So a few people have been asking me about my tri-copter and "how did you make that?"  or "where can I get one".  So I am going to put this little post together to talk about that. For those unfamiliar with the Tri-copter project, here are a few YouTube videos I uploaded of my successes and failures...




Now,  generally there are 2 types of people,  there are those that want to seriously pursue the hobby and are looking for an entry point.  This post is intended for that person.  It is a challenging and sometimes frustrating hobby, but it is also very rewarding as well (just like any hobby).

If you just want a toy on the cheap to casually fly around, walmart & other stores sells cheap little helicopters that will basically fly themselves and have everything you need in the box that range in price from $50-$100.  These are typically of the counter-rotating coaxial kind.  The self stability these machines offer sacrifices mobility, however there are many that recommend even those that are serious out trying the hobby first start with one of these out just to see if it's something they like.  Here is a link to an example of one of these.

Now on to the serious stuff.  Unfortunately when I built my tricopter it I did not document a proper build log, maybe I will at some future point.  My tri-copter is based heavily on the FPV Manuals Delrin Tricopter kit and David Windestål of Tricopter designs.  I highly recommend checking out both of those sites as they are the core of my design.  The tri-copter itself can be built pretty cheap depending on how much of a Do-It-yourselfer you are.  If you are a beginner and don't have access to a machine shop or CNC machine (or a jigsaw and an afternoon) I recommend getting the Delrin kit.  This adds $100 to your build costs, but the quality of the kit is top notch.

Here is a photo of my tricopter...


So assuming you have decided on what you are going to do for a frame, the parts I used are as follows.  Each item will be a hotlink and I will list the prices.  Another thing to consider,  if you are new to the hobby, you are going to need a transmitter and a lipo battery charger.  I will post a few recommendations below as well.

------------Main Components------------

                                                   Motors (3 Needed):  Hextronik DT-750  $11.60 ea,  $34.80 for 3

                              Speed Controllers (3 Needed): Turnigy Plush 18amp $11.90 ea,  $35.70 for 3

                         Batteries (as many as you want!):  Turnigy 2200mah 3S $8.99 ea

                             Yaw Servo (1 Needed):  BMS-385DMAX Digital Servo  $20.48 ea

Propellers (3 Needed, good idea to get extras):  GWS EP 10x4.7 6-pack  $4.82 ea

                      Brains (1 Needed):  Hobbyking Multirotor Control Board    $14.99 ea (need to be reprogrammed for tri-copter mode)

      Boom Arms, These are just home depot 3/8" Square Wooden Dowel:  $ .98 for 36" length


------------Parts Needed to Wire everything up------------

                                                        Turnigy 25mm heat shrink (for escs)   $ .75 ea

                                                                      4mm heat shrink 1 needed:  $ .35 ea

                                                       16AWG Wire RED (3 Meters Needed):  $1.29 ea,  $3.87 for 3meters

                                                      16AWG Wire BLACK (1 Meter Needed): $1.29 ea

                                  10cm Male to Male servo leads 10pack (1 needed):  $4.75 ea

                                                           XT60 Connector 5 pack (1 needed): $3.19 ea

                                                               Battery Strap 3 Pack (1 needed): $4.90 ea

                                              420mm Servo Extension 5 Pack (1 needed): $2.88 ea

                                        Bullet Connectors for ESCs 10 pack (9 needed): $1.59 ea

                       Zip ties (these break a lot get a few packs they are cheap: $ .65 ea


Optional: Turnigy BESC Programming Card: $6.95  This is not required, but it will make programming the ESCS a LOT easier,  without it you will likely mess it up (I know I did!).



Ok, so that is everything I can think (excluding tools such as soldering iron, etc) of you will need to build a tri-copter.  If you are new to the hobby, then this means you probably don't have a transmitter or battery charger.  You will need both of these.  The good thing about these is, a you progress in the hobby to flying other things these will still be useful.


I present these to give you an idea the range of products on the market...

Low End Spektrum DX5e Radio + 1 Receiver:  $99.99 (Decent radio, but I don't recommend because it is missing some key stuff you will want as you grow in to the hobby (such as Expos)

High End Spektrum DX7e + 1 Receiver: $299.99 (Decent starter radio,  has room to grow into advanced features)

Even Higher End: Spektrum DX8 (No Receiver included): $349.99

Best (In My Opinion): Futaba 10CHG (Includes 14channel Receiver) :  $619.99 (has a lot of features, probably the last radio you will ever practically need/want to buy)

Insane (The last radio you will ever need to buy) Futaba 18MZHL: $2999.99 (And Yea,  I do not have one of these, lol)


------------Battery Charging------------

The odd thing with battery chargers is that most are designed not to be plugged in to the wall, but to be hooked up to a 12v car battery.  This is due to the origins of this hobby being gas planes that you had to take out to a flying field.  Out in the field there is usually no where to plug in.  So if you want to charge these at home then you need not only a battery charger, but also a 12v power supply for the charger.  Here are a few ideas...


Hobby King 10A 6 Cell Charger: $32.96

Hobby king 4x6 Charger: $69.99 (Charges 4 batteries at once)

Here is hobby kings full product line on chargers


------------Power Supplies------------

20A twin 12V Power Supply: 29.99


What I am using is about 10+ years old,  and has been working great.  There are better options on the market, but I will link my setup for those who are curious.  Certainly do your own research.  As with anything read the reviews..

------------My Battery Charging Setup------------

Power Supply:  Power Force 13.8V Power Supply (No longer sold as far as I can tell).  Here is a picture..

Charger: Poly Charge 4   $87.99

LiPo Balancer Interface (Required for charger that I have): $34.99  4x $139.96


So that is basically the rundown of my setup and all my thoughts on what is required to go from nothing to being started in the hobby.  It is impossible for me to cover every question or topic in this one post, if you still have questions or need help, feel free to reach out to me via the contact page or comments below.  Thanks for reading.

For more reading, here are some of my favorite sites.






FPV Lab (Forums)

ILoveFPV (Forums)



The Ultimate Alarm Clock.

I absolutely hate being late for things.  I find it to both be rude to people who may be waiting for me, as well as in the case of my job it is just plain disrespectful and unprofessional.  Sure, things happen that are outside of mycontrol, weather, traffic, etc.  I guess I have to live with that, but if it is correctable I would like to engineer the problem out. 

One of the reasons I am sometimes late is because on rare occasions I oversleep.  Waking up in the morning is the bane of my existence.  If it were up to my circadian rhythm I would go to bed at 3-4AM and wake at 12-1pm.  I simply just function better nocturnally.  On work nights I do try to get to sleep at a respectable time, so one of the things that occassionally fails me is my alarm clock.

When it comes to alarm clocks I realize that either or both of the following is true... A)  There really is no perfect alarm clock on the market and/or B) I am entirely way to picky and obsessive when it comes to alarm clocks.  Over the years I have tried several different alarm clocks and have found fault with all of them.  I am currently using the RCA RP5430 (pictured)

The problem with this current unit is I think RF noise from my cell-phone (which also resides on my headboard at night) is injecting interferring noise into the clock causing adverse effects.  I have actually seen the clock act like it is possessed (with the numbers on it flickering about randomly).  This has resulted in the time becoming changed and/or the alarm times to change, or the alarms to be disabled etc. 

It is time that I set out to build the ultimate alarm clock  This project is longer term as I have other projects to complete before hand, however this post should serve as the seed for this idea.  Below are the list of features that I would like to incorporate.  Feedback is always welcome.

  • Snooze button on top
  • A "hard snooze deadline"  a time which the system will no longer let you snooze and the only option is to wake up and turn off the alarm(see below about turning off)
  • A "cognitive puzzle" should be required to turn off the alarm, this could be entering a random number that would displayed on the display into a keypad.  This would require the user to wake up enough to do this instead of fumbling around for the button half asleep and disabling the alarm.
  • "intelligent snooze"  I like to snooze for at least 30minutes prior to waking up.  I would like a voice announcement to say something like "You have t-minus 20 minutes until wake up"
  • When the deadline alarm goes off (the time which you can no longer afford to sleep otherwise you will be late) the alarm needs to be annoying enough as to indicate the severity of the situation, yet not so annoying as to cause me to want to throw the clock (this might be difficult)
  • No Radio, I don't use sleep radios or wake radios, so I feel no need to implement this
  • Shielded from RF Interference.  I'll line the damn thing with lead if that's what it takes!! (don't email me about lead, I am not literally going to use lead, rather proper ground shielding)  I am thinking I will start with the concept of a faraday cage.

These are just a few of my thoughts, I will post more as I think of them.  I think this is very much doable.  The alarm noises could be implemented through an arduino .wav or .mp3 shield.



Advanced Servo Mixer powered by Arduino.

I have recently began playing around with RC planes and helicopters and like most things I delve into I find limitations on things I want to do but I am unable because the products offered for the masses are limited.  This is typically because they tend to sacrifice complexity for ease of use.  In this case I require a servo mixer that can do conditional mixing.  The following video might illustrate my needs a little more clearly.

Currently I have been able to find 2 types of commercial servo mixers on the market.  The first I'll call a "dumb" type which simply takes 2 inputs and mixes it to 2 outputs.  This isn't to say the product is bad, it definitly works well for what it does, I am just calling it "dumb" to say it has no configurability.  The second type is made by Desert RC.  This mixer is a little better in that it is programable and can be configured for custom mixes, but you are limited to using their configuration utility and there are limits.  While the desert RC mixer is a fantasic product it will not work for my needs.

I have decided to try and build my own servo mixer that will be based on Arduino.  The type of mixer I am making would never work for the masses because to configure it involves writing code.  By writing code, I will have total control over how the mixer process input commands and passes them to output commands.  In my case I am sacrificing ease of use for complexity.

Here is a video overview of the current draft of the schematic I am working on. (Best to watch in fullscreen 1080p in order to see all the schematic symbols)

As always feedback is welcome.


Circuit Board Business Cards

I had this neat idea to promote my blog site (that you are reading right now) as well as demonstrate some of the capabilities I have mastered to date.  I can't say the idea is all original, I was inspired by reading the instructables article here by an author known simply as 'Sponges'  located here

I guess could have fabricated it out of my house the way he did, but I have really taken a liking to eagle cad and batchPCB, and my design was going to be a bit more complex.  My project would have more LEDs as well as a more advanced microchip.  Unfortunately this has driven my cost up a little higher then his, but for the features I wanted to include, this was acceptable.  Also, I am also not yet familiar with the PIC family of microprocessors.  The purpose of this project was to hone my SMT soldering skills.  The first board I assembled wasn't too bad, but by my 3rd, I think i now have the technique pretty much mastered.  Here are some pictures of the boards in various phases of assembly.

Here is a video demo of one of these in action.

These boards were part of a small test run to mainly ensure I didn't have any design flaws. I have amended some of the text on the card, mainly changed the url to since I now have that domain. I am going to commission Gold Phoenix PCB Fab house to make up some of these with blue soldermask and white silkscreen. Also, stay tuned, in a few months I am going to unveil an alternate version of these with slightly different electronics on it. These will be a "Geek/Hacker" variant. I just finalized the design last night, I ordered a small run for test, and if they test out, I'll order a production run.

I need to clean up my source code a bit, but If there is any interest, I will publish all the source material time permitting.


Arduino based Large Digital Clock with 7 segment display

I've been working on a prototype for a large clock I want to make.  This clock will feature 6.5inch digits for the Hours, Minutes & Seconds and will feature 4inch tall displays for the Month & Day readout.  Being as I am going to hang this clock up at work, It will likely be high up on the wall and out of reach.  So when I started thinking about how to program this clock, I thought wireless would be the perfect solution.  With the xbee radios from digi being so cheap and easy to implement this seemed like the perfect fit.  I then started thinking about how else I could pimp this thing out and I thought it would be nice to have a remote viewer on the "clock setting device".  This screen will display real time information being fed from the clock on the wall as well as have intuitive menus for setting it.

To realize all of this,  I wanted to proof out as much of my code as possible on the small scale before implementing it on the final design.  Besides,  I need to wait for some of the circuit boards I designed for this to come in from China (about 4-6 weeks).

Here are a few pics of the small scale prototype, work in progress.



Here is a youtube video showing an overview of the project...