September 2015

Let’s talk about First Person View technology today. Basically, it comes down to the very common 5.8 GHz gear vs the WIFI gear the DJI is promoting.

For us at the field, for the most part, we have been playing with 5.8. A normal setup includes a camera, video transmitter, a receiver and a screen or google display. Note that some rigs have the receiver built into the display. I began FPV with my Phantom 2 that Fred now has. That setup included a 600 watt FatShark VTx powered by the P2 and connected to the GoPro. On the receiving side I used a FatShark Attitude V2. This gear worked great and is what I used to capture the Bean Hollow adventure last fall.

The only drawback to the FatShark is the low quality image on the goggles even though the GoPro was recording in amazing definition.

Though I no longer have the P2/FatShark gear I do have a Blackout 330 that has 5.8 GHz camera and Tx installed. This quad is really for racing or at least thrill-seeking FPVing.

Here is the Blackout with FPV camera plus a Mobius Action cam for recording.

The problem now is that Fred has my goggles so I have pre- ordered the second edition HeadPlay which sports a HD screen inside a really ugly friggin hood. We’ll see, as one vital requirement for FPV is minimum latency. The slightest amount of lag in the display mostly likely will to contribute to damaging a tree or furrowing the park.

Flashback to Aug. 16th.

It is Sunday after our meeting and I am waiting, yet again, for my Phantom3 Professional. Why? The first one arrived on Thursday of last week and by 10:30 Friday morning, Steven at B&H in New York and I determined that the P3 was defective. Fortunately, I bought the P3 from a highly reliable dealer and not an outfit promoted on Amazon 5,000 miles away.

Even though DJI professes that the P3 is out-of-the -box ready, it really isn’t. But, let’s step back and look at the configuration. There is the typical Phantom aircraft and a new radio and the missing third leg, a tablet or a phone. I choose a 7” Samsung Tab 4. (Not sure if the P3 will even fly without the tablet connected. I’ll have to test that out.)

So, the first step in getting the P3 in the air is load the DJI onto the tab but the directions talk about ‘DJI Flight App’ however the app is now called DJI Go and there are a couple of other weird apps at the store with similar names.

Once the P3 is unboxed, the next hurdle is updating the latest firmware from the DJI site. The challenge here is the convoluted process of placing the latest version onto the mini SD card found in the camera base. Of course, that requires downloading a zip folder, extracting and then getting the files in to root directory of the SD card. Really? After a few tries I got it correct and the P3 started its 25 minute upgrade routine.

After 40 minutes, I knew something was amiss and shut down the process. Insert 1 hour here!

Net-net: my new P3 that I named vanGO, wouldn’t go, so back it goes to B&H. UGH, again!

Good news is that I had time to get my four DIY quads all flying perfectly for the first time since I began the DIY Quad thing back in late March. A true testament to repeated failure.  And for a few folks at the field today, I got to show off my just completed mini which is only 155mm motor to motor. A huge challenge to configure with a few gaps between props and hardware of less than 1/8 on an inch. Flies great as JD will attest. The mini is basically a flying brick.


Each one of the quads have different behaviors for different task including FPV racing which is a fall goal. (See that quad in the foreground? That is Frank and he has a story to tell later in this post. Always the adventurer that Frank is.

While we are waiting for the replacement p3, I’ll recap an event that went down (literally) last Thursday at the field. Here is the short version.

Yep, my fav DIY quad got a tad out of orientation and between Lonny and myself, we managed to keep it in sight as I tried to figure out left from right from back to forward. I finally ‘landed’ almost 1/3 of a mile across ‘Coffin Corner’. It was like trying to fly a dot. Why? Windy, doing 3D stuff that changed aircraft orientation and I did not have my terrific Wilkerson Beacon onboard. Never again!! Not sure how I actually found it out there. But it was fine with just a couple of broken props.

By this far down the August post here, I was hoping to review not only my new P3 Pro but its FPV technologies and real life performance. Well, that ain’t gonna happen because the replacement P3 also would not fly. It had multiple software problems and back it went into the DJI RMA pile. Waiting on the third and hopefully dependable rig. UGH!! V.2

However there is one more adventure that popped up while I was waiting. Tim has a friend who is a real estate salesman and he asked if I would take some vids and stills of a home up on the Pleasanton ridge that he was listing. Me, “Sure. What could go wrong as I am getting a brand new Phantom 3.”

Well, that was not going to happen but I had kinda committed. So, I sat down with a bunch of separate quad parts and built a ‘FrankenQuad’. Took a couple of hours and it had a nice ‘nose’ to mount a Mobius Action Cam. I decided to just take still shots using the time-lapse feature as video would be too jerky without a 3D gimbal.   

I visited the site prior to scheduling a shoot time and discovered that the home was basically placed in on ridge in the midst of huge oaks. And you know how much four propellers like trees. Yet again, UGH! I looked around and found a couple of places in the tree canopy where I thought that I could get high enough without running into something. (Though I did run into something but Frank lived through the crash with nothing broken.)

As it turned out, I got a few good pictures and only crashed once as Frank is not easy to fly nor hover in one place. And, with that photo shoot over I retired from the Professional Real Estate Videographer Guild. How much did I charge? Nothing. After all it is against FAA regs to charge for quad services. Yet, a great opportunity to expand my quad skills; both flying and scratch building.

This shot was taken at about 15 feet above the ground as the home is built on a pretty good slope right to left. Taken at 7AM for best light as well. Adobe Lightroom edited.

Here is ‘Frank’ who did a great job on short notice and is now back on the shelf as we wait for P3 Pro version 3.0

You will also note that Frank is sporting an Immersion VTx to broadcast 5.8 GHz FPV to a small monitor where the agent and homeowner could see the shots Frank was taking. They would then tell me where Frank needed to be positioned to take the desired shot and I would try to estimate the distance between Frank and oak limbs. Hard to do looking straight up.

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