Let's Make Robots!

Elev-8 Quadcopter

Fly and take pictures
HoverflySPORTUsersGuideV1_1.pdf3.19 MB

Updated 2012.02.24


Started 2011.12.21

Ok so I have been dying to build a Quadcopter. I saw the one that Fritzl had and the one that Ken Gracey from Parallax has. Apparently Parallax now sells the ELEV-8 kit as of last Friday. I was taking a tour of Parallax and they mentioned that I could be the first owner of the new kit. I could not resist. So this is my first time after buying the kit last Friday to start work on it.

Here is the kit laid out with all of the parts.

The only things that you need to buy separate is a battery and a 6-Channel RC transmitter/receiver set up to run the Hoverfly sport board or a 7-Channel one if you want to add a video camera tilt option to the Quadcopeter

It comes with the Hoverfly Sport board that is powered by a Parallax Propeller and includes gyroscope and accelerometer onboard to do the flying and hovering.

So far I spent about an hour assembling the motors with my Father [mainly because I am all thumbs…LOL]. The instructions leave a lot of room for interpretation and options based on your preferences. So don’t expect the usual Parallax thoroughness.

One of the reasons it took so long was that there is a lot of parts included in the motor packages that we did not use according to the assembly diagram and that initially caused some of our confusion. Also I need to find my heat gun for all of the heat shrink that we will be using.

So that is it for today.


Update 2012.01.11

The first thing was to cut a 13" length of cable for each of the motor wires and solder them on to the motors and then cover it heat shrink.

Then add the male connectors on the end with some heat shrink.

So I did this for each of the four motors.

Next I had to solder the female ends on to the ESC [Electronic Speed Controlers].

I did this for each of the four ESC's

Next my Father and I applied the checker tape to the boom's and sealed it in clear shrink rap.

We did this for all four booms. The two red ones are the front of the craft and the two black ones are the rear of the craft.

Now I ran the motor wires inside each boom.

and then we assembled the motor mounts on each end of each boom.

We repeated this for all four booms.

Here is where I ran into problems with the landing gear or V shaped plastic. The screws are suppose to thread into the landing gear but two of my landing gear had over large holes and would fall off. I decided to go to the hardware store and buy longer screws with lock nuts but it was the weekend and the store was closed by this time. So I continued on.

At this point the instructions said to attach the booms to the top plate temporarily and build the wiring harness to power everything so I started that.

I started to lay out the where I wanted the ESC's to be placed so that I could solder togther the power harness. But I was missing somethings. First I needed an RC controller and RC receiver to control this machine. So my Father and I went to a local hobby store and found what I thought would do the job. I was going to wait for my Tax refund to buy the RC rig and extra's but my Father surprised me by purchasing it. He is really into building this aircraft!

I also needed a LIPo battery and a charger for it.

Since I was told that I had received the first kit to walk out of the door, I called Parallax about my landing gear issues. They told me that they now assemble them differently. They had new screws and threaded stand-offs so that you run the screws from the bottom up through the landing gear and bottom plate and screw them into threaded stand-off's on top of the booms. This way you can remove the top plate with all of the electronics at anytime without having to flip the vehicle over. They were going to send me the hardware updates this week.

As soon as I receive the hardware update I will remove the top plate seen here and reassemble the craft from the bottom plate up.

That is all for this update


UPDATE 2012.01.17

I got impatient and went to the hardware store and the hobby shop. I picked up some more lock nuts, long 3" 4-40 threaded rods, various sized spacers and started building away. My Father and I tried several different variations but in the end we went with the origonal 1/4" spacers with lock nuts on top.

I used the longest screws that were in the origonal kit for the center.

So when I put the top on the threaded rods stick up and so do the center screws.

As I get further along I will put nuts on the outer for rods and cut them down to size. My Father assembled the top electronics flight controller assembly.

The battery fits snugly between the inner screws so it will not slide around. I probably not put any nuts on them. the rig is very rigid without nuts so I will try putting nuts only on the outer 4 rods to fasten the top on. Next comes the power bus. I started with soldering on the EC3 connectors onto the ESC's. Then I layed out the ESC's so that I could work on making the power bus.

One of my additions can be seen in the above picture next to one of the ESC's. Next to the orange ESC that is between both black booms is something that looks shiny in the picture. This is a toggle switch that I mounted upside down so that the switch is under the vehicle at the back. I wanted a convenient way to turn the aircraft on and off without having to unplug the battery wire. So this is where it stands right now.

The battery will plug into the back of the machine and under the machine on the back is the power switch. The next step is wiring the power bus and this means some research. I know that I have to power each of the four ESC's but I also have find out what I need to power the RC receiver and Telemetry system, the HoverFly Sport board as well as my camera with transmitters. Once I figure out all of the connections that I need, I can build the bus.

That is all for now.


UPDATE 2012.01.19

Tonight after work my Father and I worked on soldering together the power bus for the Quadcopter. Man that was bear to solder the 12AWG to all of the other wires! I had to pull out my butain soldering iron and at times we used both irons at the same time to get a good solder joint. It doesn't look like much but it powers everything.

I have four EC3 connectors for my ESC's and one longer EC3 connector that will go down under the craft to power the camera and video transmitter. Here is what it looks like when it is installed.

It is kind of a mess but I will clean it up and use wire ties on everything after we mount the camera on the bottom. I wired in a switch that can be seen on the bottom of the picture. We tested the craft and all of the ESC's power on and start beeping.

Now that we have power, it is time to start programming all of the various electronics. But that is for another day...


UPDATE 2012.01.21

Last night I bound the RC transmitter and receiver together. I have the telemetry option and was able to get a good reading on my battery and on the temperature [temperature readings is just for fun]. Today I programmed each of the 4 ESC's one at a time with the RC rig. That proved to be easier than I expected but I did goof once and the one motor roared to full throttle and the Quadcopter flew up off of the table and flipped over onto the floor. Fourtunately nothing broke. After I programmed all of the ESC's I forgot to calibrate them. So I had to go around and do that. Then came the time to plug in the ESC's to the flight controller [i.e. the HoverFly Sport Board].

Once that was done then I connected the RC receiver.

I used doublesided tape to secure the receiver, telemetry and extra anenna. I also used rubber feet under the battery and two velcro straps to secure it.

Next came the firmware updates on the HoverFly board. After that we ran tests on the flight controls with the test software.

So here is the almost finished flight ready quadcopter!

It was too late to do a test flight today. After we learn how she fly's we will start work on the video camera that will be mounted on the undercarriage. I will film the first flight and post it as soon as the weather permits.


Update 2012.02.23

I finally uploaded some video of it flying. I am still having issues keeping it in the air. So far I have crashed and broken a propeller as well as a motor mount and a landing gear. I am not quite through with it. I am going to add a camera onto it as soon as I get it tuned to hover correctly.



Update 2012.02.24

I tried to fly it today after work to adjust the gain in order to make it more stable in flight and broke another landing gear. So instead of buying the Crash Kit for $45 I went to the Hobby Shop and picked up 4 propellers for about $18 and then I had to come up with a solution for the landing gear. Here is what I got:

I found these lightweight PVC pipes at the hardware store for 89 cents apiece and then 8 hose clamps that cost close to a $1 each.

These won't break that easy. They may twist on me but I will cross that bridge when I get there. Tomorrow is the big test.

Oh and I also uploaded another video that my brother and I shot in Redding. He insisted that we duck tape his camera onto the quadcopter. It did show some very erratic aerial acrobatics where the quadcopter started to tip from side to side. I was not moving the stick at the time and at one point I actually thought it was going to flip right over and fall out of the sky. It did it about three times on me before I got it down in relative safety [without too much damage].

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I would have to agree that it looks fake. My ELEV-8 can lift 2 lbs more than its' weight according to Parallax. The only way I see this working is that it is pulling him down hill...LOL

The video IS REAL. Just look in the shadows and you can see that at least twice the Quad is pulling him.

I am totally jealous of that dude.  Nice job.

Thanks. It is a safe addiction.