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MultiRotor Pilot Mag

Ttrobotix Super Hornet X650 Kit: Ttrobotix Air Supremacy!

From Multirotor Pilot Issue: 10
By Peter Hejl

Thunder Tiger is an RC electronics manufacturer that was established over 30 years ago and has become a global RC brand. Just like most of the other RC manufacturers, they decided to jump on the multi-rotor bandwagon under the TTRobotix brand and introduced a few models to cater to both sides of the rapidly growing “drone” market. While their Ghost and Cobra quadcopters are ready-to-fly, “everything included” machines aimed at the customers who may not posess the will or skill to build their own multi-rotor, the TTRobotix Super Hornet is a kit for people who prefer to build their own machines and do some serious work with them.



MANUFACTURER: TTRobotix, Thunder Tiger Group
PART#: 4000-K11
FOR: Intermediate to advanced
PRICE: $999




  • Foldable arms for transport
  • Great fit and finish
  • Integrated power distribution plate with plenty of solder pads
  • Mounting holes for standard GPS mast
  • Sleek looking canopy
  • Sturdy retractable landing gear
  • Great intuitive packaging of part Groups


  • Need to remove the canopy to access the thumb screws to fold the arms
  • LED wires not long enough to reach solder points on distribution board
  • Absence of self-tightening design on the prop adapters


  • Foldable Quadcopter frame
  • Retractable landing gear
  • TT 340Kv motors
  • TT 30A ESCs
  • 1447 propellers
  • LED light pads
  • Canopy
  • Battery plate and straps


  • Flight controller (DJI NAZA or similar)
  • Battery (recommended 6S 6000mAh)
  • RC transmitter and receiver
  • video equipment (optional)


  • 2mm, 2.5mm, and 3mm hex wrenches
  • Soldering iron
  • Needle nose pliers
  • Small fl at screwdriver
  • Heavy duty dual sided tape
  • Hobby knife


The kit arrived in a nice box with all the parts packaged in logical groups. It includes all you need to build the frame and power it (motors and ESCs). I chose a DJI Naza-V2 flight controller, Futaba 14SG transmitter with Futaba R617FS 7 channel FASST receiver. DJI Naza will work with both traditional and Futaba S.bus receivers. A spare channel on the receiver is needed to control the retractable landing gear.

All the CF and plastic parts were defect free and good quality. The included manual is fairly well executed. The drawings are easy to understand and the manufacturer included a separate sheet depicting the power and signal distribution board layout. Included in the package is also XT60 battery connector that solders right into the board. If you’re using another battery connector, add one to the list of needed parts.

Ttrobotix Super Hornet-37THE BUILD
Building the Super Hornet is not terribly complicated and any intermediate RC builder should have no problem with it. The build begins by mounting the motors to the top half and included LEDs to the bott om half of the motor mounts. I then connected the ESCs to the motors.

The ESC wires are color coded. If the color coding is followed when plugging the motor leads in, the motors spin counterclockwise, so my recommendation is to swap two of the leads for the motors that will be spinning clockwise. This will save a partial disassembly later since the ESCs are hidden inside the tubes. I braided the ESC wires to lose some length and then fed the ESC and LED leads through the arm carbon fiber tubes. The 340Kv motors are nicely machined with large bearings and come with prop adapters.

The top and bottom halves of the motor mounts can then be put together at the end of the arm and secured with seven screws and lock nuts. The mount halves have knobs on the inside that align with pre-drilled holes in the arms, which helps to ensure that the motor mount is level and can not twist out of alignment mid-flight. As as this solution is, I’ve found it missing on many other kits and always had to come up with a solution to secure these in place on my own.

The side of the arms between the center plates gets a plastic wedge inside of it with two holes that line up with the pre-drilled holes in the arm’s CF tube. The bolts retaining the arms in-between the plates will eventually go through these holes and the wedge helps stabilize the arm, protects it from being crushed and also protects the ESC and LED wires from being rubbed through by the arm retaining bolts.

With the arms completed, I soldered the servo connector headers in place for the motor and gear connections to the main board. Depending on the flight controller you will use, you have to choose whether to solder the ESC signal wire headers to the front of or behind the flight controller. Since I’m using a Naza V2, I soldered them forward from the flight controller location to keep the connecting wires short. I secured the header in place by taping it on the connector side, soldering the pins to the appropriate pads and testing for any bad connections with my multi-meter. I also soldered the main power lead pigtail to the power pads and used the extra available pads on the board to solder on three more pigtails with connectors for my flight controller and peripherals (gimbal, video transmitter).

Ttrobotix Super Hornet-40

I then mounted the spacers (that will eventually hold the top and bottom plates together) to the bottom plate, flipped the plate over and mounted the battery/gimbal plate. The battery plate is spaced out by rubber stand-off s to create a clean unit that helps prevent the transfer of any motor induced vibrations to the gimbal and camera. Next, I moved on to the retractable landing gear. The gear servos seem pretty solid and have very little slack in them. The CF tubes get mounted together by a machined aluminum T-connector and the kit also includes rubber stops for the ends of the skids. The gear is mounted to the bottom plate using a wedge-shaped plastic insert that takes care of the gear off set (the servos are 90 degrees and this wedge is used to angle the gear outward by about 10 degrees).

With the gear and battery plate in place, I attached the arms to the bottom plate using the supplied bolts and secured them loosely in place with the thumb nuts. I then soldered the ESC leads and LED wires to the appropriate pads, making sure I left enough slack in the wires so they’re not being pulled on in either folded or unfolded arm positions. I plugged the ESC signal wires and landing gear leads into appropriate headers on the board and moved on to installing my flight controller. There is a predetermined position for the flight controller outlined on the bottom plate. I cleaned the surfaces with an alcohol wipe and used some 3M heavy duty dual sided tape to attach the flight controller firmly to the plate. The Naza PMU (power management unit) sits neatly next to the flight controller and plugs into a power lead I prepared for it earlier.

I chose a 7-channel FASST Futaba receiver (R617FS) and followed the diagram in NAZA manual when connecting the receiver to the fl ight controller. To take advantage of the retractable landing gear, one channel needs to be connected to the landing gear header(s). There are two headers for the landing gear connection – one for the signal wire/ground and one for power. This is done to leave the builder an option to use a 5V BEC to power the landing gear. Since the receiver is perfectly capable of supplying 5V to the gear servos, I simply used a hobby knife to pull the signal wire out of the connector and slipped it in it’s own connector, de-facto splitting the receiver wire into two parts (power and signal) to accommodate the two separate headers. If using a 7-channel S.bus receiver, you can take advantage of the Naza S.bus compatibility and still plug your retracts into one of the available channels (the “traditional” connections on the receiver still work and they mirror the S.bus channels, so make sure you choose a channel that is not already used by your flight controller). I then connected the Naza LED module and mounted it to the underside of the copter. There is a designated place on the top plate to accommodate a standard GPS mast and secure it with screws in the predrilled holes.

After making sure that everything worked correctly, I attached the top center plate to the frame. This gets done by screwing it onto the center plate spacers and securing the arm bolts in place.

Ttrobotix Super Hornet-42
Each arm gets two bolts, one that the foldable arm pivots around and one that is secured by a thumb screw and travels in center plate channels when folding and unfolding the copter. To secure the arms in place in fully folded or unfolded positions, the thumb nuts are tightened and sink into larger holes on either side of the channels the bolts travel in. These holes are only in the top plate channel, which left me wishing that the designers would consider leaving them in the bottom plates instead. Placing the thumb nuts on the bottom of the copter would make them easier to access without having to remove the canopy every time I need to fold/unfold the arms.

Ttrobotix Super Hornet-41There is also an option to attach the GPS/ compass module to a round indent in the canopy; however, I am not the biggest fan of this solution since this leaves the GPS/compass too close to the other electronics and also makes it difficult to remove the canopy when accessing the thumb nuts securing the foldable arms. Using a rotary tool, I cut an opening in the canopy to clear the GPS module and mast and used a black permanent maker to mask the white edges of this opening. I turned the GPS/compass module counter-clockwise by 14 degrees to account for the magnetic compass declination to make sure that the aircraft flies straight and does not display a “toilet bowl” effect. Once everything checked out, I used the included prop adapters to attach the 1447 plastic props. The props have a standard round hub with plastic spacers. My only wish was for the prop nuts to have a serrated flange to lock-in the props a little better.

Ttrobotix Super Hornet-38IN THE AIR
As a precaution, I do not install any video equipment or peripherals until after the maiden flight in order to minimize any possible damage if something goes wrong during the maiden. The maiden flight went as expected, the copter was very responsive and thanks to its size, easy to control and resilient in windy conditions. I flew the Super Hornet for three battery packs and then moved onto installing the gimbal, OSD (on-screen display) and video transmitter. Since I chose the DJI Naza V2 flight controller, I chose to complement it with Zenmuse H3-3D 3-axis brushless gimbal with GoPro Hero3 Black camera. I mounted the gimbal to the front of the battery plate using 1 inch spacers to lower it a bit below the plate. I had to drill a couple of holes in the plate to allow for the gimbal installation. I added DJI’s mini-OSD to get a real time read on the vital flight information on my video monitor. I also installed Immersion’s 600mW 5.8Ghz video transmitter. I plugged the video transmitter and the gimbal to the connectors I previously soldered onto the power distribution board and used dual sided tape to install the OSD unit, video transmitter and the gimbal control unit (GCU) in the space between the bottom and battery plates. I used a 90-degree SMA adapter to attach the antenna to the video transmitter to have the antenna facing down. After verifying that everything works, I tucked in the wires, and went to test fl y the unit again.

I used a 5500mAh 6S LiPo battery and got 15 minute flight time with the above mentioned video gear. The copter performed very well, without and vibration induced “jello effect” in the video thanks to the dampeners used to hold the clean plate. The shorter front arm design and retractable landing gear have helped to keep the props and the gear out of camera’s view even during more spirited flying. Speaking of which, the Super Hornet can actually get up and go at a pretty brisk pace. I prefer to fl y in manual mode unless I’m working a job around structures and people and this machine flies like a dream. The big 340Kv motors have decent vertical performance and always ran nice and cool, even on warmer days.

The retractable landing gear worked fl awlessly throughout our testing and it was nice to be able to capture some great aerial footage without the worry of the gear popping into frame. Not only that, but the Super Hornet looks much more aggressive with the gear up. The large airframe seems to be very stable, even in windy conditions so when it’s set up properly, it could make quite the camera rig for hobbyists or even professionals. The larger size gives it greater payload capacity so there are loads of different camera/ gimbal combinations that could be used. Also, the lower deck of the main frame is plentiful with space to mount any peripheral electronics of your choice. I’ve already got a couple dozen flights on this copter and I like it more and more every time I fly it. Using the Naza V2 seems to be the winning ticket and while I’m sure there are other viable options out there for flight controllers, you really can’t go wrong with this combo.

The TTRobotix Super Hornet is a great copter for anyone who prefers to build their own drones. The kit is well designed, uses good quality materials, comes with easy to understand instructions and provides the builder with a lot of flexibility to install different camera equipment and other accessories. This 650mm sized copter is fun to fly, large enough to be resilient in the wind and folds neatly for easy transport. Attach whatever camera gear you like and you’ve got a stellar combo for aerial photography and videography. If you’re in the market for a larger machine, give the Super Hornet a good hard look. It’s a sweet machine.


TTROBOTIX ttrobotics.com
DJI dji.com, (818) 235-0789
OPENPILOT openpilot.org
FUTABA futaba-rc.com, (217) 398-8970


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Dromida Vista UAV: Flying Made Simple With The Vista

From Multirotor Pilot Issue: 10

Dromida Vista-4


Author’s Opinion
The Vista UAV is a great machine for those learning to fly. I found it extremely simple to pilot in EASY mode, flying around trees and hovering mere inches off the ground. Once I felt a bit more comfortable, I popped the Flight Mode button and advanced to the next stage of maneuverability, even performing some flips and rolls. This quad makes it easy to grow your skills and it will be right there to challenge you at every stage.

Mini-quads are all the rage right now. They’re inexpensive, can be flown indoors or out and are extremely durable. So how do you make your decision when it’s time to buy? Personally, nothing bums me out more than to get a machine and within a few weeks have already outgrown it. I want something that will age with me, challenge me and if the need arises, be easy to find replacement parts for. Dromida has released one such mini-quad; the Vista UAV. This little gem comes with everything you need to be up and flying in no time right in the box. You say your skill level is beyond what most basic quads can deliver? Well you’ll be happy to hear that this mini-multirotor features four different flight modes that are sure to keep you challenged. If that’s still not enough to sell you, the Vista is also quite the aerobatic eggbeater, able to do flips and rolls in any of the flight modes. So you’re not just getting a pretty multirotor, you’re getting a drone with the sophistication to change its habits as your skills grow.


TYPE: RTF Mini-Quad
FOR: Beginner to advanced
PRICE: $79.98


WEIGHT: 122g (4.3oz)w
DIAMETER: 251mm (9.8in)
MOTORS: 4 micro brushed
ESCS/FLIGHT CONTROLLER: Both integrated on one board
PROPELLERS: 158.75mm (6.25 in.) molded plastic
FLIGHT TIME: Around 12 minutes


  • The Vista comes fully assembled with everything you need to get up in the air fast, including “AA” batteries!
  • Stabilization features a 3-axis gyro and three accelerometers for incredibly stable flying.
  • Four flight modes are available; Easy, Normal, Advanced and Expert. The Vista can challenge almost any skill level.
  • SLT compatible, meaning you can bind the Vista to any Tactic radio using SLT protocol.
  • The frame is designed to take some abuse, perfect for beginners learning to fl y or advanced pilots learning new tricks.
  • You can customize your Vista with optional blades and under-frame lenses of different colors.


  • Love the fully-assembled, star-fighter look
  • Crash-resistant. I tested this, but not on purpose
  • It does tricks! Capable of flips and barrel rolls
  • MR100 transmitter is great for larger hands
  • Stabilization system works great
  • LEDs make it easy to see what direction you are facing
  • Extra blades included should you encounter an aerial mishap


  • One motor’s gear mesh was a bit tight
  • I need more than one battery!

Dromida Vista-11
The initial flight took place right outside of our offices. It’s a multi-level parking area divided by rocky slopes so not only did I need to take extra care not to crash into the pointy minerals, I had to contend with gusts of wind – sometimes quite strong. After turning on the radio, I plugged in the battery in the Vista and prepared for flight. Thankfully, the default flight mode is set on EASY because once I got the Vista up off the ground, the wind started blowing it away from me at a pretty fast clip. I immediately gave it full left stick and was shocked at how stable and controlled it was, even in the heavy wind. This refined stabilization system worked great and made it easy to retrieve once the wind died down a bit. I continued to fly around, doing some low-flying maneuvers over the rocks and around some trees, however, the wind would kick up and send the Vista floating away; my only option was to kill the power and let gravity do its thing. After the maiden flight (and quite a few not-so-perfect touchdowns) I took it back inside and waited until the next day when the wind would be a lot less violent.

The second flight test was much better; on a bright, sunny day with very little wind. I followed the same startup procedure as the previous day and sent the Vista high up into the sky. I was feeling pretty comfortable zinging around the trees and buzzing the rocks in EASY mode, so I figured it was about time to test some of the other flight modes. EASY mode (solid blue light on the face of the controller) has the stabilization on and a low control sensitivity. There are also three other modes available; Normal, Advanced and Expert. The controls are as follows: Normal – stabilization on, high control sensitivity; Advanced – stabilization off , low control sensitivity; Expert – stabilization off , high control sensitivity. To get to the Advanced mode, you simply click the Flight Mode butt on and the blue light on the face of the controller should start fl ashing. If you want to try the Normal (solid orange light) or Expert (flashing orange light) modes, you have to first press down on the right control stick and you will see the blue light change to orange on the face of the controller.

I stabilized the Vista about 25 feet off the ground and clicked the Flight Mode butt on. This put the Vista in Advanced mode and immediately I noticed how much more agile it became with the stability off . It took me a couple of seconds to gain control, but once I did it was pretty exciting as the angle of attack had changed drastically. In this mode, you can really see how much Dromida’s stabilization helps keep the Vista stable during flight. I had a few close calls where I almost stuff ed it into the ground (and trees and a parked car), so for the sake of this article I figured it was best to keep the stability control on. I pressed down on the right stick to put it in Normal mode (solid orange light) and flight life was good again . I’m a bit more comfortable in this setting.

Dromida Vista-10To finalize the review, I needed to give the Vista’s flipping ability a work out. I set it again at about 25 feet, clicked the Flip button and pushed the right stick forward. The Vista popped up momentarily, did a front flip and balanced itself out. OK, that was pretty cool. I clicked the Flip butt on again, this time pushing the stick to the right. The Vista popped up a few inches again and then barrel rolled to the right. I played with this feature for a few minutes, doing flips in all four directions. It was pretty fun, but just make sure you have plenty of altitude, especially if it’s windy out.

Dromida packs everything you need right in one box with the new Vista. It’s so easy to fly that you’re going to want to switch flight modes in no time, however, I suggest either Easy or Normal for the first few packs. Practice flying around trees or poles; heck, even build yourself a little obstacle course with chairs or boxes. When your skill level has increased, the Vista will be right there to keep your thumbs sharp and smiles wide.

HOBBICO hobbico.com(217) 398-8970
DROMIDA dromida.com(217) 398-8970


The post Dromida Vista UAV: Flying Made Simple With The Vista appeared first on The Drones Mag.

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AerialPixels DJI Ronin Thumb Stick-Joystick

From Multirotor Pilot Issue: 8
by Joe PapaAerialPixels DJI Ronin Thumb Stick-Joystick-3

AerialPixels DJI Ronin Thumb Stick–Joystick The value of a three-axis gimbal for capturing Hollywood cinematic footage is undisputed. The genius minds at AerialPixels are world leaders in this industry and cater to the most discerning and demanding clients. Pioneers in their own right, they’ve been on the cutting edge of gimbal design and control since the technology’s inception. The bottom line is that if you want the best, AerialPixels is the place the pros go when their livelihood is on the line.

No matter how good your gimbal is, the resulting footage is still heavily dependent on the skill of the operator. Most operators will quickly learn that panning and tilting the camera can be a bit of a workout in tight quarters or during extended use.

If you own a brushless gimbal and have attempted to use it handheld, you know exactly what I’m talking about. The fi rst time I used our Ronin with a full-size DSLR; my shoulders burned to a crisp and became numb in a matter of minutes. One reason for the muscle inferno comes from trying to steer the camera. When the gimbal is in its “follow mode” as you rotate your upper body or use your arms to rotate the handles, the camera will smoothly pan in that direction. Tilting your wrist up or down will tilt the camera lens appropriately. All these movements are Olympic-level training alone, but keep in mind your shoulders are supporting the weight of the entire rig the whole time and….well you get the idea. Another concern you’ll quickly come to grips with is trying to maintain a clear view of your LCD monitor while performing these aerobatic tricks. While some have resorted to a second operator confi guration where another person controls the pan, tilt or both from a transmitter, this complicates the entire process and can be more difficult to coordinate. AerialPixels has come up with a simple solution that is so effective and simple to use, I can’t imagine owning the gimbal without this essential little accessory.

AerialPixels DJI Ronin Thumb Stick-Joystick-6SOLVING THE DILEMMA

The Aerial Pixels Joystick is an elegant and beautifully-machined professional solution for single operator camera control. It’s fully enclosed, very lightweight and mounts in just a couple of minutes to the 25mm or 30mm tubes on the DJI Ronin, FreeFly Movi and AlexMos-based gimbals. This article is for the DJI Ronin specifi c model which includes the larger 30mm adjustable boom clamp. Now, controlling tilt and pan is as eff ortless as moving your thumb. Maintaining a clear view of your LCD monitor is a breeze and excessive playground semantics are no longer required to precisely control your camera while being completely stabilized.

AerialPixels DJI Ronin Thumb Stick-Joystick-5INSTALLATION

Mounting the AerialPixels joystick couldn’t be simpler. Simply loosen one handle on the Ronin with a 2.5mm Allen key, slide the joystick over the tube and reinstall the handle. A single silicone servo style plug can be routed down the handle and connected to the Ronin’s S.Bus jack. Instantly your up and running. Be sure to leave a little slack in the cable to allow panning without obstruction. Another thoughtful touch is the adjustable carbon fiber mounting plate that includes tool-less adjustment. Perfect at accommodating different size hands, it allows you to raise or lower the stick position in seconds. The joystick is fully powered through its single connection, so the only step remaining is to open the DJI APP and make sure that your stick movements correspond to the camera movement you’re expecting. Initially, moving the stick right or left controlled the roll axis. While great if that’s what you’re looking for, I prefer this stick movement to be assigned to the pan axis. I launched the app and changed the roll channel to pan by selecting it from the drop down. If a channel is reversed, a quick check mark in the appropriate box should solve that in short order.

AerialPixels DJI Ronin Thumb Stick-Joystick-4CONTROL CAPABILITIES

One thing I quickly realized is that the speed of the Ronin when controlled by the joystick is fast! This is a great feature when doing rapid movements, whip pans or some dizzying affects, but slower controlled motion is a little more my style. With a double click of the joystick, the Ronin instantly changes on the fl y to half rate mode for precision movement. Another double click returns you to full speed. If the speeds aren’t exactly what you’re hoping for, adjusting the max speed in the app for the external controller will quickly help you tailor the speed and control to your exact needs. We found that experimenting with the max speed of between 5 and 20 gave us smooth repeatable control that truly allowed us to create cinematic shots on our own with minimal effort. Not only were the clients happy, so were our deltoids. It’s so much easier to move your thumb to initiate a camera movement than all the other possible methods. At the very least, the AerialPixels joystick adds variety, capability and value to your bag of tricks.


The AerialPixels joystick for the DJI Ronin and Movi is the perfect addition to your gimbal to give you the control you need to get the shot. Once you use one, it really is hard to imagine not having it. It’s well made, extremely easy to install and will help you make more money with your gear. How can you go wrong?


AERIALPIXELS aerialpixels.com


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Fully Immersive Aerial images and video with 360Heros Mount

From Multirotor Pilot Issue: 8
by Peter Hejl
Fully Immersive Aerial images and video with 360Heros Mount-3

It’s only been a few years since multirotor aircraft became available to the market and one can only marvel at how far along this industry and hobby have gotten over such a short amount of time. Looking back at the days when a 600 TVL camera was a pretty good crowd pleaser and a gimbal was something that most of us could just dream about, that time now seems like the “flip-phone era” of multirotor aerial videography. It is quite exciting to watch individuals and companies take this technology, add a cool idea, a little creativity and quite a few trials and errors to transform all that into something new, awesome and useful to others. We can all thank these creative and innovative minds for moving the industry forward and providing us with useful tools and toys we all get to enjoy.


360Heros is an Olean, New York-based company, whose invention, the 360Heros GoPro mount, a flexible aircraft grade nylon holder, has made it possible to combine up to 14 GoPro cameras and use them to record 360-degree fully immersive video or stills. Each camera is mounted at a specific angle so its field of view overlaps portions of the surrounding cameras’ field of view. That overlap eliminates any gaps in the footage and allows for flexibility at the seams. When all the GoPros are recording, they capture video at the same time and cover the entire 360 by 180-degree area. After processing, the 360-degree immersive videos can then be viewed on Virtual Reality headsets (Oculus Rift or Samsung Gear), an iPhone/iPad and Android devices (using Kolor Eyes 360-degree video player app) or even on YouTube (when using Google Chrome browser). These fully immersive videos or still pictures allow the viewer to experience what they’re watching in an entirely different way, fully surrounded by the environment and action, able to look around and explore. The idea of becoming your own “director”, given the ability to customize your viewing experience by choosing where to look, is a pretty powerful one.

Fully Immersive Aerial images and video with 360Heros Mount-2


Fully Immersive Aerial images and video with 360Heros Mount-7Fully Immersive Aerial images and video with 360Heros Mount-8

Virtual Reality headsets have made a few attempts to become mainstream in the past, but for a few different reasons (price, technology) have for the most part failed to do so. The advances in technology (smartphones, cameras) have made the necessary components small enough and relatively reasonably priced, so more and more people will be enjoying their games, videos and tours through their own Virtual Reality headsets or headset gear that turns their smartphones into powerful immersive image devices. While the technology is still being finetuned and evolved, this time around the VR headsets may just be in a position to finally become mainstream in gaming and video markets. As an example, the Samsung Gear headset that turns their Galaxy4 smartphone into a 360Degree VR machine can be had for $165.

Fully Immersive Aerial images and video with 360Heros Mount-5

The 360Hero camera mounts can be used in just about any situation and environment imaginable, including under-water (with 360scuba). For the ones that feel that the 360-degree viewing experience may just not be mind-blowing enough, a 3D version is offered – yes, 360-degree HD video in 3D, which must surely be just one spot beneath the possibility for time-travel on many techies’ bucket lists!


Fully Immersive Aerial images and video with 360Heros Mount-6By now, any multirotor videography enthusiast reading this is surely thinking of the potential to combine this cool gadget with our flying platforms and use them to create awesome fully-immersive aerials. When a client approached me about the possibility of doing just that, I was easily sold on an opportunity to work on their fully immersive university campus video tour project. The project, among other things, involved flying 6 GoPro cameras in a 360Heros mount suspended four feet from the bottom of our DJI S-900.

Admittedly, I may have slightly underestimated all the challenges of executing this project and there were quite a few to overcome. There were many trials and errors and days spent designing a solution that would give us good quality results. The next few paragraphs look at the challenges and explain our approaches to them. They should serve more as idea drivers, as I’m sure there are and will be many different approaches to this as the technology evolves.


The biggest challenge of them all has been designing a system to att ach the 360Heros to the copter, while keeping the copter as much out of the picture as possible. We used ten and six GoPro fully immersive (360 by 180 degree) mounts, which meant we had to find a way to hang the mount as low under the copter as possible.

Fully Immersive Aerial images and video with 360Heros Mount-10For the ones not willing to sett le for a small copter image overhead in their 360 experience, 360Heros off ers a helmet/UAV mount which does not “look up” while still offering a 360 by 120- degree experience. Alternatively, a GoPro can be placed on the top of the copter to capture the sky, which can be later stitched in. We had some mixed results with this approach, as it really depends on the correct positioning and what the cameras capture. Flying under or next to tall objects may cut part of the object off and replace it with a shot of the sky, which may not always be desirable.
Another approach is replacing the copter in the image or video with a “floating logo”.

Fully Immersive Aerial images and video with 360Heros Mount-11Perhaps the best idea to overcome this came from the cooperation between 360Heros and Oregon-based Aerial Technology International (ATI). Their creation is called 360Heros Aerial ORB (in pictures), which is a hexacopter that doubles as a 360Heros mount. There is a GoPro in a special “orb mount” attached to each of the arms, and an additional three GoPros in the mounts facing up and down, for a total of 12 cameras. The Orb is currently a development project and an important step toward great 360-degree UAV videos. It is one to keep an eye on as 360Heros with ATI keep evolving this great idea.

We resolved to find a way to hang the mount as low under the copter as we felt comfortable with and leaving the copter in the image.


The six GoPro mount with the cameras (Hero4 Silver) weighs 725 grams (10 GoPro Heros at 1150 grams), and our rod and copter attachment added another 500 grams. We had to figure out how to safely and reliably hang the mount under the copter while in mid-air.

Fully Immersive Aerial images and video with 360Heros Mount-9

The mount had to be able to give-in a litt le in order to be allowed to sway during hard stops and the occasional wind gust, but not too much so it doesn’t become a pendulum and take the copter down. If the mount is allowed to sway too much, the copter is naturally trying to get back to level, swinging the “pendulum” in the other direction, eff ectively making it swing even more. This motion renders the video useless and may eventually over-power the copter and bring it down. This has almost happened to us during a few of our tests and it was prett y nerve-racking to watch. We managed to catch it back, but once I had to lean the dummy weight we used into a snow bank to stop it from swaying.

Fully Immersive Aerial images and video with 360Heros Mount-12After trying a few different ways to mount this rig onto the copter, I came up with a solution to create a “cone” out of a stainless steel olive oil dispenser (the one you usually see on a restaurant table) by cutting the bottom of it off and cutting out a slot along its entire width, wide enough for a 3/8 threaded rod to pass through. Then I used this cone as a form to create another cone on the end of the 3/8 threaded rod out of Polymorph. Polymorph is a moldable plastic that comes is the form of pellets that dissolve into a substance similar to Playdough when immersed into hot water and can be molded before hardening back to plastic. As an alternative, this can be 3D printed.

Now I had two cones: an outer one (receiving) for the copter and the inner one for the 360 Heros mounting rod. I attached the receiving cone to the S-900 landing gear and rail system and then used an epoxy to attach a carbon fiber rod to the threaded rod on the inner cone, finally adding another threaded rod to attach the 360Hero mount to the other end of it.

The idea was for me to lift off and then have one brave soul hang the rod with the camera mount to the copter in mid-air by reaching up and engaging the cone at the end of the rod into the cone attached to the copter. Since the outer cone was stainless and cut along the side, it provided just the right amount of “give”, which allowed for the 360Heros to sway a little, but stop again in the center.

Alternatively, a swivel joint wrapped in some tape or shrink wrap can be used to allow for the mounting rod to sway a little.


Once we got the copter with the mount safely in the air, I began to fi netune the center of gravity and the gains. Hanging something this low while in flight makes it a bit difficult to determine where the center of gravity is. By providing the A2 flight controller with the distance from COG measurements, we are essentially telling it what point in space to pivot around when responding to the pilot’s commands (pitch/roll) or when trying to get back to level. I chose to fi nd the right point that would give me minimal sway on the rod, instead of trying to figure out where the actual COG was. I started with a good estimate and watched the copter to determine the “pivot point”. I then tried a few different locations along the rod, until I found an ideal one, just about where the rod exited the cone.

Gains also needed to be adjusted. While I chose to land and launch again for every COG adjustment, we used the DJI Assistant app to fi netune the gains in mid-air. I tried sett ing the gains low at fi rst, with the idea of providing some smoother motion and help keep the “pendulum eff ect” controlled, but it actually had the opposite eff ect and made the copter more diffi cult to control. I found the ideal gains to be as high as possible without causing quick oscillations, so the copter is really locked-in. A good piece of advice is to keep checking the motor temperatures every time the gains are increased, as the motors tend to heat up a bit more.


The biggest deal was keeping the cameras as steady as possible, while moving really slowly throughout the scene to introduce a feel of action. Fast motion may cause nausea in some of the viewers, so I would strongly recommend sitt ing down even when viewing slower moving clips. There are no gimbals for these cameras (yet); so multiple takes are oft en necessary to get a useful shot. Wind is an enemy here and it’s important to choose a day with minimal or no wind to keep the machine as steady as possible. The vibration introduced by the multi-rotor can also cause visible jello eff ect or shaking in the video. To help with this, we made sure that the props were balanced (using a Drone Vibes testing app on an iPhone att ached to the arm) and hung the receiving cone on the clean plate (rails) of the S-900 frame, which is insulated from vibration by 12 compressed rubber dampeners.


Having to manage this many GoPros and footage is not an easy task. 360Heros off ers a USB hub to help connect and charge up to 7 GoPro cameras. A GoPro remote can be used to trigger the 360Heros at the same time, however since it requires running the cameras’ Wi-Fi, it is not advisable to use this feature on multirotors with 2.4GHz RC controllers. The close proximity of multiple Wi-Fi devices is guaranteed to cause interference and may lead to a fl y-away or crash.

Media management is important; keeping the fi les organized and in order makes the stitching much easier later. While the GoPro clips are fairly small, the amount of storage space needed and the performance of the computer used to process and stitch the footage are also important things to consider.

There are a couple of soft ware options available to process and stitch together the footage, Kolor and Video Stitch, both with their pros and cons are worth researching.

While 360-degree immersive video technology is still prett y much in its infancy, it is a great tool with amazing potential to become mainstream within next few years. Flying the 360Heros was a great experience and while there are more challenges left to overcome, this was certainly a fun and challenging project to be a part of. I can’t wait to see where this technology heads into the future and hope that our endeavors will contribute to evolving the use of multirotors to capture amazing, fully-immersive videos.


360HEROS 360heros.com
NOTADRONE notadrone.com


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Latency Explained

Latency Explained-4
You can see evidence of latency here with a DJI Lightbridge. The actual time is on the phone in the foreground and the one on the screen from the Lightbridge.

From Multirotor Pilot Issue: 8
by Erick Royer

One of the primary reasons that people buy a multirotor is for video and photo capture from the air. Both hobbyists and professionals alike find countless uses for capturing this bird’s-eye footage. From aerial selfies to Hollywood Cinema, multirotors are changing the world. However, what is good for a hobbyist is not always going to work for a professional. In fact, professional videographers have a much more discerning eye for “the right shot” and the directors and producers put a lot of pressure (to back up the money they are spending) on pilots and camera operators to capture what they need. It can be a very high-stress job and because of that, pilots and camera operators tend to look for the best possible equipment to keep in their arsenal. As a professional camera operator, the number one thing I look for in systems that we fl y is zero latency in the video transmission. While there are certainly a lot of other things that we look for, I wanted to discuss latency and why it is so important to eliminate it at all costs for professional aerial work.

Can you live with the delay?

Latency Explained-3
You always want a zero latency video system on FPV race quads.


Latency, for our purposes, is a time interval between when a video signal is transmitted and received. When you are looking at your monitor while holding the copter in your hand and you quickly spin the copter, you should see the video move on the screen along with the copter’s movement. Any lag in this video is referred to as latency. One easy way to test this is to activate the stopwatch on your phone and record it using the FPV camera. Then place the FPV monitor behind the phone so your FPV camera is now taking video of both the phone and the FPV monitor (see photo). If you freeze a frame on that video, you will notice that there is a time diff erence between the actual stop watch and what is being received on the FPV monitor.


For general hobbyists recording family events or aerial selfi es, this will not be a problem. Milliseconds are not going to be that noticeable, nor will they be detrimental to the project.

If you fly FPV race quads for fun as a hobbyist, however, it is a whole different story. Imagine that you are racing around a course at 50mph and there are a lot of turns with trees along the outside of the course. If you have even a couple of milliseconds of latency in your video, that could make you react to taking the turn later than you needed to and by the time your video shows you where to turn, the copter has already had a meeting with a tree. Most pilots run FPV quads with video goggles so you are totally immersed in the video that is being received from the FPV camera and you have no reference to the outside world. Because of this, you need to rely 100% on the video that you are seeing – it is a very fly-by-wire experience. Any latency can lead to a less than stellar experience.

Latency Explained-5

Large professional rigs rely on the best of everything. Professional camera operators requires zero latency HD to frame the best shots for big budget productions.

Professional pilots and camera operators fall into a class much like the FPV race pilots. When you are trying to get the perfect shot for a client, producer or big-budget director, it is imperative that what you see on your monitor is what you are shooting.

Latency Explained-6
Blade’s 350 QX3, has an integrated Wi-Fi FPV system that is perfect for the consumer or entry-level professional.

There are some cases where this is not as critical. For instance, if you are shooting a house or some other inanimate object, slight latency will not kill your shot as long as you are smooth with the sticks controlling your There are some cases where this is not as critical. For instance, if you are shooting a house or some other inanimate object, slight latency will not kill your shot as long as you are smooth with the sticks controlling your tilt, pan and yaw. However, if you are tracking a moving object like a racecar, a surfer or some other subject that you must keep in frame, then it will be virtually impossible to run a system with latency.


There are a couple different types of FPV transmission systems that are common on the market for both hobbyists and professionals. They range from systems that use tablets or smartphones to establish a Wi-Fi link from the camera to commercial HD transmission systems with zero latency.

Latency Explained-7
The Yuneec Q500’s controller (below) has an integrated FPV monitor and the video transmission has very low latency.

GoPro was one of the first camera platforms to incorporate a Wi-Fi feature that allowed your smartphone to link to the camera via an app and deliver a live video feed. The concept is great and it does work well for a lot of applications. However, the Wi-Fi runs at 2.4GHz, which is the same band that the transmitters that we fly our copters with run on. While they are not the same channel, there have been concerns and speculation that it is possible for the Wi-Fi to interfere with the operation of the copter which makes many people leery of using this as an FPV method. I can’t say one way or another, but I always err on the side of minimizing interference with the flight control of my machines, so I am not one to use the Wi-Fi on a GoPro for FPV.

Companies like Blade with the 350 QX2 and QX3 as well as DJI with the Phantom Vision and Vision 2+ use an integrated Wi-Fi system that is designed not to interfere with the operation of the copter. Much like the GoPro, they use an app and a Wi-Fi link to your phone or tablet to establish a connection. Depending on your location and the distance that you are from the copter in flight will vary the amount of latency that you have. I have had very good luck with both the above-mentioned machines with low latency (never zero), but they are certainly useable for hobbyists filming of inanimate objects. For tracking subjects in motion, the latency is too great, especially the further away you get from the copter. But, again, if you can remain close, then tracking moving subjects could be possible.

Latency Explained-8
The new Hubsan X4 Pro has a built-in video transmission system that provides a very low latency to the FPV monitor.

Other machines like the new Yuneec Q500 Typhoon and the soon-to-be-released Hubsan X4 Pro use a 5.8GHz video downlink, which is still based on a Wi-Fi-link signal, however they have integrated FPV video monitors and receivers in the transmitters. These systems off er very little latency, which make them usable for a wide variety of applications. The main downside for professional productions with these machines is also one of their upsides; they are designed for a single operator. There is no provision for a camera operator to control the camera and with the video being integrated into the transmitter it makes it hard for a second person to watch it. However, as a single operator machine, these are very good and viable solutions, especially if you are shooting real estate, golf courses or the like.

Latency Explained-10
This is the Hubsan X4 Pro’s transmitter with the integrated color LCD monitor.

A common system for standard definition FPV video signal is using a true 5.8GHz (or other lower frequencies for long range applications) transmitter and receiver. Companies like Immersion RC, Fat Shark, Flysight and DJI are very common in the FPV world. These systems provide a standard definition video link that can cover a relatively long range with no latency. As you fl y out of range these systems will typically display static on the screen, much like tuning an old TV antenna back in the day. However, the video remains with no latency. These systems are preferred for FPV quad racing and are common among many professionals. Even though the video is SD, a camera operator can still see what they are filming and manipulate the camera in real time. These systems require you to attach your camera system to the video input on the transmitter to supply a live feed. A cloverleaf-type antenna is most common on the transmitter to send the best possible signal to the ground. On the ground you can typically use a single receiver with a matching cloverleaf antenna or you can use a diversity setup where you have two receivers each with a different antenna and the system will switch back and forth between the two to grab the best signal to deliver to your FPV monitor or goggles. I typically use a cloverleaf and a patch antenna so I have the most diverse reception fi eld.

Latency Explained-9
The DJI Inspire One uses DJI’s latest verison of the Lightbridge to provide near-zero latency when used with a HD video monitor.

DJI introduced the Lightbridge over a year ago, which promised to change the world when it came to FPV. The Lightbridge delivers a full HD signal from the copter/ camera to the receiver over a 2.4GHz band. The idea was excellent, but we have used one for over a year and were sure to install all the latest updates, but still had problems with Latency. While it did get better over time with each update, there was still a noticeable lag in the video, especially as you flew farther away.

DJI just released the Inspire One, which has a new version of the Lightbridge built-in and we noticed the same latency in this system until we installed the latest update. Then the latency all but disappeared. If you use a tablet as your FPV monitor, you will notice some significant delay, but if you use the HDMI output and run it to a monitor, there was very little, almost unnoticeable latency. I have been rooting for this product for some time because it is one of the most inexpensive HD transmitter solutions on the market and I would love to see it with Zero Latency.

Latency Explained-11
Here is a Flightsight SD video ground station that works off of 5.8GHz. It provides zero latency with a standard defi nition resolution.
Latency Explained-14
Amimon’s new HD video transmission system was just released at the NAB show. It promises to off zero-latency HD video transmission with an affordable price tag.

On the high end of the market are systems from companies like Paralinx and Teradeck who make professional HD video transmission systems. These units have absolutely ZERO latency and deliver a full HD picture that is crystal clear. They have different models from each company that off er different ranges, which they work within. They tend to be the preferred solutions for cinema work where directors require an HD monitor or for solutions where camera controls like adjustable focus in flight is necessary. For these applications you need full HD with no latency. However, for this quality of video, you pay a higher price tag. Most of their systems start in excess of $3,000 and can range as high as $10,000.

A new system was just released at the NAB show from a company called Amimon, that is proven to redefine HD FPV solutions. While we have not had a chance to use one yet, I have been in touch with the manufacturer and have seen sample video and demos online. Their Connex Solution offers zero latency, long ranges and crisp HD video. Their system will start at $1599, which will be a game changer if they can live up to their specs. We are hoping to have a system for a full review in the next issue.


Latency Explained-13
The Paralinx Tomahawk provides zerolatency HD streaming, but it comes with a hefty pricetag.
Latency Explained-12
The DJI Lightbridge.

There are certainly a large number of options when it comes to FPV video solutions and while there are some applications where latency is ok, there are many others where it is simply unacceptable. It is important to understand what your applications are going to require when you set out to make your aerial video system purchase. Many of the ready-to-fly systems like the Blade 350 QX3, Hubsan X4 Pro and DJI Phantom are excellent for the majority of users, but if you are looking to race FPV machines or have visions of making a name for yourself the high-end production world, then solutions that off er zero latency should be your only option.


AMIMON connex.amimon.com
BLADE  bladehelis
DJI dubro.com
FATSHARK  fatshark.com
HUBSAN hubsan.com
IMMERSION RC  immersionrc.com
PARALINX paralinx.com
TERADEK teradek.com

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