Pimp My Drone

Drones
are hot right now, and we want in! That’s why we talked to
David Dewey, the
designer of the “
Frame’ish” Go Pro frame, that allows you to send your GoPro
soaring through the air and capture some great footage. See what he has to say about the world of Quadcopters below!

A Quadcopter? So is that a 4 wheel
bike with a rotor blade sticking out of it?

Ummm…
no. That would be messy if you stood up.

A
quadcopter, while easy to get way over technical, is a radio controlled
aircraft that uses 4 propellers to fly which are powered by 4 motors (4=quad).
The direction and angle that a quadcopter flys in is generally dictated by how
much power goes to each motor/propeller…. simple.

So why buy a Radio Controlled
Quadcopter or ”Drone” (as I hear them called sometimes?)

The
development in radio controlled (RC) quadcopters in the last 5 years has really
opened the world of radio controlled flight to consumer novice. A pre built ‘Ready
to Fly’ quadcopter with a built in brain (a flight stabilising system) can literally
be flown by a person with no prior RC experience without too much drama (a large
field is suggested!). The Parrot AR Drone and the more recent DJI Phantom are
two examples of such devices that are targeted at the casual hobbyist and are
very user friendly. Open the box and within minutes you can be soaring hundreds
of feet high! The Phantom in particular is perfect for a beginner as it uses
GPS to know where it took off from and can be called home to self land at the
flick of a switch.

What has the DJI Phantom and this hobby
brought to your life?

For
me it is fresh air, an amazing view of the world (through the camera lense) and
a chance to be creative in 3D! In the air it is just great fun but on the
ground it allows me find solutions to problems that haven’t been solved
commercially.

Care to explain some of these
problems you have solved?

Well
a quadcopter like the DJI Phantom can fly high with a GoPro Hero camera
attached to its belly via the included mount. You get an amazing picture of the
world once you have landed, downloaded and processed the video.

Once
you have a few flights under your belt, you start to see why people in this
hobby love a ‘First Person View’ (or FPV as it is more commonly known). With the right kit FPV takes the live feed
from the mounted camera and transmits the image to a monitor or a set of
goggles which the pilot can see/wear. The very popular Fatshark Predator V2 is a perfect example. The Predator V2 is
popular as it comes with all the bits you need for adding FPV to any radio
controlled craft.

The
problem is that neither magic, well wishing, nor any hocus-pocus will send the
video image to your eyes alone. You have a transmitter (known as a TX) that has
to be mounted securely to the craft,
wired for power and also to the camera. You also get a small filter which is
used to clean up the image (it is a small circuit board that also needs
mounting).

Now
the DJI Phantom is not a large flying device compared to some and the only real
option for mounting the TX and filter is via Velcro adhesive (much loved in the
RC flight community!). This works fine for many people but the TX has very
little (if any) flat surfaces for the Velcro to adhere to. It also looks a
little shabby compared to the clean white lines of the Phantom shell and leaves
no protection in the event of a bumpy landing (and yes they can be very bumpy
in inexperienced hands!).

Realising
these problems made me fall in love with the hobby even more as it gave me
things to ‘tinker’ with on rainy or windy days when flying was a no go.

My
first efforts included balsa wood and a cut up sandwich box! They actually worked
perfectly but as a designer they just looked shoddy. Functional sure….but
shoddy! A true conceptual prototype!

So where does Shapeways fit into this
all?

Well
back 2002 I completed my degree in Computer Aided Product Design. This included
3D modelling, which was something I loved doing at the time but had little practical
use for me now I am in the web design/I.T business. On the off chance that my age-old
version of Rhinoceros would export to Shapeways I gave it a go. Boom it
uploaded a test “.stl” file flawlessly. Wow… the 3D design world opened up
again and the Phantom was a perfect item to practice on!

So where has this rekindled love of
3D design lead?

Using
an old pair of manual measuring callipers (replaced with shiny digital ones now
I might add!), I was able to turn my ‘balsa and sandwich tray’ concept into a
real 3D printable undertray that would attach to the Phantom via threaded spacers.
This gave me a larger flatter surface to mount the TX and filter to. At this point
I thought “well why not make a cage for the TX?” so I integrated a custom fit
holder to the Undertray that takes the Fatshark Predator V2 TX safely and in
style.

After
my MK1 prototype arrived I was able to see areas for improvement. It worked but
was a little floppy. I could see where strength was needed and where bulk could
be shed. It also allowed me to share my design with the growing community of
Phantom /Quad flyers on places like www.phantompilots.com

Suggestions
started coming about a separate TX holder, a smaller undertray and ideas
relating to camera mounts too. With this to motivate me I decided to take a few
hours to re-design the existing model and create some spin offs from it to suit
the needs of fellow flyers.

Excellent! So Shapeways is suited to
RC Quadcopter/Drone modifying?

It
literally couldn’t be a better fit in my opinion.

In
RC flight, less weight means more air time and better control. The great thing
is that with Shapeways, less weight is actually cheaper to produce so weight
saving can save money too. The other thing that just ‘fits’ is the material
properties of the white nylon. It is strong but not brittle and quite capable
of taking a healthy bump! I was able to create my very simple but effective
GoPro “Frame’ish” with it. It uses the same principal as their original (quite
expensive) design where the frame stretches open around the camera and closes
up snugly.

So what is next?

Who
knows. For me this has started as just a bit of fun. It has taken me from a new
great new hobby of FPV Quadcopter flying, back into an old (much loved) one of
3D design. The two smashed together perfectly! It is field I never really
imagined I would do again with any purpose or end product to hold. It keeps my
creative juices flowing, my mind sharp and my Phantom both functional and great
looking!

The
only problem is how addictive it all is. The temptation to buy other bigger and
better Quadcopters, Hexcopters (6 props) or Octocopters (8 props) knowing that
there are design problems to solve on them could send trembles down my bank
managers spine!

Can I see this progress in more
detail?

Yep….
you can piece it together from the forum threads!

Balsa
wood and Sandwich tray and even some carbon fibre!:

http://www.phantompilots.com/viewtopic.php?f=4&t=968

The
start of the Shapeways work:

http://www.phantompilots.com/viewtopic.php?f=4&t=999

Latest
versions/flight tests:

http://www.phantompilots.com/viewtopic.php?f=4&t=1297

You can also see all of David’s products available for sale here.

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