DragonCon 2016 Pictures

Alan Tudyk at the Firefly Guests panel at DragonCon 2016

Jason Isaacs in the Wait Until My Father Hears About This! panel at DragonCon 2016

Tori Belleci in the Confirmed: An Hour with Tory and Kari panel at DragonCon 2016

I had a great time at DragonCon this year, actually got to play Dungeons & Dragons Adventure League on 3 mornings in a row!

More pictures are over at my SmugMug site.

Team Black Sheep Vendetta Tips

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I have gone all in with the TBS Vendetta, I have put the ZMRs and the Shendrones Krieger away. I am now exclusively flying a pair of Vendettas that I have named McCoy and Hatfield.

The Vendetta is not perfect and it is not indestructible. It is a multirotor for experienced hobbyists and it is not for beginners. I would only recommend it to someone who has built more than 2 difference quads of their own and gone through the experience of tuning, flying, crashing, and breaking.

If you are a beginner I recommend you either buy an ImmersionRC Vortex 250 Pro or take the time to build one of your own from parts you ordered online. Look for locals that will take you under their wing and help you out, sometimes it only takes an experienced pilot seeing your plane fly in person for a minute to tell you exactly what you need to do to fix it.

The Vendetta

You can learn more about the Team Black Sheep Vendetta on the TBS website and there are a lot of great instructional videos that various people have put together. I am not into making videos so I am going to offer my suggestions via this blog post.

I bought the Vendetta because I was no longer having fun building and maintaining quadcopters. I rebuilt my ZMRs 5 times and built a Shendrones Krieger that I was never able to get to fly right, don’t get me wrong, I think the Krieger is one of the best frames on the market and capable of being the most agile and fastest plane out there, I just don’t want to spend any more time rebuilding it or tweaking on it.

The Vendetta comes almost ready to fly, add a receiver, set it up via a couple of pushbuttons and you are ready to fly.

The 3 things you may want to change with the Vendetta as soon as you get are replacing the camera, securing the rear LED cover, and adding a 5V power connector.

Camera

I do not like the ZeroZero camera, I do not like the inability to change its settings without opening it up and clipping wires to it and I do not like the quality of the video it outputs. TBS has updated the camera and I have one of each, an updated one that came with a little orange sticker on it and one without, and I do not like either of them. So I have replaced the camera with a Runcam Swift.

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This is my first time using the Swift, but I have used the RunCam Sky many times before, in fact I have 5 of them on various planes and still in the box. The Swift offers very similar performance to the Sky and to the HS1177/PZ402M. It is easy to change the settings and easy to install it in the Vendetta.

The Swift comes with many different methods for mounting it, for the Vendetta you can use the flat back plate and the brackets that are on the ZerZero. But first you should harden the Swift to protect it from crashes, I have been known to hit trees head-on at over 30 miles an hour with my quads so it is important for the FPV camera to be tough.

I use E6000 to and a bamboo skewer to glue down the capacitor and the sensor, doing a Google search can show you a lot of other people recommending this and there are other methods and other adhesives you might want to use.

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I do not recommend gluing the circuit board to the housing, issues can arise where the circuit board ends up crooked in the housing, which would cause a fuzzy picture. But I do recommend adding a bit of foam tape to the back plate to hold the circuit board in place while making it easy to remove.

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Once the Swift has been toughened and it is time to remove the ZeroZero from the Vendetta and remove the video cables from the 4-pin micro JST connector, I use an X-Acto knife to gently pry up the little piece of plastic holding the cable and then pull it out. A Google search will get you some good videos showing this in action. Then do the same with one of the cables that came with the swift so that you have an empty 3-pin connector.

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WARNING: The pin-out for the Swift is different than the ZeroZero.

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Now place the wires from the Vendetta into the 3-pin connector being sure to get it right. For the white cable I wrapped it in a bit of electrical tape to keep it from shorting out on something in the plane.

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Next take the brackets off of the ZeroZero and put them on the Swift, it is an easy swap and easily fits. Make sure you have an antenna attached to the Vendetta before powering it on, ALWAYS ATTACH AN ANTENNA. In fact I keep an antenna attached at all times to my quads, I only take it off when I have to. Back in the day I burnt out 3 $75 video transmitters by not having an antenna attached.

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This is the time to setup the camera, out of the box Wide Dynamic Range is not turned on and that is the most important change to make. I also lower the contrast and sharpness as I feel it make it easier to see small tree branches and other thin objects.

Now time to put the camera into the plane and get ready to fly.

LED Cover

In my opinion the LED cover is the only real design flaw with the Vendetta, it is a piece of plastic glued to the carbon fiber frame, the glue gives out with the smallest bump, even a soft landing can cause it to pop out. I replaced it a couple of times, I really like the looks of having that translucent cover over the LEDs. The LEDs and the circuit board they are on is fragile and needs protection.

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The best solution I have found is to drill some holes in the cover and use small zip ties to hold it in place.

Transponder Power

For the Drone Racing Club races I participate in I need a 5v female servo lead to connect a transponder.

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The easiest place to get this from is the Servo output on top of the Cube, I was able to solder these wires without taking the Cube apart. Use a nice long cable lead and you can run the cable and connector to the front of the quad and hide it inside the frame behind the camera and front bumper when not in use. I choose to leave the signal cable unconnected for now.

I also think you could use this connector to power a RunCam HD 2 or other action camera, I haven’t tried that yet, but plan to soon.

WARNING: Do not do anything that makes the Cube taller, you will want that space between the top of the Cube and to top of the frame for when the screws holding the front arm sheer off and you need to push the tray up into the frame to get those screws out.

Overall

I really like the Vendetta and plan on it being my exclusive multirotor for a good long while. I like the way it flies and it is easy enough to repair.

Here is a video of me chasing some wings at the Pecan Patch.

ZMR250 Multirotor Frame

ZMR250 Multirotor Racing Drone

ZMR250 Frame

My first 250 size quadcopter frame was a ZMR250 which I have been told is a clone of a Blackout 250. The Blackout costs $150 from GetFPV while the ZMR is available for as low as $20 from various sources. I got my first one from Banggood in May 2015, it required some drilling to get the 2204 motors to fit the arms and the SMA VTx to fit through the top plate, but I was pretty happy with it overall.

My initial build included:

  • Banggood ZMR250 Carbon Fiber Frame
  • SimonK 20Amp ESCs
  • SunnySky 2204/2300kv Motors (I think they were knock-offs)
  • 700tvl Sony Board Camera
  • ImmersionRC 600mw VTx and Spironet Antennas
  • Naze32 Flight Controller
  • Home-made Power Distribution Board

I chose black and orange as a color scheme using orange shrink-wrap and propellers. After making a lot of mistakes and burning myself with the soldering iron a dozen or more times I decided to name the plane “Orange Pain”.

Since May I have rebuilt the machine a number of times due to burnt out or broken parts. I have gone through a Naze32, two 600mw VTx, a very expensive board camera, a top plate, three motors, three SN20a ESCs, and a ton of props. I bought an FPVModel ZMR250 and built it as a second plane but have since parted it out.

The current iteration of Orange Pain includes:

  • A mixture of Carbon Fiber parts from the original Banggood frame and a FPVModel ZMR250 V2 frame
  • RotorGeek RG20A ESCs
  • SunnySky 2204/2300kv (I think these are real)
  • Fatshark 250mw VTx
  • 600tvl Sony Board Camera PZ4020
  • Naze32 Flight Controller
  • DYS Power Distribution Board

I think this is a great setup for an intermediate racer or daily basher. I am currently struggling to get the tune on it right and am ready to pay someone else to tune it for me.

After rebuilding the machine a number of times I have learned a few things.
The expensive FPV cameras are not worth it, stick with the $30 Sony PZ4020 or PZ4020M with or without a case.
600mw Video Transmitters are not needed and the extra heat can greatly shorten the life of the unit. A 200mw or even 25mw transmitter may last a long longer and provide a signal that is comparable to the higher-powered transmitters at racing and public park distances.
If you short out a flight controller it is probably ruined. It is good to have an extra on hand.
Spend the extra money on 2 sets of drivers, keep one set in a toolbox at home and carry the other set with you.

I really enjoy my ZMR and recommend them for people getting started who want to build their own. The FPVModel ZMR250 V2 is made of a much higher quality carbon fiber than the Banggood frame, but the cheaper frame is not a bad buy.