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Read this if you consider adding GPS and radio trackers, prop and gimbal guards
1897 10 2015-6-16
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power
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Flight distance : 1977986 ft
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Video follows at the end of my post

Having never owned a UAV before, I wanted to make sure that in the event of a rough landing or a crash, I could a) have a greater chance of retrieving the Phantom and b) protect the camera and gimbal as much as possible (arguably the most sensitive and expensive single unit on the Phantom).

At the same time, I am aware that adding bells and whistles to a UAV only reduces flying time as it introduces additional drag and weighs down the bird.
Moreover, the addition of radio wave emitting devices such as a 3G or a radio tracker on a machine that relies solely on GPS and compass data to maintain its position seemed potentially perilous.

Then there's the VPS and actual camera. The addition of all those extras had to stay well out of the way of the camera and visual positioning sensors so as to prevent fixing one problem while creating another (and additionally restricting the camera's operational field of view).

Having taken all this into consideration, I went ahead and added the following to the P3P:

Safety Accessories

- Removable prop guards by Bestem Aerial. The idea with these is that they can protect your props if the drone tumbles forward or backwards during landing or collides with another object during flight (such as a wall or a tree)

- Carbon fibre gimbal guard.  For instances where you land on rough/uneven surfaces such as rocks and want to give your gimbal a bit more protection from impacts underneath
- Gimbal protector clamp (phondom).  I have read horror stories about the gimbal being torn apart during rough landings and this apparently offers some modicum of additional protection to the assembly.
  both are from Gimbal Guard

- leg extensions such as these  A bit more height clearance makes landing even on grass easier as the gimbal stays higher above any obstacles.


- Trax GPS tracker mounted on the left hand side of the Phantom where the Phantom legs end and the leg extensions begin. Helps track the bird if it crashes and works even with coarse location positioning when GPS or Glonass is unavailable (e.g. in cases where the tracker ends up below the Phantom, facing the ground)

- LiPo beeper with its own small battery to give out audible alerts in the event of a crash, mounted on the right hand side (same spot as the Trax, but on the left)
The battery is from an old digital Canon Ixus camera. I chose not to connect it to the Phantom battery instead, since a) I want it to work even after the Phantom battery dies and b) I did not want to open the Phantom and void its warranty


- Marco Polo radio tracker tag, mounted on the right hand side (same spot as the Trax, but on the left). Helps track the Phantom in the event of a crash for up to 2 km away (line of sight) and is independent of GPS and 3G.



Impact on battery life

I have so far had 12 flights, all of them around the Stockholm archipelago and largely over water.

On average, I flew the Phantom for 16 minutes during which time two takeoffs and landings were performed almost every time and 2 minutes were spent on the ground in total, while calibrating the compass and preparing for takeoff.

Upon the final landing, I usually had around 30% battery time left and was recoding video constantly.

Given the bird's 23 minutes of stated battery time in optimal conditions and taking into account that I got around 16 minutes with 30% battery left in moderate winds with all these accessories mounted on, I would regard the effect on flying time as small to minimal (16+30% = 21 minutes approximately)

The maximum height I took the Phantom to was 80m and I didn't spend much time at all hovering in one place (not more than a 30 seconds at a time).

The wind speed was varying from 2 m/s in sheltered areas, up to 6 m/s higher up.




Impact on video

The video came out perfectly still.

On the other hand, when the camera was tilted all the way up, prop guards became visible only when racing forward at maximum speed or when suddenly braking or suddenly changing direction.
The leg extensions, gimbal guard and trackers were not at all visible at any point, even with the camera tilted all the way down. I am sure that if one performed a very abrupt manoeuvre they could come into view.



Impact on handling


I encountered no problems with the handling of the Phantom, instability issues, excessive tilt towards either one side or noticeable vibrations.
Before my 12 flights, I have always calibrated the compass at the start of the first of the two takeoffs.
During flying, I had no problems with any radio interference from the trackers. The Phantom handled perfectly well and this includes the VPS itself (I was flying with P-Opti when close to the ground and there was never any problem when flying over rocks and then directly over the water).

I am including a compilation video of last weekend's flights (The highlights of 4 flights in total are cut into one segment).




Feel free to post comments and questions!

2015-6-16
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sploodge
Captain
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Great post, thanks for the detailed info..
2015-6-16
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david.p.mann
First Officer
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Could you post a few photos of your rig with all these gizmos attached?  How did you attach both the leg extensions and the carbon fiber gimbal guard simultaneously - don't they interfere with one another?
2015-6-16
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power
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I will do, soon as I am home. The extensions and gimbal guard fit just tightly together into the Phantom leg slots.

I have secured them in place with zip ties.

I have also used zip ties for attaching the trackers.
2015-6-16
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gregg1r
First Officer

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Well thought out post.

My concern is on the longer landing legs. Making the legs longer also changes the center of gravity making the Phantom slightly more tippy on landings.

What I would like to see is a wider set of legs with the additional height.

I use a 12" square patio paver for a landing pad. It's not difficult to land on and gives you a practice session for controlling your Phantom to keep the tip overs from happening.
2015-6-16
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power
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I had that concern as well about the legs causing the Phantom to tip easier. I have so far never come close to tipping it and I find that the design of these legs, whereby their ends protrude downwards while their middle is raised, is suitable for uneven terrains where a flatter support structure such as long horizontal skids would have been forced to follow the uneven contour of the ground and increased the tipping possibility.

That being said, the design of these legs would not help if during landing the Phantom moved considerably forward or backwards since they could anchor themselves into the ground and cause it to tip. I found however that right at the time when it lands, the risk of it swaying considerably towards either direction is small (then again, I haven't flown it in significantly strong winds either).

On the plus side, the prop guards do play a massive role in protecting the props if the Phantom tips, so a combination of the two tends to work quite well.
2015-6-16
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david.p.mann
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power@groovy100 Posted at 2015-6-16 21:37
I will do, soon as I am home. The extensions and gimbal guard fit just tightly together into the Pha ...

Does this entire assembly fit into whatever travel case you are using?  Or do you have to cut the zip ties holding the gimbal guard and leg extensions in place every time you finish flying for the day before packing up your Phantom?
2015-6-16
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power
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Everything fits as it is (minus the prop guards) into the case. No need for taking things off.
I have a rolly suitcase that also functions as a backpack. Got it for around $50 at a chain store which is the equivalent of Target in the US
2015-6-16
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vu.q.le
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Tip: the author has been banned or deleted automatically shield
2015-6-16
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P4TRI0T
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Flight distance : 53645 ft
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Cool video and thanks for the detailed information for adding safety features to the P3.
2015-6-16
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groovy100
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As promised, here are some pictures of the accessories mounted on the P3P.

Not the prettiest of assemblies but hey, it works :-)
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20150617_212042.jpeg
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20150617_212106.jpeg
2015-6-17
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