Posts Tagged ‘drones


Electron maneuvering

Just a post about current electronics , hacks etc. while everything else is going on.

Computer power supply project.

Since computer power supplies are plentiful, utilized an old video tape player case  to enclose a power supply, digital readout meters serve as a power indicators. 12 volt, 5 volt and 3.3 volts. On /off switch mounted to case. The on/off switch is connected to a soft control 2 wires on the ATX power supply, not the mains voltage input. Opening in top for fan exhaust.

Most projects are a work in progress. Power supply is short proof , the on/off switch will reset power. Should add some banana jacks later, for now alligator clips to the appropriate connectors and USB jack for 5 volt appliances. When necessary, a voltage/amperage digital gauge is used in line to monitor current as this is a several 100 watt supply that will provide quite a bit of amperage at the outputs. Now a stable bench top power supply is available when needed.


 LED lighting

Some single color, not RGB for now, low-cost modules to control low voltage LEDs either cob, strings or other low voltage lighting that can benefit from dimming, strobing, or speed adjusting dimming with or without  remote control. Installed in-line to LEDs. Under cabinet strip lighting, re-wiring of lamps to a low voltage LED illumination are some of the uses. Could they be used for other purposes other than lighting?

In line push button controller on LED tape lighting, there is no on/off switch so one will have to be installed if necessary.

The remote control module has more control with on/off and of course more convient to use (as long as the remote doesn’t get lost!).

One concept, edge lighting a prototype stained glass art project. LED tape sandwiched in the channel. Remote lighting control. Inexpensive 120vac to 12 volt modules (wall worts) are used for the low voltage supply.

Cob LEDs project

Analysis, fragile, not flexible but very bright for the size.

Know as filament LEDS

Inexpensive and could be used for a variety of lighting projects.

These are higher voltage models.

A round 1 watt Cob LED, now my desk light, in comparison to a strip led tape. Both are 12 VDC. The LEDs on the cob are extremely tiny.






LiPo battery charging

The USB chargers that come with 1s batteries either charge slow since they are limited to a USB amperage or quit working. Small 3s battery balance  charger boards (other varieties available) fed from 12 volts wired with JST connectors to provide multiple battery charging. An education of the wiring of a balanced charging plug (multiple connector)  LiPo  batteries. With the use of small adjustable voltage regulation boards, these batteries are excellent for  portable battery-powered projects instead of non charging alkaline cells. One note of caution, this technology can provide amps of low voltage power from a small package, an accidental short can easily melt wires and weld contacts together. There is usually no fusing within the battery. As you go up the ladder to higher capacities batteries, a LiPo safe (container) should be considered. The larger batteries can pump out amps for high current applications and should be handled carefully.  With some high capacity drones and radio control projects a small fire extinguisher may be cheap insurance.

The ALPHA1 250 Class Drone Construction.

Not to be satisfied with assembling a kit as usual, the 250 ZMR project continues. Wiring can quickly evolve to a mess. The flight controller , receiver and associated Electronic Speed Controllers are miniature computers. After mounting these components, there is little room for wiring, also utilizing PWM receiver controls results in a rats nests of wires. (this may be changed to single wire receiver). The supplied plug-in connectors were removed and ESC control lines were hardwired to the flight controller. The main DC power to the ESCs and battery connector wires also hardwired with both  a single 2S or parallel  2 in  series 2S connectors (for 4S power) available. The DC main and possible battery location will be below the main deck along with the ESCs. Some drone designs utilize a 4 in one ECS, mine of course are separate units. A variety of aluminium spacers were ordered to attach the deck plate(s) that will be used for a lower profile.

one iteration
another design, lower top plate.

Associated wiring of the flight controller outputs to  below main deck ESCs, removal of the supplied right angle header on flight controller and the wires hard soldered from below cleaned up some clutter. Next will be the addition and calibration of the receiver. Considering still using the solid hull sides (cut horizontal) enclosing the electronics on decks and /or more horizontal chassis plates (chopped and channeled). Antenna mounts ordered for receiver. USB extension cord used for programming after build.

Mains wiring to the motors is enclosed in carbon fiber conduit which further complicated the wiring scheme. The wiring for the receiver inputs is yet to be added.

You can see the previous difference if interested at repair of the UDI drone/ state of the drone/ updated

Dronin Flight Control is currently loaded on board, All other flight control software still did not work on a MAC laptop so  a Windows desktop system is used for calibration. May be a bad cable USB etc to the MAC but  time-consuming pointless troubleshooting at this point. Would be nice to a have laptop programming available for portability.

Wiring of the ESCs was time-consuming as the factory wiring was removed and soldered to custom length and some was rewired for proper motor rotation. Some jitter on the ESC motor testing but cleaning up and soldering of the ESCs and calibration cured the problems.



Spyder XL hybrid stunt drone motor replacement

A continuation of

About the Propel Spyder XL


more info on the spyder xl

spyderxlamazonmore  hobby time…

The challenge was to replace the motor on the Spyder XL purchased from Ebay, an impossible task to get an exact replacement motor without buying another used Spyder XL for parts.

The unusual method is to scour the internet for a replacement, of course the possibility of locating such a motor was small. For the hobbyist, a ONE motor purchase is like finding a needle in the haystack. The best chances are pacific rim suppliers particulary China, the Aliexpress and Banggood web site is a very well know sites for drones and replacement parts but getting down to the nuts and bolts of finding the exact replacement, is daunting. Most motor specifications are only limited to what drone utilizes the offered replacement motor. Some if any give the dimensional measurements of the motor let alone the electrical specifications. A voltage guess is by the supply battery of the quadrocopter. Even many of the online hobby shops don’t give exact dimensions a they assume that you are doing a replacement for a specific drone, if the model of your drone doesn’t offer replacement parts other than the standard propellers, your on your own. (is it possible that the distributor of the drone restricts replacement parts, since most of the electronics are sourced from China?)

(getting further onto the hobby one could test each motor for current draw and voltage , with additional test equipment one could measure RPM)

To further add to this task is the addition of the shaft size and pinion gear that is used for the gear reduction of the driven propeller. Sharpening your search skills, limiting the budget to purchasing motors instead of a brand new drone or another used drone modifications  for motor replacement are part of the hobby.

One other chance is the site Alibaba, which some of the  purchasing systems is arranged by contract. Also this buy and sell site collection of outlets usually deal in larger quantity. One vendor, after searching Alibaba, contacted me through email, a major dc motor supplier. I responded with the measurements of the needed motor but they were unable to find a replacement. This demonstrates the level of service that many of the manufacturers show their customers even if they are dealing with a small order.

OK ! long story short…. I did get some replacement motors, one set too small and one set too large. The best bet was to install the larger motors with some modification to the mounting protocol. The shaft size and pinion gear was the correct dimension.

But first the problem with the motor with low output.


The worn brush of the low power motor. Not clear in the photo is a small amount of silicone type caulking at the corner of the brush leads which give it some tension to hold the brushes to the commutator. Later the small brush detached from the brush holder. When the motor stalls from a jammed propeller during a flight collision, max current flows wearing out the brush prematurely.  (Paper shown is for clarity)


The motor with the end plate removed.


wire color code of the stock motors. Capacitors are used on an otherwise standard DC motor



before and after view of the motor mounting modification. Trimmed  the plastic with a utility knife, elongated the mounting holes and increased the diameter of the motor main shaft hole to fit the bearing collar for a flush and secure fit. One of four.

Problem ! when testing the motors before reassembly for proper rotation, the power leads momentarily  shorted (and all most welded themselves together) and a puff emanated from the underside of the flight controller. DAMN!

Now the drone has lost all power to one motor and one side of the drones LED’s do not light.

Now to identify the components I took a picture of the underside of the board. Just making a random check of the board with the multi meter, I noticed a burned open in one of the traces!

Would this be so easy? Would any other components need replacement? I thought of scrapping the entire project!


smoked trace, upper left hand corner to the top of Q6, it acted like a fusible link.


the repaired trace bridged with a wire.


motors now in place for testing, when I spun them up I had to reverse the leads on some for proper clockwise and  counter-clockwise rotation. All LED’s on the underbelly of the craft are now lighting properly.


top view, blank connector is for top shell connection of the LED lighting.


view of the top of the flight controller, D5 and D6 optional ? U3 also an optional feature?

Bonus pictures :sloppy bench

IMG_2887ventilation wall 12 volt fans wired to a power supply.


the invisible gaseous substance aperture circulator for the removal of airborne particulates from the soldering area.

to be continued…


Drone restoration

One of the drones I purchased on Ebay for repair the Spyder XL, had a smaller drone included a Zero Gravity X1- HD  , no remote just the drone.

The other drone that needed repair is a Protocol AR Video Drone: Upright motor,  gear reduction setup, main shaft gears have a keyed hex projection on top for propeller attachment. 1 s battery power. Standard video and still image camera with on board memory card.

Basically, I used the gears from the  Zero Gravity X1- HD and swapped them to the Protocol AR video drone also purchased from Ebay for repair. I had been searching for replacement parts for the Protocol because they were stripped, but no luck. I thought of swapping the entire flight controller from the Protocol to the other drone that had a good gear  train but swapped the gears instead , the  gears were almost a perfect replacement, I had to slightly drill out the bore of the propeller gears with a small drill just holding the drill by a pair of pliers as the Protocol drone main shafts were about .2mm diameter larger. The main shaft is slightly knurled. The gears are press fit to both the motors and the main shaft.



IMG_2208Gears swapped and installed…. Some big hairy capacitors on board..


Ready for flight testing, propellers from the Zero Gravity drone also swapped to the protocol.



Propeller guards installed.

Revving motors for testing.


At first it didn’t seem to fly as well as it should, now, the original propellers were installed and notice the slight difference in width and pitch . Just this slight  difference made the  performance much better.


This has altitude control, more stable in  flight, camera and 4 gig video card for photo and video. I bored a hole on the cover for the antenna and marked the counter clock wise propellers and front with a paint pen. A sharp looking drone in  flat black and gold. The LEDs are not as visible as other drones, a bit visible from the motors and more visible from the underside.

Once the fascination  of steadily flying the drone wears off you tend to want to race it through the house. Testing other functions and camera.

Protocol Video AP Drone For Parts Or Repair Ebay, $20.00 shipping $6.61


Update : after much flying and racing through the house, the drone got hung up and one of the motors no longer gives enough power for stable flight. Replacements on order.

Also the listings on motors for replacements from websites, are providing more detail as far as voltage, current and rpm. So with the proper test equipment, measurements can be taken to troubleshoot problems.


What do do if you can’t fly?

tweaking settings on this simulator and using the 4 channel transmitter from the Multi wii, more on this on a later post.


Multicopters repair and comments


The Spyder XL was another Ebay purchase, after checking out the multicopter, the propellers are attached to the main shafts by tiny screws, some of them either shear off or strip out so the propellers can’t be attached or they slip. This may be a feature so that the motors won’t stall and be damaged.  The replacement/repair was propeller adapters and modification of the spare props I had on hand. The propellers adapters  had to have spacers (grommets) put on the main shafts or the bearings would ride up the main shaft when in use. A quick modification of the original Spyder XL  propellers was required so they would be a thru hole mount on the propellers adapters.



Another modification was cutting the main shafts so they didn’t require spacers. Later ,I found and purchased suitable replacement shafts online and replaced all four of them. The propeller guards supplied with the drone were also attached but were flimsy, testing the drone indoors and practicing my flying skills bent and damaged the guards. This drone has quit a bit of power, the most powerful one that I have flown. 2S batteries power this quad.

The main shaft replacements I found online were the correct length but the gears did not match the originals as there is not a specific replacement listing for all the parts for a Spyder XL.  If you do repair work this is common as some drone manufacturers don’t  provide the specifications or continue to supply replacements. (this could be a consideration for 3d printing if you have the resources.) Metal tubing could be sourced or machined for replacement.  Other items to have on hand are the tiny screws that many manufacturers  use for assembly. Various sizes and kits can be purchased in bulk inexpensively from online sources.



One of the features of the Spyder XL is the sequential lighting LEDs on the struts when activated, when battery is low they solid flash without sequence.



Finally, the new props were installed, it’s of course possible to purchase different sizes and colors of propellers.

Again , indoors this is a monster quad to control but can be fairly stable, it’s responsive and kicks up quite a lot of thrust and noise so any paperwork lying around will be blown away if you hover around a table or desk. Without the prop guards, use caution , I’ve replaced the screws that secure the gears to the main shaft ,the motors are powerful enough to shear them if not completely  secure and applying slightly larger and longer screws make for a good power transfer. The life of the motors are uncertain, now one of them crapped out and all four will be replaced. Another solution that others have used is the use of foldable  propellers so the motors and gear train  sustain less damage if they contact anything. I like flying drones without too much automatic  control, although at times they can be unstable and a temperamental sort. More of a challenge at times.  Way up the ladder is GPS, more stability, geofencing etc with the higher priced drones.

The auto launch button on the transmitter works well, but indoors will rise and contact the ceiling if not aborted. Some  of the feedback is delayed from  the control sticks.

More flight time and repairs are required.

Just like other forms of technology, quads and any other types of drones can be a consuming hobby. Some terminology is appearing like drone addiction, drone phobia and the like. Yes folks it’s all over again, less time playing video games, being on the internet, and now drone flying !  “Johnny be good or I won’t let you fly your drone!”

Happy Flying , I’m with ya ! Remember some days you have to RTH !

Next: another restoration or hack ?




UDI RC repair

Since my previous post what direction would be next? Since there are a overabundance of drones on the market,  many do not get that great of reviews, or over simplify the ease of flying and have a short flight time due to the size of the battery especially at the lower end price points. Some reviewers simply state that there is a lot of junk out there. If you are not experienced and want to join the ranks of drone operators, note recommendations and reviews of current high end drone operators with experience as to what drone they flew as a starter either as a racer or photographer, in other words what is cost effective for multiple  crashes.

Technology has progressed the drone into basically two types, at the higher end of the consumer market, racing or photography. As with other types of electronics smaller lighter and faster can be the general rule to racing drones and photography, (could also be branched out to heavy lifting) stability, reliability and stunning high definition cameras on remote control gimbals  have captured the market. The new announcements releases from leading drone manufacturers to drone operators is the same furor as  the latest smartphone presentation. Prices are reasonable as with every advance there is more technology for the price. This is a growth area with the application of different technology ever expanding.

Drones have given the radio controlled hobby market a kick in the pants. Certainly a few manufacturers have taken the lead and it reminds me of other breakout tech companies when a market first explodes, such as personal computers and cell phones. Some will be shaken out and others will consolidate. The amount of technology applications involved run from remote telemetry, autonomous control, GPS, vision and remote recognition as just a few before even getting into the array of sensors utilized to give the drones stable flight. Racers have not been left out , first person view, cameras and FPV vision goggles make these people look like Borg wanna be’s. Lipo battery technology give racers crazy amounts of power and brushless motor technology constantly boost the top speeds of these racing demons.

So instead of another complete kit, as of yet, after perusing the many hobby sites and quad copter forums, a new drone was out of the question, and trying to keep the cost low would limit me to an unreliable toy for learning flight. Now many of the online hobby shops  carry repair parts with some low cost consumer drone hobby models having practically all of the parts available to build one from the ground up, this is true with racing drones as they can be built in stages but would add up to a high cost , there would be an alternative to  gaining flight practice and  knowledge.     I decided a repair/modification of a drone would be the best route to become familiar with the types of technology being utilized. So off to the junkyard so to speak in search of a decent learner drone needing to be rescued. (Many first time drone buyers simply trying out the hobby crash and burn so to speak, so postings from Ebay on drones for parts etc. gave some promising results)


Note: If you want to repair drones look up replacement parts beforehand,  many models are supported either through the original manufacturer or third party sources, ALi Express, Banggood, Ebay, drone forums Etc. Much information can be obtained from hobby sites , you tube videos, online user manuals.

Lets get to it so we can fly….


From the drone bone yard, a UDI RC salvage from E-bay. Model 818A.

Basically bought from E-bay used, listed as one rotor not turning. After arrival and check,  one of the propellers is binding . After further checking the motor is the cause.

Ordered replacement motor and also a remote transmitter control  along with spare propellers as the control transmitter  was not included in the purchase this is another factor since many low priced drones have of their own proprietary remote transmitter. (more on this later)

Previously I had removed the canopy cover and propeller guard, a one piece snap off unit and unplugged the connections to the flight controller. Take pictures of the connections or draw up in a note pad a schematic before disassembly or research pin outs for the motor connections and LEDs of the flight controller board. (google etc.)

To disassemble the faulty propulsion unit , remove screw and disconnect strut from the main chassis. On the strut, carefully pry back the motor cover, slide it back and expose the motor. Remove necessary screws and draw enough wire from the strut to access the soldered connection to the motor. The other pair of wires is for the LED on that pod.

Compare the replacement component with the original, the gear is slightly different from the original. Note: The motors ( these are brushed motors) are highly magnetic keep them a distance from any magnetic sensitive material, keep work area clean from metal particles that would stick to the motor. (especially if you work on brushless out runner motors in the future) Also if you work with circuit boards, most all videos and instructions disregard the use of anti static precautions such as wrist grounding ground straps. Electronic Static Discharge can happen and disrupt sensitive electronics and cause a myriad of undetectable problems from total failure to loss or scrambling of data. If you have problems with circuit boards arriving DOA don’t discard that ESD may be the cause of failure. If you work with large amount of electronics or expensive components ESD precautions is cheap insurance. Once you open up the cover (like a cell phone) you have penetrated any shielding to sensitive devices and components.

Utilizing the insulation tubing from original, cut the conductors and solder in the replacement motor, of course following the original wired colored connections. Slip the insulation tubing over one of the soldered connections.


Carefully route the wires by gently pulling the through the strut from the opposite end, toward the flight controller. Double check the connection of the fragile wiring before securing motor cover.

secure cover of assembled unit. (bearing below propeller should be flush to top of strut, in this case the propeller shaft is a press fit to lower gear, align as necessary)


Make the PROPER  motor and LED and camera if equipped, connection the the main board of previously disconnected. Improper motor connection order will result in a flipping over or uncontrollable drone taking flight. (How do I know this?) Also if the flight controller board was removed from the chassis insure that the proper orientation of the board is followed, most aftermarket boards are marked with an arrow to indicate front (facing) of drone. Not this one. Accelerometers and gyroscopes have to know which way the are headed ! (in relation to the propulsion units). Troubleshooting skills here learned  for flight problems!

One note here: be extremely careful when pulling delicate connections from sockets, some manufacturers use a sealing or locktite type glue. Small connectors such as 2 conductors plugs, grasp the connector , not the wires to disengage. Some sockets  are surface mount soldered and could be pulled directly from the circuit board necessitating a re soldering of socket to the main board.  If plug does not disconnect readily, be aware and proceed cautiously.

At this point (with propellers removed) you could attach battery, pair up the transmitter  and test the motors.



Rotors should be removed when you power up drone after modification, some unexpected reactions at times will cause the flight controller to start all propellers when battery is connected, due to an improper wiring or damaged flight controller. Assume that motors may start at any time. Again remove propellers.

Checking connection and LEDS, so far the drone is looking good, battery connection resulted in proper lighting and (not shown) blinking led on flight controller)

Secure cowling by snapping on cover/propeller guard. Mount LED headlight (white single LED). Power down and follow manufacturers direction for pairing transmitter, calibration and flight.

Most all drones have a user manual that can be found online. Some might have different conventions on flight controller and transmitter synchronizing  (pairing).

Progressing up the ladder on Radio Control it’s advantageous to get a transmitter that will support multiple Quadcopters, but this comes at a cost and matching transmitter and receivers  to flight controllers is a later lesson. Most of the low cost hobby drones require each their own radio control transmitter  system. When buying drones less a transmitter (control) research if you can buy a reasonable required replacement transmitter as they more than not will  not work with any other type for drone. Or you could swap out the flight controller with one that you already have a properly matched receiver (and/or flight controller) and transmitter using the frame and motors of the drone you are repairing.


Will it fly ?  Yes ,I was lucky as the motor was the only problem with the drone.

The firmware of the flight controller was undamaged, there is no USB or software available to re-flash the flight controller as in the case of the MultiWii.

The UDI RC with the propeller shroud can take many crashes and collisions without damage. It’s a good learner drone. I have yet to test the camera out.


The UDI drone has flown many times and is a learning challenge to pilot just around the house. The propellers are protected by the cover/shroud so they only get slightly chipped in my flights. It’s not ultra stable per say, but after some trimming of the controller pitch, roll, and yaw, easy to get to flight with the limited room indoors available to fly. Probably replacement of all 4 motors and prop balancing would improve stability. A good flyer none the less and time to move on to other repairs and construction. Several high capacity 1s batteries were purchased for increased flight time.


So could I have bought a complete  used drone instead of a damaged one? Probably so, but missing a education experience and satisfaction of repair, disassembly, motor wiring and how the drone is constructed. Modifiable? Snap off the cover and ditch the camera for weight savings, disconnect the LEDS for power savings, go with slightly larger or smaller props  and  beef up the battery with a higher capacity replacement. Add an FPV camera ? Maybe a trick out paint job or more LEDS?

Drone :  $9.99 Ebay

Controller : $16.65 Ali Express

Motor: $5.31 Ali Express

optional replacement propellers: $2.88 Ali Express

shipping for the drone was about $10.00

shipping for the propellers $2.04

other items shipped free

NEXT : Can a Propel Spyder XL (chromed) be returned to flight status ?


July 2018
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