Lessons from Flying my DIY Quadcopter Badly

The hardest thing about building my own quadcopter from random parts has been the process I’m about to describe.  Using (flying) it.  You see, if like me you’ve never flown anything before you’re going to be starting at the bottom of a steep learning curve.

DIY Quadcopter rebuilt again!
Yet another rebuild and revision!

Constant attempts to fly end up with constant repairs to the quadcopter.  Honestly I think my biggest mistake was never thinking I was to the problem.  So with each major crash I’d end up reconfiguring the quadcopter – moving parts or replacing them.

What I should have done is grabbed my successes and practiced flying.

As you can see I’ve had stable, controllable flight, 8 minutes of it on that battery!  Before than came all sorts of crashes and fails.

Now about all this chopping and changing:

Mistake 1:  Not being consistent and careful

When the quad was finished I made a few tentative hovers and flyings in the house, dangerous and stupid for sure.  But they also showed the quad to be very stable, and incredibly capable of lifting it’s bulky ~550g PLUS a GoPro very easily.

Then I took it tot he park and successfully got it in the air.  At that point I discovered that even the slightest tremble on the controls led to massive reactions.  I should have thought about this and reduced the stick-scaling at that point by half and then tried again.

Mistake 2: Not checking the “balance”

Sounds kind of silly but every time I crashed or simply replaced the battery I should have checked and adjusted the “balance” of the quadcopter around it’s centre point.  Instead I depended on the internal gyros to do it.  The Gyros can only start balancing properly when you’re in the air.  Take-offs with bad balance are a lot harder!

Mistake 3: Not doing the basics

OMG!  This is so boring, I just want to fly!  Sure “everyone” says you need to do boxes, you need to practice landings and takeoffs. Or you could do as I did and explore crashing to the ground in a range of new and exciting ways.  A landing isn’t a crash that doesn’t break the quadcopter.  For every flight you need to takeoff and land, so pay at least as much attention to these as flying is those damn boxes.

  Forgetting this is meant to be fun!

I became bloody minded, bordering on obsessive in my desire to get successful awesome looking flights under my belt.  It was almost frustrating and angering and then suddenly one evening after countless rebuilds I had success.

The fun was back and now I’m hanging on to it with both hands!

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Aaron

Geek, Car Guy, Former entrepreneur looking for the next big thing while doing the things I should have done 20 years ago.
Key pusher and thinker for a large organisation who dreams to be doing something else.

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