GPS Flight Recorder Module - Flight Test Results

Problems of AR Drone 2.0, Freeflight 2, Flight Recorder GPS, Qgroundcontrol... etc.
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GPS Flight Recorder Module - Flight Test Results

Post by Ruyton » 03 Jul 2013, 11:15

There doesn't seem to be much feedback regarding the GPS Flight Recorder module, so here's my first bit for a start.

The module arrived embarrassingly quickly following my order on Amazon UK. Expansys UK are the vendor and they used Parcel Force UK Express 24 (free delivery option selected in Amazon) and the package arrived the day after I ordered it - whilst I was out! Following an abortive trip to pick it up from the post office yesterday (too late), I collected it this morning.

Just 3 short 'hops' completed (I only have one battery), but overall a successful mission :D

- Installation is easy, but as stated already on this forum, the outdoor hull doesn't fit as although the GPS module is slightly shorter than the standard battery, the drone USB socket protrudes about 1/4 of an inch too far to the rear. Modifying the hull at the rear isn't going to work unless you do away with the magnetic 'latch'. I might try a short USB extension lead and rotate the module so that the USB connection is to the front. There's more room to modify the front of the hull and as the hull fits from the front, this should work OK. If you move the GPS module forward about 1/4 inch, the hull just fits if you tuck the USB lead in carefully. I wonder just how critical it is to have th emodule exactly over the battery?

- So, flying without the hull fitted for this test.

- Satellite acquisition took about 15 seconds from cold, with the GPS symbol at the top right of FreeFlightWorld quickly reducing to 3m and then to 2m. The controler is an iPad 3 wifi only.

- The first flight was just a quick hover test to check out position holding. The wind was about 5mph and fairly steady, enough to show a marked slant in the horizon when hovering crosswind. After takeoff and in the hover at about 2m, there was some drift with the wind and the drone ended up about 1m downwind. Moving forward to hover over the takeoff point produced a steady hover. It does seem that the GPS needs half a second to think and then stabilise. I only climbed to about 4m or so and did a bit of hovering within a 20m square. Once positioned, I do think that the hover and position holding is better.

- The second flight was my first GPS waypoint test. I was a little unnerved as when you have the 'nav' screen displayed, there are no flight controls :shock: This was a very simple single waypoint about 10m away. Takeoff worked as expected, and once airborne the 'Go' button become live. hitting the Go button resulted in the drone turning on the spot to point at the waypoint and climbing to the set altitude of 3m. I forgot that I could set the speed too, so this was still at the default whatever that is. Once the drone arrived, it remained on its existing heading and settled into a steady hover. Selected 'Home' resulted in a turn towards home and a steady transit back at the set altitude (3m) then descending to take up the hover at about 1m. I hit 'Land' and the drone landed within about 1m of the takeoff point. I seem to recall having to press Go twice to move to the waypoint. This might have been as the takeoff wasn't complete so the drone wasn't ready to Go - not sure, I'll have to test this next time.

Just a note - I had already loaded maps for my flight area onto the iPad from the FreeFlight options menu using my home wifi connection.

- The third and final flight for this test was a bit more adventurous, consisting of 3 waypoints (set individually and in sequence) and Home. I had worked out by this stage that I could easily get my flight controls back by using the 'go back' arrow button at the top left of the screen. This takes you back to the familiar control screen with joysticks displayed. As I stabilised at each waypoint, I selected the next and hit go. Once I got 'Home', I switched to manual control by hitting the 'go back' button and did a bit of fine positioning to miss some long stalks of grass on the landing area.

The video of the third flight is here. Notice the slight downwind drift after takeoff, something to watch out for if you are flying close to obstacles. The drone makes fairly sedate progress to the first waypoint, seeming to hesitate a couple of times. This might be a factor of the default speed being set and the strength of the wind. The crosswind and downwind legs don't show any such hesitation.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=THO7Ff_F ... 8KAJBovOHw" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

I can't post any screenshots of the GPS track as the 3 flights have so far failed to appear in Drone Academy. I know that it can take a little while for these to appear, but nothing showing yet.

I haven't tried flying out of wifi range as my flying site is surrounded by crops and I don't want to end up in these. When setting waypoints, there's nothing to stop you positioning them miles away, so I wonder what happens en route when the wifi drops out. Hopefully the drone will stop and hover?

In Director Mode, the GPS symbol does appear in the top right corner, so I'm guessing that you could use the Nav screen from Director mode, goto a waypoint, return to the Director screen and manoeuvre as required to take the video, then go to the Nav screen to move to set the next waypoint and come 'Home'? Next flight maybe :D

OK battery charge, time to check the wind strength.
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Re: GPS Flight Recorder Module - Flight Test Results

Post by 12inchmick » 03 Jul 2013, 11:41

Great first review, very well done. Sounds like a good few options to be explored once I get back in the air.

I believe that if,it goes out of wifi signal it will return to home. Hope so anyway. But I am sure that will be one of your next tests. Will watch out for the next review with interest.

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Re: GPS Flight Recorder Module - Flight Test Results

Post by pawelsky » 03 Jul 2013, 12:17

Ruyton wrote:- The first flight was just a quick hover test to check out position holding. The wind was about 5mph and fairly steady, enough to show a marked slant in the horizon when hovering crosswind. After takeoff and in the hover at about 2m, there was some drift with the wind and the drone ended up about 1m downwind. Moving forward to hover over the takeoff point produced a steady hover. It does seem that the GPS needs half a second to think and then stabilise. I only climbed to about 4m or so and did a bit of hovering within a 20m square. Once positioned, I do think that the hover and position holding is better.
Did you try any higher altitude? I'm not sure if GPS affects hover on a low altitude, where the downward facing camera can do better job. I guess a 20m altitude or so would be a test worth doing (compare behavior with and without GPS).

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Re: GPS Flight Recorder Module - Flight Test Results

Post by Ruyton » 03 Jul 2013, 12:29

Good point, I did wonder about altitude verses hover stability when using GPS. The wind has picked up now and I'm not brave enough to go any higher at the moment.

12inch, I don't think that the GPS module will be clever enough to automatically go Home when it looses wifi, I think that it will do as normal, hover, descend and wait until the battery runs out.

I mentioned downloading maps before flight - I'd zoomed in to my immediate area and selected download but when flying and without an internet connection I've got a map that covers most of Western Europe and as far west the east coast of the USA! Not quite sure how the map selection works, maybe it just grabs a generic (and very large) area? Will be handy for transatlantic flights!

Director mode worked as expected with the GPS Nav screen being accessible from the Director screen.
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Re: GPS Flight Recorder Module - Flight Test Results

Post by Ruyton » 03 Jul 2013, 14:19

The wind had dropped a bit, so another quick flight.

Flying in Director mode, but switched to GPS Nav screen.

- Waypoint set 15m away at an altitude of 15m. Takeoff then Goto waypoint one. When at waypoint one, switch back to Director screen using the Director rotate to point at the building I was filming. Hit Director Hold to stabilise drone.

- Changed back to Nav screen and next waypoint set just a bit further away and at 20m. Hit Go and wait for drone to stabilise. Switch back to director mode to rotate the drone again (as it's now pointing away from me).

- Carried on like this selecting 2 further waypoints at 20m along the perimeter of my 'survey area'.

- Hit Home button to recall the drone. The landing didn't quite go the way I wanted as although the drone was homing in on the takeoff point, it was slowly wandering and descending such that it was going to get too close to a 10m high tree. The drone hovered JUST above the top of the tree (that must be the ultrasound sensors saving my life again - not the first time!) requiring a rapid switch to the Director screen and a bit of rapid UP UP UP. Manual landing carried out from that point.

- Flight time was just under 5 minutes and landed with 26% battery power remaining.

This way of flying, combining GPS waypoints and director mode worked well for me. As I moved from waypoint to waypoint, I walked to follow the drone and felt confident enough to take my eyes off the drone and let it position itself. As the drone turns to face the direction of travel towards the next waypoint, each time it stopped I had to turn it again to face my 'target'. What I would like added to the Nav screen is a 'Heading lock' option so that I can get a sidewards tracking shot as the drone moves from point to point. I know that you can do a tracking shot like this in Director mode, but you then have to manually stop it tracking rather than just sending it to a point.

Still no flights showing in Drone Academy which is a great shame, as I'll like to get the 3D map view. I don't know how this works, but I wonder if the server is down?
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Re: GPS Flight Recorder Module - Flight Test Results

Post by bhupinho » 03 Jul 2013, 15:10

Hey guys got the flight recorder on Monday been on this thread all week, tested it out for ten mins at the weekend so far here's what I found...

1. Smoother hover
2. Make sure your outside to pick up GPS to get the white light flashing
3. Update your drone firmware
4. Once firmware installed disconnect battery and reconnect

Home feature didn't work so good and iPhone tilt control is sluggish won't be able to test more until the weekend but will keep you all posted

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Re: GPS Flight Recorder Module - Flight Test Results

Post by Ruyton » 03 Jul 2013, 15:55

Just found this snippet on the Parrot forum:
When asking drone to reach a waypoint, you can also set the orientation you want, with the 2 arrows you got on bottom corners.
Almost what I'm asking for :D
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Re: GPS Flight Recorder Module - Flight Test Results

Post by Ruyton » 03 Jul 2013, 17:24

A much more entertaining video here. A 20m GPS assisted flight with annotations.

http://youtu.be/YBQK-W_NcMQ" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

I've stabilised this with Elasty for Mac as the wind was tossing it around a bit, then compressed with Stomp trial version so that it didn't take all day to upload to YouTube. This is my sort of flying, no aerobatics here, but a specific mission achieved in an economical manner.

Edit: I'm just uploading the raw un-stabilised and un-annotated video for comparison for those who are interested.

Raw video here:

http://youtu.be/1-Bt9EFf2_U" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
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Re: GPS Flight Recorder Module - Flight Test Results

Post by TiggyWiggy » 03 Jul 2013, 17:41

Great posts! Please keep posting as you continue your experimentation.

I have a GPS ordered (in U.S.) but have been given a late July ship date. I look forward to getting it and feel that your posts have given me a head start. I would be particularly interested in how you resolve the problem of fitting it into the hull.

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Re: GPS Flight Recorder Module - Flight Test Results

Post by Tk648 » 03 Jul 2013, 17:54

Thanks for the video and showing the possibilities with the GPS module

I do have one suggestion for every body, regardless if you buy the GPS module or not....

Put your contact info inside your drone (any info you feel safe giving out) Just in case you have a fly away drone

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Re: GPS Flight Recorder Module - Flight Test Results

Post by Ruyton » 03 Jul 2013, 18:02

A very good suggestion indeed! I was flying an RC slope soaring glider off a big hill many years ago. The glider whipped behind the hill and I was left with just the transmitter :oops: I twiddled the sticks a bit, but as I couldn't see the glider it was a bit pointless. I got a phone call a couple of days later as I had my contact details on the glider. Two girls out horse riding had found it in the middle of a wood. I had to take the berating that I got from the owner of the stables about 'those noisy toy aeroplanes that frighten the horses' whilst my glider sat twitching in the corner - good battery in that I thought :D

I paid a small reward to the girls and I got my glider back :P
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Re: GPS Flight Recorder Module - Flight Test Results

Post by Kyrt » 03 Jul 2013, 22:45

So I take it you can not tell the drone to keep going from one waypoint to another? You have to explicitly click Go for every waypoint? And likewise, you can't use the director mode controls whilst the drone is navigating to a waypoint?

Seems a shame that you can't use the GPS to move the drone in a circle, then use director mode (or even iphone tilt) for yaw.

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Re: GPS Flight Recorder Module - Flight Test Results

Post by pipsta » 03 Jul 2013, 23:25

Would like to know how the drone works in qgroundcontrol. Want to know if you can upload more than one waypoint and will it continue out of wifi range.

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Re: GPS Flight Recorder Module - Flight Test Results

Post by madhatter » 04 Jul 2013, 00:10

Excellent reviews and info. Got mine two days ago, haven't had the chance to use it yet. Feel little more confident to test it after reading the above posts cheers.
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Re: GPS Flight Recorder Module - Flight Test Results

Post by Ruyton » 04 Jul 2013, 07:56

Kyrt, you can only set one waypoint and then tell the drone to 'Go' to that point. It isn't possible to set a series of waypoints and have the drone follow them in turn.

The only time I've switched to Director mode whilst navigating to a point - in this case Home when I almost landed in the tree - the drone stopped executing its flight plan and reverted to manual control. I need to test this again to see if exiting the Nav screen does stop the GPS navigation.

Pipsta, I'd really like to know how the drone works with QGroundControl too. I've got it installed on my desktop just to look at and I can't work out the program at all. There isn't much of a manual and no details on how it might work with the AR Drone.

I'm presuming that you would need to fly the drone from a wifi laptop in the field. I don't know if the laptop would then pass the instructions to the drone as the flight progressed, or if the whole flight plan is uploaded to the drone and then it does the flight autonomously. Any clever people here who can help?
Gary - Shrewsbury UK

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