Pix-Y Sixty

By fradioflyer on Jul 22, 2015

5  1,225  200

This build started with a 580mm Y6 hexacopter frame. I replaced the arms and intentionally cut them a little longer than the original ones, so what I have now is 600mm or 60cm, so I call this one the 'Pixy Sixty'. This is my first build using the Pixhawk flight controller. It's been amazing seeing the exclusive features being added to this controller that isn't available with the older APM. This is the rig I use for aerial photography and occasionally videos, too.

This is my second multirotor build, and the first one from scratch. I already have a 330-sized quadcopter; I wanted something different. The tri-copter style appealed to me but I didn't want to deal with a tail servo so I found the Y6 frame type. I read a lot about the pros and cons of a coaxial setup before starting the build, but now with a few months of experience, I know this:

  • the Y6 frame shape is far easier to determine orientation at far distances; the 600mm size is easier to see at high altitude.
  • the Y6's front arms are wide enough to avoid getting a lot of prop in the camera's field of view (though occasionally, the lower prop sneaks in during a yaw). The 170 degree camera lens also contributes to this, I'll bet.
  • it does seem to be more stable in high winds
  • finding the optimal prop combination is a trial n' error labor of love (and money)
  • many debate the accuracy of eCalc, but I find this setup closely meets my observations.

I'm quite interested in exercising all sorts of redundancy to ensure $800 that goes up in the air, comes down in a safe and orderly manner. I suppose if I ever lost a motor or a prop, the hex configuration will still allow me to get "home". I hope to never test that feature. I have FrSky telemetry to my Taranis radio and I have the 915MHz radio for Mission Planner/Tower app connection. I usually go with the telemetry on the transmitter alone unless I'm running a mission. The Pixhawk combo came with the NEO-6M GPS and since then I picked up the M8N to run a dual-GPS setup (the M8N has been really remarkable; best fix = 20 satellites, 0.59 hdop).

Will all the redundancy matter? I don't know... I've watched one drone fly away on Tower (until it got out of range and disconnected). In March 2016, the Pixhawk was using a redundant power source (from the ESCs) when a Power Module wire was broken; I don't know how many flights I had before discovering the broken wire and fixing it.

Photos

Part List

Frame

Y580-V2 Tri-copter 3-Axial/Y6 Copter DIY Frame Folding Design e
Ebay.com
$34.26

ESCs

6 x GForce 30A Brushless Multi-Rotor ESC with SimonK Firmware (2-4S LiPOs)
Valuehobby.com
$30.00

Motors

6 x Tiger Motor MN3110-700kv New in box
Ebay.com
$243.00

Motors

2 x X525 Quadcopter Aluminum Motor Mount Set. CNC Machined
Amazon.com
$39.90

Propellers

3 x 12x6E | APC Propellers
Apcprop.com
$12.90

Propellers

3 x 11x4.5MRP | APC Propellers
Apcprop.com
$10.14

FPV Camera

700TVL 1/3 2.1mm CCD FPV HD Ultralight Camera NTSC/PAL For FPV RC Multicopter (2 builds)
Banggood.com
$12.04

FPV Transmitter

RCX TS5828 5.8GHz 32CH Mini FPV Video Transmitter (600mW / RP-SMA-JACK) (4 builds)
Myrcmart.com
$16.99

Receiver

X8R - 16 channel, S.Bus, Smart Port Receiver (2 builds)
Alofthobbies.com
$33.75

Batteries

Lumenier 10000mAh 4s 25c Lipo Battery
Getfpv.com
$119.99

Goggles

BW 7 inch High Resolution 800480 TFT Color LCD Car Rear View Camera Monitor Support Rotating The Screen and 2 AV Inputs
Amazon.com
$27.46

HD Camera

YI 88001 16MP Action Camera with High-Resolution WiFi and Bluetooth, Black (2 builds)
Amazon.com
$69.99

HD Camera

Sony Alpha a6000 Mirrorless Digital Camera 24.3 MP SLR Camera with 3.0-Inch LCD - Body Only (Black)
Amazon.com
$448.00

HD Camera

New Sigma 19 mm F2.8 Art DN For Sony Lens Black E-Mount Made in Japan a1
Ebay.com
$166.66

Misc Parts

12V 4.5A UBEC 2-5S Lipoly (7.2-21V)
Hobbyking.com
$8.80

Misc Parts

Usmile® 2pcs of Mini PDB Power Distribution Board with BEC 5V & 12V for 250 Mini Quad FPV Quadcopter Support 3-6s Lipo b
Amazon.com
$12.38
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Discussion

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fradioflyer   Apr 09, 2016  

I'm not going to change the parts list yet, but a Firefly 6S just arrived in the mail today. Now, if the wind will ever stop, I'll get a chance to try it out.

Show 4 more comments
fradioflyer   Apr 25, 2016 

I have a 30" Retina display. I thought the one picture I took was murky...dull colors. Of course, I'll keep playing with it, and who knows... maybe it'll get airborne this Spring.

Whiffles   Apr 25, 2016 

Did you record in 1440p?

fradioflyer   Apr 25, 2016 

No, I just snapped some photos. I gave it another try today and I take all the criticism back. The photos were crisp, the video (just handheld) was very clear on the 2.5k video at 30fps.

fradioflyer   Feb 17, 2016  

Could these really function the same? Specs are comparable...3A output for a variable voltage range exceeding my needs. One weighs 10g, admittedly with a plug dongle still attached. The other won't register on my scale...hiding in the shadows.

Show 1 more comment
fradioflyer   Feb 18, 2016 

Ah, after Googling, I believe you are correct. Thank you! So, the larger one will clean up power supply noise, if I see any of that, in a FPV/video transmission setup.

Sounds like I need to order some FPV gear and experiment! :wink

Whiffles   Feb 18, 2016 

Would definitely be nice for framing your shoots.

fradioflyer   Apr 21, 2016 

Well, that experiment was short-lived... while the smaller sized regulator performed well, I just started having too many accessories glommed onto it's output pins. I probably should have done this to begin with, since this is a 4S system, but now I will connect a 12v BEC from the main power board to a mini-PDB from which I can then more easily connect gimbal, LEDs, vTx, FPV camera, ...

fradioflyer   Mar 18, 2016  

Public service announcement: don't discount the importance of a pre-flight inspection.

I wanted to get a flight out this morning before the winds picked up. I was in the process of strapping the battery in when I noticed a broken wire. Quickly traced it in one direction ending at the Power plug on the Pixhawk... uh oh. At the Power Module, it had broken from the connector in the plug.

Well, I thought, I can fix that one cable real quick, lemme just pull the connector out from the Power Module and get to work. Without the least bit of effort pulling on the connector itself, what started as one broken wire became 2, 3, then 4... All of them broke off inside the plug before I could get the connector unseated...ugh!

I felt lucky to find another 6-pin connector like that one, and enough wires with the crimped ends that I could solder onto. I don't want to image what might have happened if I'd not noticed that stray broken wire and the others broke at some point in mid-flight!

fradioflyer   Aug 12, 2015  

So, wooden props have caught my eye recently, though there's relatively little to read or watch about it. What say you?

Show 31 more comments
fradioflyer   Mar 17, 2016 

On a whim, decided to swap the wood propellers for the APCs I used some 7 or 8 months ago. It's louder, a touch heavier, but somehow so much more efficient in flight. Two batteries today...19 minutes each!

Whiffles   Mar 17, 2016 

Not bad! Get any good footage?

fradioflyer   Mar 17, 2016 

Some of it looks usable, yeah, even though it's not a very colorful time of year. I did discover a cool near miss with a bird in one of the videos. Will make it to YouTube eventually.

fradioflyer   Feb 09, 2016  
1

The long-in-the-tooth SJ4000 has been spending too much time connected to my PC as a webcam. So, what to do? Join the gang with a Yi, of course!

Now, while I'm still waiting to complete the motor upgrade, I can play with gimbal pids all over again... {sigh} ...well, maybe not such a big deal after all. There were quite a few adjustments needed to get it balanced while powered off, but the current PIDs seem to be OK as-is.

Show 4 more comments
Whiffles   Mar 14, 2016 
1

Looking much better! I can still see a little jello in there, but it's far better than the SJ4000 ever did.

fradioflyer   Mar 16, 2016 
1

I got rid of the yaw waggle. Changing deadband and hysteresis values didn't help. Turns out the motor wires were under too much tension... probably from a few of the times it spun like a poltergeist with the SJ4000!. There's still the slight jello, like you see in that video...mostly when I'm face on to the wind, so I think I'll try to stiffen up the pitch response and see what happens.

Whiffles   Mar 16, 2016 

Awesome! You should be able to pull off some really nice footage with that setup. Can't to see how it looks when you've got it geared in.

fradioflyer   Mar 11, 2016  

I finally decided to mount up the 2nd GPS unit permanently. We'll be ready for Copter 3.4, which I understand will truly support dual GPS.

Show 3 more comments
Whiffles   Mar 14, 2016 

Interesting, so hopefully the software update does something about that.

fradioflyer   Mar 14, 2016 

I found a fairly recent discussion thread where another user had the same experience (a rapid change of position) as I. The tone of the conversation seemed as if the devs were surprised by that behavior and then they launched into a debate of how best to manage the transition (I could probably re-read what they were talking about a dozen times and never understand it).

In the meantime, I figure there are a couple things I can do to limit my exposure to it. One, leave it on the ground longer to allow for the switch before arming. Two, not use any GPS-dependent modes until safely above all obstacles. Three, unplug one of the GPS'es if options one or two isn't possible.

Whiffles   Mar 14, 2016 
1

I'd probably avoid GPS modes unless high enough. I haven't even been using my GPS lately as I find stabilize much more predictable and fun.

fradioflyer   Mar 03, 2016  

Oh, coaxial configuration...how we love to tinker for efficiency! I wrote this, above, quite some time ago (and it's becoming true all over again):
"finding the optimal prop combination is a trial n' error labor of love (and money)"

With the former RCTimer motors, I found that optimal combination with 12x4 uppers and 11x6 lowers; in a hovering flight, the RCOUT practically matches for upper and lower.

Now, I introduce the new T-Motors and that RCOUT has changed. The lower motors are working harder than the uppers. I saw this same pattern before, when I tried a 12x4 and 11x5 combination. I fixed that with more pitch on the lowers, buying the 11x6's. I'm going to try that fix again by ordering 11x7 propellers.

Show 10 more comments
fradioflyer   Mar 10, 2016 

Oh, now the question makes more sense...! I have a bracket on the Taranis for mounting the monitor. I don't really like it...too heavy, gotta use the neck stap, etc. Time to put together a ground station with antenna tracker? Lol....this hobby never quits!

Whiffles   Mar 10, 2016 

Might as well just buy a headset. That's really the way to go. I have a couple linked up on my proposed 210 build that seem like a good value. I'm waiting for more reviews on the higher resolution display. It looks promising.

fradioflyer   Mar 10, 2016 

Maybe so... I figure I was collecting so much gear I was going to have to take along a second person to carry it all out to the field. Before it all has to be lugged back, they might as well pull up a chair and watch! :-D

Antenna tracker seems like a cool thing to put together, but the crazy long range it allows for is probably only achievable with a plane.

fradioflyer   Mar 02, 2016  

Just recording a curious observation with AutoTune yesterday -

I'm running the latest 3.3.3 firmware... opted to run my first AutoTune since probably 3.2.1 and since I upgraded motors.

I launched to a reasonable height, 8-10m, set AltHold, switched on AutoTune. It started with the roll axis, as expected... twitched and tested for 2-3 minutes, as expected. Then it... paused(?) almost 3.5 minutes (confirmed in the log) just floating, no stick input from me, until starting the pitch axis twitching. I'd never experienced that before.

Show 2 more comments
Whiffles   Mar 02, 2016 

I'd probably just discount it as a glitch since AutoTune isn't something you do all the time.

fradioflyer   Mar 03, 2016 

I couldn't stand not knowing... :-) I re-ran AutoTune and observed no glitches this time. It's a good thing they added the feature to do one axis at a time... trying to do all 3 at once takes ~15 minutes, leaving very little time before the battery warning to try out the settings it comes up with.

Whiffles   Mar 03, 2016 

That's a nice feature because I always worry I'll run out of battery before the cycle has completed.

fradioflyer   Feb 04, 2016  
1

Motor (and ESC) upgrade complete!... got an excellent($35 each) deal on T-Motor 3110-700kV off of eBay's 'Make an Offer' feature. I'm looking forward to better weather so I can see if eCalc was correct.

RotorBuilds/eCalc: Before

RotorBuilds/eCalc: After

Show 14 more comments
fradioflyer   Feb 29, 2016 

Hovered for about a minute and a half yesterday before packing it in. Too much wind and gusts to really feel comfortable or enjoy myself. I say 'hovered' but, really, once it was above tree top level, I just pushed it south and let the gusts blew her back to me. Still patiently waiting to really shake it out and test the extended flight times....

Whiffles   Feb 29, 2016 
1

At least you know it's working!

fradioflyer   Mar 02, 2016 

Yep, seems to be working pretty much to eCalc spec. I stepped outside yesterday afternoon and noticed it was practically windless so I grabbed a fresh battery and up she went. After a few laps around the property and an Autotune cycle, I landed at 80% consumed, 16:23. For 80%, eCalc predicted 17:24 strictly for hover so I think I could best that by some seconds if I ever wanted to just sit in a Loiter for that long (boooring!).

fradioflyer   Jan 29, 2016  

I found a very feature-rich Taranis script for telemetry display.
http://www.craftandtheoryllc.com/product/taranis-user-interface-for-ardupilot-apmcopter/

While I've had telemetry on the Taranis since practically Day 1, this script really presents the data well AND transmits the status messages, which I could only get before via a separate connection with the Tower app.

Show 1 more comment
fradioflyer   Feb 26, 2016 

I use Tower for plotting Auto missions only, now. Everything else it does I get on the Taranis display with the added benefit that I can program feedback features into the controller. E.g. alerts for when battery remaining is <50% and Dist from Home > 200m... Or when current > 70amps sound a warning... Or when in stabilize mode and vertical speed is < -3m/s (falling too fast), trigger the lost copter alarm... Just a bunch of things that aggregate data.

Whiffles   Feb 26, 2016 
1

Very cool. Sounds like the tip of the iceburg for what the Taranis can do. BTW, I updated the discussion layouts here to hopefully make them more readable. It'll always default to showing only the last 2 comments for each thread.

fradioflyer   Feb 26, 2016 

For sure! That's all simple a<x expressions stuff. I haven't gotten into the Lua scripting language, yet. You said it once before: We're flying computers...with computers. Its fun to tinker with!

fradioflyer   Jan 29, 2016  

I added this strobe light (one was plenty bright...!) to the tail boom this week. I really like how it turned out. Bright enough to see in full sunlight, too. Dabbling with the Taranis and Pixhawk configuration more, I'm making use of 13 Channels:

  • Channels 1-5: AETR and Flight modes, of course
  • Channel 6: Tunable Loiter speed
  • Channel 7: Normal/Simple/Super-Simple modifers
  • Channel 8: Autotune
  • Channels 9-10: Sliders for Camera Pitch and Yaw
  • Channel 11: Lost Copter Alarm
  • Channel 12: RTL
  • Channel 13: pass-thru for Strobe LED

Moving RTL to a dedicated switch allowed me to remove it from one of the flight modes (probably a better configuration in a panic situation anyway). I drastically simplified my flight modes to just Stabilize, AltHold, Pos Hold, and Auto.

Show 2 more comments
fradioflyer   Feb 13, 2016 
1

With extra time on my hands, I programmed my Taranis to assign switches to channels 9-12. Now the strobe only fires when switched on.

Whiffles   Feb 15, 2016 

Great! I picked up a Turnigy 9X during the HobbyKing holiday sale, so I'm looking forward to adding some extra channels to my rig. Maybe I can finally add my LEDs and do a toggle as well.

Whiffles   Feb 15, 2016 

Oops! I mistyped. I meant to say Turnigy 9X (Got it for $30 including shipping). The Taranis is too far out of budget for me. I'd rather spend that on a little 210 FPV rig.

fradioflyer   Jan 29, 2016  
1

What this build has been missing is a canopy. The wiring ”nest” from the Pixhawk is unsightly. My first attempt used molded fiberglass inspired by this article: http://flitetest.com/articles/DIY_Multicopter_Canopy_

While poking around Thingiverse looking for a Rasberry Pi case, I found a simple configurable box model. I only printed the bottom plate of the box model, so two ends are just open. I adjusted the dimensions to match the frame and printed it out. At only 64g (half the weight of the fiberglass creation), this could be 'release candidate 2'.

(...and after that printed, I started to think about another possibility: what if I printed the same thing closer to the dimensions of my battery? Use it as a shroud, which could then provide a semi-permanent mounting surface, maybe for a FPV vtx... so that's printing now.)

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Whiffles   Feb 01, 2016 

Mine didn't fit snug on my SunnySky motors. I tried to center them as best as I could by resting it around the shaft, but that's far from ideal. I'll revisit them at some point, probably when I break one of my carbon mix props.

fradioflyer   Feb 01, 2016 
1

Could you invert the prop washers? Maybe that cone shape on the washer could self center the prop around the shaft?

Whiffles   Feb 01, 2016 

That's an idea! I'll try that next time I pull those props out.

fradioflyer   Oct 22, 2015  

Finally upgraded the firmware to APM 3.3 and took her out for 10-minute test flight. All I can say is, "Wow!" The stability improvements are fantastic.

Whiffles   Oct 22, 2015 

You're making me wish I had Pixhawk. I'm starting to realize the limitations of my 8bit APM FC.

fradioflyer   Oct 22, 2015 

You'd especially like the improvements in Yaw. My old 3.2.1 logs would show some jittery behavior when graphing Yaw vs. DYaw. I did the firmware upgrade fully expecting to be able to do a yaw autotune to smooth that out. Well, I haven't done it yet, but the latest graphed Yaw vs. DYaw was super consistent and stable. Autotune not required, imo.

I'm waiting for the camera battery to recharge to see if there's an observable improvement there, too.

Whiffles   Oct 22, 2015 

That sounds great, looking forward to seeing how your video turns out.

fradioflyer   Aug 28, 2015  

Just a sample of video where there's jello in the camera-down position (maybe it's just from prop-wash and there's nothing to be done about it)... oh, and I wonder how I can setup my SJ4000 so I can get a better exposure during sunset there at the end.... ?

Show 1 more comment
boostdd   Aug 29, 2015 

The issue with the sunset shot is... The sun light was too bright, which caused the camera to adjust it's exposure, hence why the tree area became dark. These little action comes have poor dynamic range, so it will exposure for the high or the low (pick one). You can play around with the exposure compensation, but I doubt it will help much. The metering mode of the camera will determine what is used as a reference point for it's exposure. It most likely some sort of evaluative metering mode, but I doubt it can be changed. Either way, experiment with the camera angle during sunsets, so the camera adjusts for whatever you're shooting. :)

fradioflyer   Aug 29, 2015 

Thanks! I know how to get that shot with my DSLR but I guess you're right..the action cams are over simplified. The SJ4000 has a HDR setting, too; I want to try that next time, too.

Whiffles   Aug 29, 2015 

The Xiaomi Yi has far better dynamic range than any of the other budget action cams. I can tell a huge difference over my old Mobius.

fradioflyer   Aug 25, 2015  

As summer draws to a close, it's getting darker earlier in the evening so it's time to think about lighting. These LED boards were delivered today (the price is way incorrect!). I couldn't decide on a color scheme, so this switching option was attractive.

Show 1 more comment
Whiffles   Aug 25, 2015 

I bought a 3m sticky strip of RGB 5050 LEDs for about $4 on eBay. I haven't had a chance to install them yet, but they're quite bright.

fradioflyer   Aug 25, 2015 

Did you get 5v or 12v ones? I first thought about the 5v option and power them from the output rail of the Pixhawk. Then I figured the 12v would be brighter; I can power them from the same voltage regulator that feeds the gimbal. Sitting here, now, though I think I also want a small switch to turn the lights off during the daylight hours. Are they so bright they might bleed into the camera field of view?

Whiffles   Aug 25, 2015 

They're the 12v ones as well. I just added them to my build. I was thinking the same concerning the camera, so I guess experimentation will be the only way to know for sure. It seems lots of folks use these though, so I don't imagine it's a major issue.

boostdd   Aug 19, 2015  
2

This looks like a ton of fun! My next build will certainly be a Tri-Copter. Just not sure which one yet.

I noticed you're using 4s 10000mah battery. HK had a crazy sale on the Multistar batteries the other day, I think they were under $30. Sadly I just checked and the sale is over. Although they are only 10c, which can handle a 100A draw. My 800 sized quad only pulls 60-85A, so I bet yours would be fine as well.

Show 5 more comments
Whiffles   Aug 20, 2015 

I did ask on the reddit thread concerning that battery and the consensus was that it'll work on my F450, but I'm still dubious. I think I'll opt for a 5000mah. Another idea is to run both of my 2700's in parallel.

fradioflyer   Aug 20, 2015 
1

I would be dubious, as well. I don't recall exactly, but I thought the thrust of the SunnySky 2212s was around 800 or 900g each. That'd be like asking one motor to do nothing but lift the battery, no?

Silverlogic55   Aug 23, 2015 

I had one of the batteries in question, and bought 2 more when they were on sale last week, love em.

fradioflyer   Aug 22, 2015  

Borrowed an idea from the CX-20 thread on RCGroups about accelerometer calibration. Using bottles or glasses to level the motors for step 1. It makes a load of difference! Maybe because this is a Y config and naturally heavier in front, but whatever...Stabilize is just as steady now as PosHold.

Show 1 more comment
Whiffles   Aug 22, 2015 

I saw that as well. I don't have any issues in the steadiness department, but I plan to give it a try at some point anyway.

fradioflyer   Aug 22, 2015 

I didnt either... I thought, but it made a huge improvement.

Whiffles   Aug 22, 2015 

Good to know! I'll definitely give it a try then. I think I might be able to use some juice bottles..

Whiffles   Aug 17, 2015  

Get a chance to fly this weekend? I got some great footage in the mountains. I'm working on the video now.

fradioflyer   Aug 17, 2015 

Ah, I look forward to seeing it! uavforecast.com showed a high Kp index for parts of Saturday and Sunday... any issues with GPS lock?

No flying for me this weekend but I was visiting with my sister who shared she's picked Natural Bridge as her wedding venue. I told her I wanted to get with the photographer about taking some aerial photos/video before and after the ceremonies.

Whiffles   Aug 17, 2015 

Yes, I had some GPS issues yesterday in the mountains. I was stuck at HDOP 2.3 and it only dropped to 2.0 after several minutes. It was trying an RTC any time I enabled PosHold, so I kept it in AltHold. The GPS was great on Friday though.

I'd love to see Natural Bridge someday, but it's far too pricey. Looks like a great place to get some aerial video though!

Whiffles   Jul 23, 2015  

Wow, that's a crazy battery you got on there! How many minutes can you get on that?

fradioflyer   Jul 23, 2015 
1

The battery alone is right about 1/3 of my total AUW. I'll get 24 minutes running to ~20% capacity remaining. Personally, flying that long in a single session is exhausting though I've done it a few times now. It's much more common for me to take it out for many short duration flights, and just charge less frequently. My little SkyRC b6 charger takes nearly 3 hours to charge this thing!

I haven't added it to the parts list, but I started with an 8000mah Zippy from HobbyKing (16-19 minutes), but I found the weight of this one to be the same... 845g if I recall the specs correctly.

Whiffles   Jul 23, 2015 

I know what you mean. I have a friend who told me he won't get into multirotors until the battery life increases. I told him 10-15 minutes is plenty. The stress of keeping such a large investment in the sky for so long wears at my nerves, so it's quite a relief to have a safe landing.

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