3D-Printed Rotor Guard

Rotor guard on Walkera Ladybird V2

Check out this rotor guard canopy that I designed and had 3D printed. It does a great job of not digging up my walls when I crash micro-quadcopters around the inside my apartment.

This thing fits the Walkera Ladybird V2, as well as both the Helimax 1SQ and the Helimax 1SQ V-Cam. The thing is pretty tough. Its actually my second take on the design. The first version was a shade lighter, but not as strong. I eventually snapped it doing a full speed crash into a wall. After re-enforcing the weak spots on from the previous version, this one has held up well through a number of crashes.

I used a program called “Sketchup” to design this thing. Its not a great design tool, but a very nice feature of it is that its free. After designing, I ordered a 3D printed copy over the web, and it showed up in about 3 weeks.

If you want to get one of these for your own bird, you can get one 3D printed and sent to you by ordering at Shapeways.com.

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Alternately, if you have the skills and the equipment, perhaps you can print one yourself.

Here is the sketchup file that I used to design the it. Feel free to do whatever you want with this… and improve on it if you can. A screenshot of Sketchup is at right… you will notice that it also includes, in the design file, a scale mockup of the Helimax 1SQ.

New Walkera Ladybird V2

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I recently got a new mini-quad: the Walkera Ladybird V2. This is Walkera’s second in the Ladybird series. The other is a V1, which is a little bigger, more expensive, and features geared motors that I am leery of.

This is a very nice little quad. In many ways, better than the Helimax 1SQ. For one thing, at around $50, it is significantly lower priced. Its also easier to fly, because it features what they are calling a “6 axis gyro”. Its not actually 6 axes worth of gyroscopes – that would be redundant. Its actually a 3 axis gyro and a 3 axis acceleration – a sensor combination that makes for much more stable flight.
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It is indeed easy to fly. I gave the controls to my brother one time – first time he’d ever flown a quadcopter – abd he managed to not even crash it on his first flight.

I also like the “Bug” style canopy. Sure, its not as attractive or aggressive as the orange Helimax canopy, but its a lot more sturdy. The half-egg shape is just a tougher structure. I don’t have to worry about cracked plastic like I do with the 1sq.

Overall toughness may be an issue on this quad, though – I had one particularly bad crash with this thing. I plowed it into a cement sidewalk at about a 40 degree angle, and smashed the heck out of plastic cage on the bottom that holds the frame together…. had to order a new one before it would fly again.

HeliMax 1SQ V-Cam coming soon

 

I’m definitely looking forward to this thing – the HeliMax 1SQ “V-Cam” with an on-board camera. You can have it shoot video that records to a micro-SD memory card.

I’ve jurry-rigged my own on-board camera system for the 1SQ using one of those 808 “keychain” cameras you can find on eBay.  It probably a very similar setup to this one, although this one looks to be a lot nicer. Hopefully they are using a higher-quality camera than I have been and, specifically, a wider angle lens.

Building a replacement canopy for the 1SQ

 

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When I fly my Helimax 1SQ around the apartment, I crash into things. This has taken a toll on the canopy, which has turned out to be a bit flimsier than it ought to be. The plastic is very lightweight, and prone to cracking – especially around the part where the canopy connects to the quadcopter’s cross-pieces. At left is a picture with an example of the problem. As you can see, the tabs that connect the canopy to the cross-pieces are prone to breaking. I’ve done my best to repare it with tape.

I’m now on my second canopy, and its already got a big crack next to one of the connector tabs. At $9.95 apiece, I feel like I’m not getting a lot of value out of these canopies. Its a shame, because I think, as far as quadcopter canopies go, I think these 1SQ stock canopies are among the coolest looking (I do think the Nine Eagles Alien canopy is a little cooler – its the same aggressively-shaped canopy as this one, but a black and red color scheme instead.)

So I’ve been experimenting with home-built canopies out of household materials.  So far, I’ve built a couple out of heavy-weight paper, and one out of plastic cut from a coke bottle, together with some rubber bands.

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First paper canopy design

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Second paper canopy design

The paper canopies have the advantage of being very lightweight – even lighter than the stock plastic canopy. But they are do not seem particularly durrable, and are attached to the quadcopter using tape – which must be quite carefully removed when taking the canopy off the quad, lest there be ripping.

This idea has some potential, however, for being dirt-cheap and low effort.

My next stab at putting together a home-baked canopy was made by using the very bottom of a 20 OZ Diet cCoke bottle, and attaching it to the frame with rubber bands.

The rubber bands also act as shock-absorbers. I wanted that shock-absorption because I’m concerned that the extra rigidity of the bottle-plastic would result in more force from crash impacts being transferred to the frame than would be the case with the the stock canopy. The stock-canopy – for all its flimsiness –  is actually quite good at protecting the frame from shocks, because the flexibility of the light plastic absorbs shocks in its own right.
I’ve been flying this Coke-bottle and rubber-band canopy for a few days now, and its come through a number of crashes without any damage. And I think it looks cool, because the affect of the red LEDs shining, slightly diffused, through the clear canopy is pretty sweet. On the other hand, it weighs a good four grams more than the stock canopy.

Still, its a design that shows some promise, and I will be exploring it further.

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1SQ back in the air after a control board replacement

I’ve been mostly grounded due to the obnoxious motor glitch caused by a bum control board. The quadcopter has been flyable for a minute or two at most, when the battery is giving out the highest voltage, but once the voltage drops just a little bit, the thing starts careening into walls and flipping over on takeoff.

I’d been starting to get impatient waiting for Hobbyco to ship me the warranty-replacement control board, but it arrived yesterday, 11 days after my request. But it finally came, and I’ve switched out the control board, and finally got the thing up in the air again. While I was swapping out the control board, I also switch out one of the motor-booms, and replaced the canopy, which was getting pretty badly cracked.

More on the Motor Glitch, Hobbico’s Product Support, and General Wear and Tear

The motor glitch has worsened, and has basically grounded Heli-Max 1SQ. The glitch had become more and more common, eventually happening in mid-air – causing the quadcopter not just to fall, to plummet at a high speed, which is downright dangerous.

I emailed an explanation of the problem to the manufacturers product support address helihotline@hobbico.com, with a request to replace the control board, as it is still under warranty. A new control board is on its way.

In addition to the motor glitch, the quad itself does seem to have gone through quite a bit of wear-and-tear. At this point, its gone two-a-half hours of a beginner’s in-air flight time, so its certainly had its share of hard crashes.The canopy shows perhaps the worst of it, with several cracks, specifically in the area that connects the canopy to the cross-pieces.  Three of the four propellers have broke – and been replaced – as well, and one of the motors seems rather bit loud to me – so that may be ready to fail.

I’ve ordered a whole mess of replacement parts – and, between those and the new control board, I’m looking like a fairly substantial rebuild, with more new parts than original. I do think my flying has gotten a lot better, though, so I’m hoping the rebuild will last me a spell longer than another 2.5 hours of flight time.

Heli-max 1SQ Motor Glitch

I have found an occasional glitch where, on takeoff, some of the 1SQ’s motors will stop running, and the remaining motors will run at what appears to be an significantly higher speed. So far, this happened to me once when three motors cut out, and once or twice when two motors cut out. The fix is to unplug and plug-in the battery, which resets the controller-board. It runs fine after that.

First impressions with the Heli-Max 1SQ

My son and I took our new Heli-Max 1SQ for an inaugural spin around the apartment.  Here are some first impressions:

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  • I’m a pretty crummy pilot. Hope I get better with time.
  • The orange-and-black plastic shell covering – the “canopy” – on this micro-quadcopter seems a bit flimsy, especially in its connection to the cross pieces.
  • That said, it held up through numerous crashes today.
  • One thing that did cause a problem was getting human hair wound around the rotor axle  which happened after it crashed onto my bed. I had to pop off the propellers off the front to do some hair removal. The propellers was stuck on there pretty good, and it wasn’t immediately obvious how to remove it from the shaft – it ended up taking a single, solid yank with a pair of pliers. Continue reading