Ar.Drone 2: half a year of flights

    Hello, Habr!

    Recently, I began to get involved in flying on an AR.Drone 2.0 quadcopter, namely from the moment my friends gave it to me for my birthday. Although there is no time for competitions and “pokatushki” with other lovers, it is quite interesting to fly in the same office to the cheers of colleagues. Yes, and you can experiment - with additional modules and mods.

    In this post I wrote about my own operating experience and tried to compile a list of tips. If you have such an experience, write about it in the comments so that you can make the most complete impression for novice pilots. And for those who plan to buy a copter, a balanced impression of the gadget has formed.

    In the table, I have collected all the features of Ar.Drone identified over six months of flights
    Flight time9 minutes on a standard batteryBuying a larger battery
    Gear wearIn normal useBuying spare parts; several kits should always be at hand
    Gear breakageIn collisions and fallsBuying Spare
    FrameWith a hard landing, the cross may burst, and the “legs” may
    fly off in a collision with an obstacle during flight
    Buying a kit from a cross, etc.
    HousingThe casing for rooms constantly breaks down at the slightest collision, often the screws themselves injure him, which he must protectGlue
    Flight radius25 meters with iPhone 5, 50 meters with iPad 2It is necessary to use a router, an external antenna for the drone
    ControlA lot of obscure applications, and control from a smartphone is not very convenientRC mod, transition to a traditional remote control for RC models
    PropellersCarbon ordered to live long after the first accident, fragileReturned regular, but you need to have a couple of sets in stock
    Installing a standard GPS moduleDoes not fit in the housingMake a new cover or file
    Power resetAfter a drop or loss of connection, you must manually disconnect the batterySingle toggle switch output
    Small gruzopodem-
    With GoPro on board, the copter flies hard, propellers get into the frameGoPro just needs a different copter
    Peeling off the bottom coverAfter several landings, the lid began to move out and block the lower chamberMake a new one in the future, but for now saved the glue gun
    Flight noiseThe designers came up with a too complicated transmission, it is fragile and noisyReplacing bushings with bearings, but this has little effect on noise, you only have to put up

    Briefly about AR. Drone 2.0

    For those who are not particularly interested in this topic. The quadcopter is positioned by the manufacturer as the "Augmented Reality Drone" - Augmented Reality Drone. It works under the Linux operating system, while you can control it from Android and iOS devices. In my case, this is the iPhone 5S. The drone’s API is open, which allows it to be completed as needed to participate in various competitions.

    But Habré wrote about this repeatedly, so better read this review .
    Processor: 1GHz ARM Cortex A8
    Video processor: 800 MHz DSP TMS320DMC64x
    RAM: 1Gbit DDR2 RAM
    Operating system: Linux 2.6.32
    Motors: 4 x 14.5 W, 28500 RPM
    Motor controllers: 8 MIPS AVR CPU
    Maximum speed: 18 km / h
    Front camera: HD 720p
    Camera at the bottom: QVGA 320x240
    Standard battery: Li-polymer, 3 cells, 11.1V, 1000 mAh.

    Over the past six months, I have identified several shortcomings, some of which can be solved by purchasing additional parts or devices, and some can only be reconciled. It is this experience that I want to share with you.

    1. Flight time

    The main problem of all modern flying gadgets is a short time without recharging. I would like the quadrocopter to fly for hours, but this is currently not possible. A standard 1000 mAh battery lasts only 9 minutes with video on. At first, at 30% charge, the software prohibits making flips. It starts yelling at 15%, and near zero the drone simply forcibly decreases and shuts down the engines after touching the ground. For all the time, I was not able to leave the city to fly in open space, so I have to maneuver over the territory of the office center and parked cars. If you blink the charge level, you can lose the drone or scratch someone else's car.

    The problem of flight duration is solved by acquiring a 2000mAh battery, but batteries with a larger capacity are thicker and do not hold well in a standard case. This regularly leads to problems in flight.

    Batteries The difference in thickness is visible, which was also not provided for initially. However, now the 2000mAh battery is sold the same size as the standard one at 1000mAh.

    2. Gear wear

    Native gears on the screws do not differ in longevity, after accidents they lose teeth and have to be replaced. Non-original gears wear out quite quickly even in the mode of gentle flights, but they are inexpensive and you can immediately buy a dozen of them.

    3. Gear breakage

    Moreover, in the event of a screw impact, the gears simply fail. Any collisions during the flight are fraught with the fact that the teeth will be "eaten".

    First of all, I purchased several sets of spare gears, while using 4 total sets on my account.

    4. Frame

    Have you heard about the Dunning-Krueger effect? This is when you exaggerate your abilities. I'm sure almost everyone tested it for the first time when flying a quadrocopter. And almost everyone in some way dropped the quadrocopter and fought it against the wall.

    The following drawback comes out of this: with hard landings, you can break the frame, which is often written about. True, I failed to break it, but one of the “legs” flew off in a collision with the wall during a gust of wind. The cross remained intact. But it is better to foresee the possibility of breaking it and buying a kit. In general, even in the normal mode, the Ar.Drone has a rather incoherent automatic landing .

    Photo of the lost “legs”.

    The protection of gears made of carbon was separately purchased by me and installed, this significantly increased the service life of the gears.

    5. Case

    The real “leader” in repair is the casing for indoor flight. Regularly starting the compter in the office, since it appeared in my winter, every second of the flights ended in a mild accident. I had to pick up glue.

    This made me think about the need to find or make the casing stronger myself. This is a plan for the future.

    The casing for flying on the street is devoid of rims protecting the blades, it looks clearly cooler.

    During the operation, and several times he was seriously injured.

    The lower part of the body is used constantly, so it also had to be strengthened.

    6. Flight radius

    The radius of flight is another weak point. I flew with the iPhone 5S and 4S, and the flight radius was about 25 meters. In the case of the iPad 2, the radius reached 50 meters, but still, you won’t especially accelerate.

    7. Management

    Management under iOS is notable for its low sensitivity and long response time. And if someone calls you during the flight, the quadrocopter will freeze in the air, and if you decide to chat for a couple of minutes, then the drone will just land at the same point above which the call caught it. Even if there is a lake teeming with crocodiles.

    In such a case, it would be cool to have a return to the take-off place.

    In addition, there is another inconvenience with the management. Now in the App Store there are a bunch of applications for controlling the drone, they are all designed very similarly, and when you start one of the applications, it may offer to launch another. As a result, there are 5 applications for Ar.Drone on my phone and I still do not really understand what they are for? This happened because the manufacturer revealed the API, and now everyone can write and publish their application for flying on this quadrocopter.

    8. Propellers

    Suddenly, regular propellers work fine. Sometimes they write that these are consumables, and it is better to purchase them in packs.

    In my case, everything turned out differently: I bought carbon propellers, but in the end I returned to my native propellers and continued to fly with them. The view is already shabby, but they fly normally.

    Carbon propellers worked for only a few days, after another accident, the thread at the bushings was broken, and new bushings and bolts separately from the screws have not yet been found.

    9. Installing the GPS module

    The GPS module is designed to make your quadrocopter fly in the right directions autonomously. For example, monitor the work of prisoners on plantations. I was seduced by it and wanted to test the return to the take-off point, since I can fly only in the city and most often over the roofs of neighboring offices. And you don’t want to lose your favorite gift.

    This module so far seems to me a meaningless and merciless extension. Native software for GPS flight looks extremely miserable and inconvenient, at least on iOS. I still couldn’t fly on GPS for the following reason: placing a regular usb connector in Ar.Drone 2.0 is convenient for installing a USB flash drive, but it is extremely inconvenient to connect the module. You just have to put the module inside, it hangs freely there and during flights it interferes, you can't do flips.

    Once during a flip, under a sharp gust of wind, the battery fell out with the GPS module, the casing of the drone was opened, which ultimately led to the crash and serious injuries of the device.

    Here, I would also like to have another casing in which a place for the module would be provided.

    10. Power Reset

    After each accident or loss of communication, you need to open the drone's cover, disconnect the power block, and then you can work with the device again. It would be much more convenient to have a separate physical button for these purposes. This is not the most convenient procedure .

    11. Low payload

    Although the quadrocopter is able to lift the GoPro camera into the air, immediately after that it is not very easy to control it, it rotates from side to side from the slightest breeze. Therefore, I had to use a regular camera, the resolution is quite decent.

    12. The bottom cover

    The bottom of the quadrocopter is protected by a thin cover that can peel off slightly and close the lower chamber. The device begins to think that there is an obstacle under it, and try to get around it, turning out hell, knocking on walls, people and scaring unfortunate cats.

    By the way, these two huge white things - caps from a bottle of liquid for cleaning marker boards, after losing one of the supports, I had to come up with something very quickly. Double-sided tape and savvy saved the situation.

    13. The noise

    Unlike large drones, there are gears, bushings and a shaft between the engine and propellers, but they cannot be lubricated for objective reasons. The sleeve has been replaced by a bearing to reduce noise. But after landing in the grass or on a dirt road, the gears will stand up, since dust will simply stick to the grease. You just have to put up with the noise.

    In the photo, the yellow ones are the native copper bushings, and the steel ones are the micro-bearings specially ordered by me. I'm not sure that this mod objectively reduced noise, but the impressions of the work improved slightly.

    In preparation for this post, we planned to shoot a cool video with beautiful Ar.Drone flights in a limited space. But a terrible thing happened: the drone began to behave inappropriately - at first it attacked our dear operator, flying from the back, and later aimed at the cars parked nearby. The flights had to be minimized, and the video collected from what happened.

    A small bonus: crash test of the blonde through the eyes of a quadrocopter

    After this accident, the drone began to go crazy, for example, he performed this circus number completely randomly and without an operator's command.

    Despite all the stories described, I really liked Ar.Drone. This is a very cool toy for the money, which requires care and maintenance. The next accident only stirs up interest, and the experience of the flight is unforgettable. I will definitely repair my drone again and before the onset of winter I plan to fly more than once. I’ll also try to fix the existing problems, but I plan to talk about this another time.

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