Build Log – LED Strips Soldered and Attached to Booms

LED Strips for the BoomsThese LED strips should make the copter more visible from the ground.  I soldered the leads, then put some heat shrink on there to keep things neat.

I’m not entirely sure how I’ll connect these up, but since they’re 12 volt, I will probably just integrate a pair of wires on a JST connector into the soon-to-be-built power harness.  Now that I think about it, I’ll need another pair for the video Tx.  I suppose that means I’ll have to update the diagram.

That’s it for today…

Build Log – 4 Motors, 8 ESCs Wired

Brought many of the parts for the project home – it’s much easier for me to work in my shop, where I have all of the tools and ventilation that I need to work efficiently.ESCs Wired
Spent a couple of hours soldering wires and EC3 connectors – these are little gold bullet type connectors – to the Electronic Speed Controls (ESCs) and motors.  Lots of fiddly cutting, soldering, and twisting of wires, but I made good progress, finishing all 8 of the ESCs and enough motors for one of the ELEV-8s.  I may just push through and try and get the rest of the motors wired up, as once this task is completed I can set to work assembling the airframe.Four Motors Wired!
Still waiting on the batteries, video transmitter and POV camera – hopefully that stuff will show up next week some time.

Diagrams Make the World Make Sense

To me, anyway.

After visiting with Nick yesterday, I crafted this diagram in an effort to make sense of the build and the steps to wiring up the booms:

I’ve never worked with EC3 connectors before, and the kit is lousy with them, so I watched this video to figure out how to work with them, and specifically to figure out how the little metal bits snap into the blue connectors.  The trick seems to be to push them in when they’re still hot from soldering.

Trip to Parallax for Reference Photos

Daniel, Dave and I set out to start building the ELEV-8s yesterday, and we had some questions about wiring and layout, so Nick graciously agreed to meet with me this morning at Parallax.  Nick (pictured below) and Kevin have both been really helpful, answering questions about the quadcopters, and providing general technical guidance.

UntitledWhile I was there, I took a series of reference photos (below) of a fully built ELEV-8.  Holding a finished one in my hands has helped me map out the next steps in the build – hopefully I’ll make some good progress tomorrow.


OpenROV – “It could change the future of ocean exploration.”

The New York Times Bits blog recently featured the OpenROV. From the article:

The machine is the latest prototype of the OpenROV–an open-source, remotely operated vehicle that could map the cave in 3D using software from Autodesk and collect water in places too tight for a diver to go.
It could change the future of ocean exploration.

Read the rest…

This is a Quadcopter

This is a quadcopterReally.  I picked up some of the last remaining project pieces from Parallax this morning.  I was surprised (and pleased) to find safety glasses (2 pair!) in the box.  Safety first.

I also picked up crash packs, which contain the bits that are likely to break in a hard landing, and some spare motors.  We’re close to putting these things in the air – once they’re built, of course.  The batteries haven’t come in yet, but I have a feeling they will be here soon.  This is what the project looks like so far:

Project Pieces

On the left are some Arduinos and GPS data loggers, then the receivers and telemetry bits, tools, cameras and field monitors in the middle, transmitters and crash packs on the right, and the two ELEV-8s in and out of boxes front and center.  Soon!

More OpenROV Photos from Maker Faire

I had a good conversation with David from OpenROV this morning.  We talked about potential partnerships, and I shared information about the Watershed Education Summit (WES), a project involving various El Dorado County high schools, the state Water Resources Control Board, the El Dorado County and Georgetown Divide Resource Conservation Districts, and the U.S. Forest Service.  From the website:

During the four-day event, students, teachers, and resource professionals work together to complete the following tasks: stream cross-sections, stream gradient and stream water flow and velocity measurements, substrate pebble counting, macroinvertebrate sampling, shade measurement, Global Positioning Satellite data collection, water chemistry testing, riparian vegetation measurement, and large woody debris location. Partnerships with the El Dorado Resource Conservation District and the State Water Resources Control Board’s Clean Water Team are instrumental in making WES a success.

In quadcopter news, the POs are in, so I think I’ll be picking the ELEV-8s up from Parallax this week.  The Go Pro HERO2s arrived last week, as well as some of the tools and odds and ends.  Still waiting on the batteries, receivers, and some other pieces, but we should be ready to fly in the next couple of weeks.


Photo CC BY-NC-SA from

This little beauty is the OpenROV.  From the site:

OpenROV is a
 Do It Yourself telerobotics community centered around underwater exploration and education. We have developed a low-cost telerobotic submarine that can be built with mostly off-the-shelf parts.
The goal of OpenROV is to democratize exploration by allowing anyone to explore and study underwater environments.

I spent a few minutes in conversation with the creators this afternoon after they spoke at Maker Faire.  Since the start of the quadcopter project, I’ve been talking to Jason Pittman (Professor, Geosciences) about expanding our remote sensing capabilities, and bathymetry is part of that discussion.  The OpenROV folks seemed very open to and interested in partnering with educational institutions, so I’m looking forward to checking out their platform and finding out how we might be able to work together.

The Gear Begins Rolling In

The quadcopter controllers arrived – specifically, a pair of Spektrum DX8s.  They’re complex-looking things, with numerous switches and dials.  They also have a sweet screen that will (as I understand it) display telemetry data.  I put in a requisition for the telemetry bits today, and these should be the last of the reqs for phase 1.


This is Tess holding the DX8 box.  If you’ve ever worked in an institutional or government context, you know that “getting things” takes a fair amount of work.  There are forms to be filled out in triplicate, arcane budget strings to be chanted, quotes to secure – much crossing of t’s and dotting of i’s.  Tess did the lion’s share of this work, and I am very grateful.  Thanks Tess!

Parallax Multirotor Demo and Tour

Kevin!Spent the afternoon out at Parallax in Rocklin.  Kevin and Nick and Ken flew various iterations of the ELEV-8 platform, and thrilled the gathered crowd with feats of derring-do.  Balloons were popped, streamers were clipped, and one flying machine landed in the drink.  A good time was had by all.

After the demo, the FLC contingent – Dan Ross (CIS and Engineering), Dave Myers (student and president of the recently chartered FLC Robotics Club) and I toured the facility, and I had the chance to talk to Nick about some of the particulars of FLC’s project, and to say hello to Jessica of Dweeb Den fame.  Can’t wait to get the quadcopters in and get them flying!  Below is a video of a two copters dogfighting, and here’s a link to the complete set of photos from today’s event.  Thanks to Jim and and the whole Parallax crew.