:


I started with mounting the PDB as this is the bottom of the main stack which gives this machine life.


Next I find where I’m going to place all the components on this I put the standoffs on the stack and put the flight controller on to see what kind of room I have to work with


Now that I have an idea of how much room I start the actual build.

I install the ESC’s in their cases on the arms trying to place them at equal spacing


I install the PDB in the frame and begin soldering the ESC power leads to it.


I install the motors and solder them up as well trying to keep all my wiring under the PDB and out of sight.


I wire in the flight controller and again try to keep all the wires underneath to keep a clean build.


Lastly I zip tie the RX and VTX to the top plate which just barely fits.

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And here’s the finished product

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Just signed up for a race and finished my Falcon 130 build

Signed up to be part of a for show race at the Savage, MN Dan Patch Days and hosted by Maverick Drone Systems.  It will be a very quick heat races as we only have 30 mins total from start to finish at this point.  I’m probably not as ready as I should be but you have to start somewhere.  Will post video when I’m done as it should be interesting although I’m guessing short :).


On another note I finished my Falcon 130 finally and maidened it today.  Flew pretty well running on Betaflight 2.8.1 with SuperExpo and Airmode features enabled.  Getting alot of oscillations on prop wash and the motors are heating up more than I’d like to see so will require tuning.  You can find the build here at rotobuilds.com  if you’re interested in the hardware.  And lastly I got my custom stickers for Chris Ames FPV.  Pretty impressed with their quality.


MinimOSD programming through your flight controller

OSD’s have come a long way since where I started with the MinimOSD.  They have added features and streamlined some of the interface but the problem with it was the inability to easily change a setting other than by the limited menu via stick commands or having to hook it up to a serial to USB adapter.  This was a major headache most people did not want to deal with and so OSD’s seemed to be a feature most didn’t want to bother with.

As of BetaFlight 2.4.2 a feature has been added called SerialPassthrough and this allows your flight controller to act as a bridge to anything you have connected to a UART on your flight controller. Ben Timby submitted a pull request after testing it on a modified version of BetaFlight. For those with a Micro MinimOSD or MinimOSD that means you can access and change the setting on the OSD via the USB port on the flight controller.  Now you can’t flash or update the firmware through this feature as that still requires an Arduino or USB Serial programmer but usually that’s a one time thing you do before you install it anyway.

Here’s how to do it (text version below video):

It’s actually very straight forward and simple once you understand what it’s doing.  You have 2 or 3 UART’s typically depending on the board.  UART is short for Universal Asynchronous Receiver/Transmitter (wikipedia) but basically for our use is a serial port with RX and TX pins or pads.  It’s what our flight controller uses to communicate to devices you connect (for example USB, SBUS, SmartPort Telemetry, OSD’s, GPS, etc).  What this new feature enables is it allows your built in USB to Serial adapter that you use on your flight controller to connect to things connected on the UART ports on the board using serial communication. Basically you send a command through the USB com port and it mirrors it on a UART that you specify with the command.

A few caveat’s you must know before doing this:

  1. UART 1 is typically reserved for the USB so if you have connected anything you want to access on that UART this will not work
  2. Depending on your setup you may need to power the device you are trying to connect to access it.  In my case I had to plug the battery in to give voltage to the Micro MinimOSD I had installed.

Here’s how you do it:

  1. Connect your flight controller to the USB on your computer.
  2. Open Cleanflight and connect to the flight controller while noting the com port it’s using.
  3. Goto the Ports tab and verify what UART you’ve connected your device to.
  4. Goto the CLI tab and type the following:  serialpassthrough (port) (baud)  NOTE:  Betaflight labels serial ports starting from 0 not 1 yet most flight controllers label UART’s starting with 1.  So when selecting your serial port you’ll typically take whatever the UART number is and subtract 1 to get the serial port it’s asking for.
    1. Example:  You have your MinimOSD connected to UART2 that you want to connect to you’ll need to type: serialpassthrough 1 11500
  5.  Power up the device you are trying to connect to if it’s not already
  6. You will see what looks like random characters start scrolling under the command you ran if it’s working properly.
  7. Disconnect and close cleanflight but leave all the connections as they are.
  8. Open up your software you use to configure it.  In my case it was MwOSD GUI.
  9. Select the port you noted in cleanflight being used to connect to your flight controller and connect.
  10. You should have read/write access now to the device.
  11. When you’re done all you need to do is reset the flight controller via reset button or unplugging USB and battery.  This will remove the serialpassthrough so you can once again access it via cleanflight.

I have only tested this with Micro MinimOSD and the original MinimOSD but as I understand it it will work with anything connected to the UART that supports programming through the RX/TX pins like GPS.

You can find me on slack in FPVChat if you have any questions under the username drkavnger99.