• Tag Archives dji
  • Drone antenna upgrade

    I have had some issues with the DJI Phantom 3 Pro dropping the video feed to the ‘monitor’ ie, my phone.
    It is very very very very very very very very disconcerting when it drops as all the data goes with it (things like battery voltage, flight time remaining and so on). Sure, you just look up and keep flying from where it is, but eh, it sure would be nice if it hung about a bit more than both a few minutes and a few feet.

    Did some reading and everyone agrees, the bulk of the issue is Android.
    DJI just have not given the Android version of the app as much love as iOS.
    I could not justify or afford to buy a dedicated iOS device just to fly, so after talking to Freddy, she agreed to let me use her iPad whenever I needed. (It’s not like I make a living from flying and so don’t fly that often, and usually its when I drive, and she is usually still asleep at those times).
    We did some test flights and sure enough, the app itself was more stable, it did not crash, but the video did break up in the usual digital green distortion.
    Back to the Internet, seems the antennas DJI use are, shall we say, less than optimal.
    So, I jumped on Amazon and made my selection.

    The DJI ones are hard wired in, so the upgrade consists of two parts, pulling out the original and replacing the coax cable with a lower loss version and a threaded mount to screw new/different antennas on.

    It was a bit of tight fit, and we had to pad a few washers around the antenna mount point as the previous drone owner had damaged the case around the antenna base when he closed the case lid on them at some stage.
    But, bottom line, I was able to get the new mount in nice and firm and gripping onto enough of the case to be solid.

    The nice thing about having a standard mount (RPA) is that I can run a few different antenna types.
    Here we have a tall omni directional and a small square patch directional antenna.
    The patch will have more gain, distance, but requires that I turn and always point the remote at the drone.
    Depending on the flight requirements, this may or may not be a big deal.
    Honestly, I suspect that most of the time, I will run the tall rabbit ears.

    Of course I did a few before and after test flights. Before the drone would get to about 100 feet and the video would break up.
    After, with the long omni’s, I went to my legal limit of 400 feet and the video feed was rock solid. So, I’m going to call that a win and stop messing with the tech and just fly more.

  • It flies.

    Long story to this one, but I only have the last part, so will just tell you about that part of it.

    While in Australia, we got talking about drones with Gary and Dan. Drones are more Gary’s thing, but Dan is happy to go along for the ride, regardless, when the three of us get to tell stories about our drone days, it’s never a dull time…. When I heard the story about a drone taking a chunk out of Gary’s dining table, my attention was peaked…. Where was said drone?
    It was in the corner of bad drone shame…. Had been sitting there for some time. Gary was not sure it was safe to let out. Stupid or smart, he gifted it to me with stern warnings about its unruly behaviour and generally bad table manners.
    Figuring it was up for a full rebuild, I just hastily stripped it and stuffed it in my luggage for the trip home. (Sorry, no photo for some sad reason).

    Finally got some time on it just before Terry came home for Spring break.
    The plan was to prep it for Terrys arrival. He is a whiz at programming the transmitter we use (I wisely purchased the exact same model transmitter for this exact reason), I am better on the drone side of things (for now, he is catching up).
    Will do another blog on how to get Windows 10 to talk to the flight controller on the drone, but enough to say, glad I started a few days before Terry arrived.
    Updated the firmware on the drone and was ready for the boy.

    We only had evenings together after work – when I am never at my worn out best – but came home and checked his work on the programming, agreed it looked the business and so put some propellers on and took it out into the back yard.

    I could be wrong, but this first flight seems to match the bad table manners flight description pretty closely.
    Back to the drone room.

    Re-checked and re-calibrated the flight controller after tweaking a few settings.
    We also re-calibrated the electronic speed controllers. There are 4, one on each motor and they need to know (and all agree) both 0% and 100% throttle range from the transmitter and flight controller.

    It’s a stretch to call it actually flying… but eh, we will take anything we can get at this stage…. In other words, any flight that does not break propellers is a good one?

    Two issues. Firstly, the test pilot is still getting his head around how the DJI flight controller manages throttle. Terry’s drones take stick down to be ‘zero’, this drone thinks ‘zero’ at 50% stick. He’s getting his head around this while test flying an unknown and uncontrollable drone, happy to cut him some slack.
    The second issue is that some controls are reversed, but we don’t know that for sure just yet.

    The fact that it flew into the garden turned out to be helpful.
    It tipped us off to the fact that two of the controls were reversed.
    We are also getting our heads around the different flight modes that the drone has pre-programmed (GPS, Alti and Manual).
    We are also slowly memorizing the LED flash codes before and during flight. This is helpful because it is the only window into the status of the flight controller. (DJI Naza-M v1).

    Actual controlled flight!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    We did not film it, but after this flight, I put a pack through in the back yard. Loved it.
    Super twitchy, very powerful and fast drone, but we got the little sucker sorted and that’s the main thing.

    So, Thanks Gary. Sorry you are out a drone, but your Phantom 4 is more your thing, so I don’t feel too bad for taking this one off your hands.

    Terry and I had a great time working on it together and we look forward to flying it more often now that summer is on the way.