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Mr.RC-Cam

New Life to an Old GAUI 330X-S Quadcopter

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I decided it was time to upgrade the flight controller (FC) on my Gaui 330X-S Quadcopter. Other than some gain pots it has no special features. Performance was not awesome either, but it still provided some fun. However, I wanted it to have altitude hold and GPS Return to Home (RTS).


I was interested in trying out the latest flight control firmware from the MultiWiiCopter (MWC) developers. The recently released MWC V2.2 is advertised as having working altitude hold and RTH. Admittedly, I was about to treat myself to a Naza FC board, but instead decided I would give the MWC solution one last try. The previous MWC version never offered working Altitude hold on my models, so I was interested in seeing if it was finally fixed.

So I ordered a Crius AIOP V2.0 ALL IN ONE PRO Flight Controller from a China based shop. It was less than $60 delivered to my door. This board has all the needed sensors and a ATMega 2560 Microcontroller. Amazing amount of hardware for such a low cost! It is supported by the MWC firmware, so no custom code is required.


For the GPS receiver I used one of my custom GTOP module boards that was developed in the DiY GPS-HUB project discussed elsewhere on the forum. But nearly any 5V compatible GPS module configured for 115K Baud should work out. The Crius suppliers sell compatible GPS modules, so finding something should not be a problem for those that decide to add a GPS to their Crius FC.


For the status LED and Buzzer, I used XAircraft's Pilot Lamp module. This $10 accessory is now supported by the MWC code and its three LED's and buzzer alert make it a perfect add-on. The bright LED's report the operating mode and the buzzer is loud enough to clearly hear from 50 feet away. Highly recommended!

Everything was installed in one afternoon. I left the PID settings to the defaults and it flies great. Much more stable than with the GAUI controller. The new Horizon mode is nice; Level mode is active during normal stick positions and it is disabled with extreme stick positions.


The altitude hold seems to work, but with the default settings it varies ±3 meters in calm conditions. A couple times it has slowly dropped to the ground without any obvious reason. So hopefully further tuning will fix this. GPS RTH does not seem to work at this point. The Pilot Lamp status confirms it has been enabled and the GPS has 7+ satellites, but the 330X-S does not seem to know it needs to go home. So more work is needed on it.

Here's a photo of the installation:

post-2-0-56429800-1366237467_thumb.jpg

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The Crius board's documentation is a bit slim. Here's some comments to share that may help you:

1. The MWC software must be compiled with the #define CRIUS_AIO_PRO_V1. Don't worry that it is for V1, it works the same for the V2 board.

2. If you will be using a PPM-SUM connected R/C receiver then it must connect to the Throttle input on the Crius. Do NOT use the input labeled "PPM." Also, be sure to compile the MWC code with the #define PPM_ON_THROTTLE.

3. The XAircraft Pilot Lamp connects to Pin-42 on the Crius board. It has a three wire cable, so you need to supply +5V, Gnd, and the Pin-42 signal. Pin-42 is a copper solder pad below the Analog0~7 connector. Be sure to compile the MWC code with the #define PILOTLAMP.

4. For battery pack voltage monitoring you will need to make an attenuator (requires a 51K and 33K resistor, plus 10uF-47uF cap). Details on building the attenuator are in the MWC wiki. Its input goes to the flight battery and the output connects to the Crius A0 analog input. This is the white wire on the Analog port cable. Be sure to compile the MWC code with the #define VBAT.

5. The GPS module connects to Serial Port 2. You will find Tx2, Rx2, 5V, and Gnd on the Serial Port 1-3 connector. I did not use the supplied cable because it was a bit bulky. Instead I soldered directly to the pins on the PCB connector. To use the GPS you must compile the MWC code with the #define GPS_SERIAL 2 and #define GPS_BAUD 115200. My installation also used the #define NMEA and #define INIT_MTK_GPS, but these defines were specific to the GPS module I used.

6. The metal mounting tabs on the USB connector did not have much solder. So to prevent hard tugs from ripping off the USB connector I added more solder to its two tabs. I recommend you do this too.

7. The Baro sensor is extremely photovoltaic. Just to demonstrate what this means, connect your MWC to the PC configurator software. While watching the altitude data, shine a flashlight (torch) at the baro sensor. You will see the altitude jump a meter or more! So to prevent sunlight from affecting the altitude hold function you will need to cover the sensor to block light (and wind). The documentation suggests using a piece of open cell foam, but this does not block bright sunlight. If you look at the photo below you can see the hollow rubber cover I used, which has tiny holes drilled in it for air access. Inside is a piece of open cell foam too. It now passes the flashlight test.

8. In my photo you will see that I used a FrSky D4FR R/C receiver. This little jewel caused me hours of headaches. I use its telemetry feature and it was randomly reporting incorrect battery voltages.
Details are discussed here: http://openrcforums.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=45&t=3271. It appears to be a Rx software bug and my proposed fix is to swap it with a newer Rx.

9. My 9x R/C Tx is loaded with Open9x software and has voice announcements. So I created custom announcements for GPS home, GPS hold, and Altitude Hold. It is very helpful to hear which mode is activated while flying.

post-2-0-25010200-1366238127_thumb.jpg

I hope to resolve the GPS RTH issue soon. Otherwise I will have to treat myself to a NAZA controller. But I really like the Open Source MWC project concept, so I will do my best to get it to work.

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Great stuff!

If you can get the rth working it will be a good cheap alternative to the naza.

Terry

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Good news. This morning I increased the PID settings that involve the GPS functions; My new settings were gut feeling guesses. This seems to have done the trick because position hold and RTH are now working. It will be interesting to see what it does with a bit of wind. We've had a lot of it lately, but today is calm.

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Gusting over 50mph here again today

I can relate. We've had 40mph+ gusts for several days. More of this is expected on the weekend.

I won't bother to do any flight testing in extreme conditions. But something within a 5-10mph breeze would be good for checking out my Quad's new GPS features. I'd like to see its position hold behavior when it is being blown around a little bit.

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Im grounded at the moment with this wind, its been bad for a couple of months now. I suppose I could kill the wind easy, just buy a wind turbine and it would go flat calm!

Terry

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There was a gentle 3-7 MPH breeze this afternoon. The GPS Position Hold and RTH worked fine. Although the model would be pushed downwind 3-5 meters, it would eventually find its way back. This could be tightened up with more aggressive settings, but I think I will leave it as-is for now.

It is very strange to put the model up about 5 meters, switch on RTH, and watch the model fly itself back to the home location and loiter there. I don't have to do anything until the battery alarm tells me to take over and land.

Anyway, here's the settings I'm using. These PID values work for my GAUI 330XS, but it's doubtful they will be of any use on another platform. So be prepared to tweak your PID's for your particular model.

post-2-0-52009200-1366329178_thumb.jpg

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Nice! I like the setup for the AUX channels, Much better than the NAZA.

I dont see any need to enter the GPS/compass position on the quad, is it just the NAZA that needs this?

Terry

Edited by Terry

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I dont see any need to enter the GPS/compass position on the quad, is it just the NAZA that needs this?

That special trick is not used on the MWC.

However, I should have mentioned earlier that the magnetic declination for the user's location needs to be added to the MWC config source code. This uses the #define MAG_DECLINIATION value, which is obtained from the http://magnetic-declination.com site.

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There is an alternate PC configuration program for the MWC that was developed by EOSBandi. His app is called MultiWii WinGUI. He recently released an updated version that would work on MWC V2.2, which is the FC firmware version I am now using. I've never tried his app before, but now that I have a GPS I thought it was time to see it in action.

Here's a link to his new release:

http://www.multiwii.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=8&t=3165

Unlike the standard MultiWiiConf.exe program, WinGUI separates the various functions into a several screens that are chosen by some tabs. For example, here is the real time sensor display:

post-2-0-94324600-1366573331_thumb.jpg

There's two additional features not found on the standard PC app. (1) If the model is equipped with telemetry, and access to the internet is available, then the GPS data can be used with a built-in moving map display. (2) If the PC has a video capture card then WinGUI can be used to view the video and control the recording process for the FPV model's video down-link.

I experimented with the map feature using a direct USB connection to the model. Even With 7+ satellites I noticed that my GPS data wandered around, perhaps about ±25 meters. This seems to be less accurate than I experienced in the Position Hold and RTH functions during a actual flight. Perhaps the wandering data is caused by the GPS being indoors during the map testing (just a guess).

Here's what the map display looks like. I've drawn a red star where the model is located (indoors, sitting motionless on a table). The yellow lines are the drawn in real-time by the map program to show the model's movement. The model is sitting on a table so this large amount of recorded movement was interesting to see.

post-2-0-44462100-1366574035_thumb.jpg

I've run into two persistent bugs with the WinGUI app. (1) When first I launch it I cannot communicate with the FC. However, if I close the program, launch the old MultiWiiConf app and use it for a moment, then close it and try WinGUI again, it will work fine. (2) Sometimes the GPS data will not update. My fix to this is the same, run the old app then go back to the new one.

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Its little bugs like that that annoy the hell out of me. To be honest I prefer a dedicated interface to connect to our kit, my KK2.0 board has its own screen and buttons and most ESC have an program card.

I know a dedicated moving map display is pushing it a bit but Im no fan of software really and need it to be rock solid before I trust it. In my opinion far too much time is wasted on trying to find a way round bugs!

The other problem I have with software is how quickly it goes out of date so even if it works fine now an update could screw it up or in a few years a mismatched firmware, software or platform mean your stuffed!

Well I went a bit OT there! good info for anyone thinking of going the wii route ;)

Terry

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Well I went a bit OT there! good info for anyone thinking of going the wii route

You bring up a good point. Generally speaking, anyone that does not like things to change should never get involved with a open source project. Open source designs like Open9x (now called OpenTx) and the MultiWiiCopter are constantly updated by the development community. So they are never the same week to week! And software bugs and other issues are common.

My method to avoid total madness is to identify a stable release and then stick with it until a new compelling feature comes along. Then I grit my teeth, incorporate the new software (or hardware) and resolve the bugs that come with the update. This process has lead me to a customize R/C Tx with voice announcements and a low cost Quadcopter with working GPS features. There are times I would rather be flying instead of tinkering, but I keep my eye on the prize and eventually get to do that . :)

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That seems like a sensible approach to the problem and is working out well for you but as you point out open source can be hard work. I like to build stuff to suit my own needs and as soon as other people get involved it tends to derail my plans so I tend to keep my cards close to my chest.

I will admit to an interest in both this project and the open tx you documented so well and I will never say never, Im far closer now the you have covered them here than if I had to go though thousands of posts to get to the info needed.

To be totally honest its more lack of time than anything else, I still have projects backed up from 3 years ago!

Terry

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Cool, nice to see the progress!

On my side it's interesting because while I spend a lot of time on the openTx project these days I must say that for the aircraft part of it I've mostly given up on the open source stuff.

I have no problem spending a day behind the PC to set something up and implement/test stuff on a radio, but with the flying machine it's different. You need to take a laptop to the field, fly a bit, change a setting, fly a bit again (repeat 1000 times) until you've found decent settings for the basic control PIDs, the altitude control PID, the stick control rates, the GPS PIDs, the sensor fusion gains and whatever dozens of parameters it can have...

If you really wanted to do it correctly it would take numerous good weather days, trips to the field, flight hours, batteries to charge, need to start with calm days, then compare with more windy ones,... until the aircraft really flew well. When I go out to the field (not often) I like to plug the battery in and fly.

It's mostly the iterative process of try/change/try again that I've grown very tired of. Radio setup and tinkering is much more linear - want to do something, think about it, set it up, correct the mistakes, done.

That's where my Naza's perfect for me. You do have a couple of gains, but you can set them up in 3-4 flights done with the same battery pack in 15 mins. I now also have a brushless gimbal for my GoPro 3, and also spent at most an hour on it to get great results.

Edited by Kilrah

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On my side it's interesting because while I spend a lot of time on the openTx project these days I must say that for the aircraft part of it I've mostly given up on the open source stuff.

Yes, I've noticed that you are very busy at the OpenTx forum. Your knowledge of the project goes quite deep. If you don't mind me asking, what responsibilities have you taken over there? For example, is some of the software written by you?

It's mostly the iterative process of try/change/try again that I've grown very tired of. Radio setup and tinkering is much more linear - want to do something, think about it, set it up, correct the mistakes, done.

I think the radio setup is intuitive to you because of your intimate relationship with OpenTx. For the rest of us who are not actively involved in designing the OpenTx project, there's a lot of mystery in its vast features. What I mean is, if you were involved in a DiY Flight Controller project then quickly configuring it would be "easy" for you too. :)

One of issues with open source projects is that they sometimes get stuffed with features that are only important to the persons that created them, which makes the overall use more complicated (and buggy) for the masses. As the experts say, it's not wise to create a software feature just because you can. But I am guilty of this too, so I can relate to the temptation.

That's where my Naza's perfect for me. You do have a couple of gains, but you can set them up in 3-4 flights done with the same battery pack in 15 mins. I now also have a brushless gimbal for my GoPro 3, and also spent at most an hour on it to get great results.

There are times I envy you Naza owners and I expect to put together a multi-rotor using a Naza later this summer. But I still enjoy the technical aspects of DiY building and don't mind the effort in getting bits and pieces to do what I need. But this does indeed require a lot of patience!

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Interesting! we all want things a little different but we agree on the facts.

I think kilrah hit the nail on the head with not enough time at the field to mess about with endless testing and Thomas too with one of the reasons for this is too many features to set up and test.

I like it when a beginner asks my to test fly their basic plane, just flying with no more to set than the trims and no ground station!

Terry

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Flying quad copters is just a hobby for me, so I don't have the time pressures that the commercial R/C pilots have. And since it's a hobby for relaxation, the build-it or buy-it decisions are often as simple as a coin toss. :)

But back to the original topic. I'm happy with the upgraded 330X-S (now my favorite ship) and this week I decided to do the same upgrade to my 450 quad copter. So I ordered another Crius FC. I also purchased the ublox GPS that was sold by the China vendor. It will be interesting to see if my upgrade luck continues!

Edit: Here's a Naza versus MWC discussion that has the usual provocative comments about two different "brands": What makes Naza better than Multiwii?

Edited by Mr.RC-Cam
Added link

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If you don't mind me asking, what responsibilities have you taken over there? For example, is some of the software written by you?

You'll see my name regularly on the commit logs indeed, but only for relatively minor stuff. I'm not a good coder, and certainly not efficient in the time it takes me to figure out stuff. Bertrand is a professional and the difference is very obvious ;)

With the time I start to know where to look for when I want to change something though, getting better every day!

I do a little bit of everything, but the main thing is the global approach - thinking of useful features and improvements and the way to implement them efficiently. Plus some support, plus following what people say to possibly turn it back into said future improvements, and some documentation like the one for the FrSky radio (not finished yet): http://code.google.com/p/opentx/wiki/OpenTx_FrSky_EN

I think the radio setup is intuitive to you because of your intimate relationship with OpenTx.

For sure that helps, but it's actually the opposite. When I found openTx it took me just a day to see how much easier and more effieicent it was to do stuff with than on my Futaba radio. Found it so great but at the same time with a lot of potential for further improvements that it made me want to take part in it :)

What I mean is, if you were involved in a DiY Flight Controller project then quickly configuring it would be "easy" for you too. :)

Well maybe, but I've tried in the past and never had the same kind of feeling...

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I do a little bit of everything, but the main thing is the global approach - thinking of useful features and improvements and the way to implement them efficiently. Plus some support, plus following what people say to possibly turn it back into said future improvements, ...

Indeed, you are a valuable resource at the openrc forum. I see that you are approaching 4K posts since joining their forum last year. Your passion for the openTx project is an inspiration!

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I just read some of that 'discussion' you posted the link to, typical self opinionated know it all's as usual I see. Reminds me why I dont belong to any club!

The MW and openTX seem great but spare time is limited so not for me at the moment although I enjoy reading about them :)

Terry

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Spare time is always an issue for me too. But when the passion is strong enough then lack of time just morphs into lack of sleep. :)

Update: I've been flying my upgraded Quadcopters and really like them both. Their GPS function is really cool and seems to work well enough for my current needs. So mission accomplished!

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Hi, Thomas. Long time no see.

After years of flying aerial photography using a GWS Slow Stick and an RCCam-chip triggered Aiptek Pencam, I took a break from AP a couple of years ago after I lost my last Slow Stick.

I'm getting back into it with a new system: just bought a Gaui 500X quadcopter and am in the middle of building it right now. And am outfitting it with a Naza M-Lite Flight Controller w/ GPS. I've popped by my old haunts and lo-and-behold I see what you've gotten into...

AT least initially I plan to do still photos using 4-6 megapixel compact camera, though I may get into video and FPV later on. The 500x should an expandable platform for that.

Rummaging through my "RC Misc" box I came across an RCam ShutterBug module. Are those still available from you?

Take care, and have a Great Holiday.

--Bill

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Hello Bill, the 1MP Aiptek camera / Slow Stick era was a blast, but has gone the way of the horse and buggy. Speaking of things gone by, I gave away my brushless Slow Stick a few weeks ago. It had been collecting dust in the hangar for several years.

A popular camera for multirotors is the GoPro Hero3 Black Edition. I'm currently using one on a DJI Phantom for FPV and I'm satisfied with it.

The Shutterbug Pro is available: http://www.dpcav.com/xcart/ShutterBug-Pro.html

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