El Cheapo eBay Quadcopter Build

For a long time now I’ve been wanting to build a quadcopter. I’ve never really had the money to blow on it so I just kept putting it off. Finally I decided I’m going to do it but I’m going to order one part at a time and slowly accumulate everything I need. Eventually I realized I should be logging this build so even though this is my first post on the subject it’s been about a month and a half since I started this project and I already have some of the parts.

Since everything had to be shipped individually low shipping costs were key, adding $5-15 shipping to every part would have added way too much to the cost. That limited me to places like eBay or Deal Extreme for parts. Thus far everything has been ordered from eBay. I’m a firm believer in the “you get what you pay for” mantra but in this case I expect to smash the crap out of this thing the first time I fly it. Cheap parts are a priority for me. Once I get the hang of it I can build a better rig.

I decided early on I was going to build a 450 quad as I eventually want to add a camera and maybe even FPV. The 450s also seemed to have a lot of cheap and standard parts that I could order online.

For motors I went with some A2212 clones that included not only the motor but the ESC, two props and the mounting kit for $14.91 shipped. That’s per motor and thus far I have ordered two, with only one having arrived thus far. I will keep ordering one each pay check until I have 5 of these, with the final being a spare. I’m probably the most concerned about these as they if a motor or ESC is faulty it could cause havoc.

There was a ton of DJI Phantom clone parts out there with a dozen different sellers offering the same frame. I decided to go with the black and white model which cost me $18.69 CAD including shipping. I also ordered some landing legs which were $4.39 shipped. Unfortunately I could not find one in the right colour that included the legs. I may also order some replacement arms as they are only a few dollars and I expect that I may break an arm or two.

The flight controller has also been ordered. I put that order in on Friday when I got paid, I went with a CC3D that included a case and cables for $15.13.

Next up is the battery and charger. That involves more research. I know enough to know not to cheap out here, I don’t want a battery blowing up on me. I was thinking the same for a transmitter and receiver but I feel like I could go more mid range there. I also want something I can use on this quad or any future quad I build, as I wouldn’t mind making a 250 eventually.

At this point I have spent $70 Canadian on parts, with two more motors I will be at $100. From here it’s going to take probably another $250 before I can go out and fly this thing. Hopefully I have it all together by spring.

 

Part Price Date Ordered Date Received Ordered From
A2212 Brushless Motor and ESC $14.91 11/4/2015 11/24/2015 eBay
A2212 Brushless Motor and ESC $15.61 11/20/2015 eBay
F450 Frame $18.69 11/28/2015 eBay
F450 Frame Legs $4.39 11/28/2015 eBay
CC3D $15.13 11/28/2015 eBay
Total $68.73

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Continuing My Retro Pie Build – More Difficulties

Been plugging away at my RetroPie build this Christmas holiday and keep running into all sorts of frustrations. I guess that’s the name of the game when you’re using an open source development board but I had hoped that things would go a bit smoother since it’s now been well over a year since the Raspberry Pi came out.

Since my last post I’ve managed to get it booting reliably. I downloaded a new image of RetroPie from a different source and that one works, so I’m not sure what happened to the first one I downloaded. After finally getting that booting up properly I setup the regional settings using sudo raspi-config. I also ran a firmware update and updated all the linux binaries by using the following commands:

sudo rpi-update
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get upgrade

I destroyed my laser cut acrylic case while working on it the other night so I decided to sacrifice an old NES system I had laying around. After playing one last round of Dr. Mario (pretty much the only game it was willing to run) I said my goodbyes and pulled it’s guts out. They are now lying in a box which I’ve tucked aside in case I decide to rebuild it later on with another case or perhaps I’ll just sell it for parts on eBay.

The case itself looks quite roomy and I think it will fit the Raspberry Pi and a powered USB hub quite comfortably. I’m just debating either painting the case or maybe trying to bleach it with hydrogen peroxide as right now it has a really gross yellowy brown thing going on like most old electronics seem to develop.

I spent some time getting the wireless internet going on it using an Airlink 101 which is one of the recommended dongles. I got it a while back when I was using it as an XBMC machine but never really got around to play with it. Thankfully it worked out of the box, driver wise, but I still had to do some configuration to get it to connect and from there I ha to go into raspi-config again to turn on SSH so I could tunnel in remotely.

Sure enough, after all that work I went to install my Bluetooth dongle and it seems to have gone into La-la Land. After waiting an hour for the install and having the SSH connection drop on me so eventually I rebooted it and found the WLAN was no longer working. After a bit of monkeying around I noticed the dongle was smoking hot when I touched it so at that point I called it a night and unplugged it. Today I ran a network cable to the spot where I was working on it so now I will at least have that as a backup. After firing it up it seems that both my LAN and WLAN connections are running so I guess that’s good. Still not happy if it’s overheating but for now I can continue with my work. It just means I need to wire in a LAN connection on the back of this NES as I may need it as an alternative.

So I continued with my Bluetooth installation. I had used the git repo recommended in this video which was git clone https://github.com/the-raspberry-pi-guy/Wiimote.git but it just didn’t want to work. The device showed up when I typed lsusb but when I typed sudo service bluetooth status I got bluetooth: unrecognized service in response. Running /etc/init.d/bluetooth.dpkg-new status I got [FAIL] bluetooth is not running … failed! so I was dead in the water at that point.

At this point I jumped to another method and ran sudo apt-get install bluetooth bluez-utils blueman and when it was done installing I ran /etc/init.d/bluetooth status.

[ ok ] bluetooth is running.

Success! That’s right my less than $2 bluetooth dongle from Deal Extreme was working. It only took a few hours of tinkering, but it worked 🙂

Next up was to start scanning for devices. I ran hcitool scan and got two devices listed back, my laptop and my phone. Awesome. Next I turned on the Wiimotes and scanned again… and only my laptop and phone were listed. Darn. After a bit of reading I discovered I had to press 1+2 on the Wiimote for a few seconds before scanning.

Scanning ...
        1C:65:B2:A1:4A:D0       Samsung Galaxy S5
        A4:2F:68:22:8G:09       FETTESPS-LAPTOP
        F0:1F:B9:45:E3:78       Nintendo RVL-CNT-01
        F0:1F:35:D1:76:21       Nintendo RVL-CNT-01

Brilliant. It’s always so simple once you know the solution.

At this point I think I’m going to stop and make an image of the SD Card as I was regretting not doing that when it last when unresponsive. I’d highly recommend doing this every time you get a big step of configuration done and then you have a backup if you mess up while working on the next steps. That’s it for this post!

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Raspberry Pi – Fixing a No Boot Issue

After months of it just sitting on my desk collecting dust, I finally decided to play with my Raspberry Pi only to discover it no longer worked. All I got was a red LED, and no video. I initially thought it was not getting enough power, as that is a common issue, so I tried a few USB cables and various chargers, and saw no difference. I then tried various SD cards, HDMI cables, images/distros on the SD card and still I couldn’t get this damn thing to turn on.

I then delved in a little deeper with my multi-meter and do some more diagnostics. Unfortunately since my cheap case kept falling apart I had used a bit of crazy glue to hold it together, which mean I now had to break my case to get the Pi back out. Since I was intending to put this in an old Nintendo case I did not shed any tears over this. Eventually I found I was getting a proper 5V between TP1 and TP2. However when testing the voltage between TP2 and the F3 fuse I found a significant voltage drop of about 0.7v. At this point I was determined that I was dealing with a blown F3 polyfuse and luckily before I ordered a new one or soldered in a bypass I tried to temporarily bypass it with an alligator clip, but alas, it still wouldn’t boot. So I was left scratching my head again.

Frustrated, I was about to give up and order a new one, but I decided to try one last thing and I took a pair of tweezers and carefully lifted each gold pin in the SD card receptor and tried again. Much to my surprise, it worked. The green light flickered and once I plugged in the HDMI cable I saw the OpenElec logo on the screen. Yay! Now I can get back to building my RetroPi station out of an old NES 🙂

Update: After powering off the unit and re-imaging the SD card with Retro Pie I found myself back in the same no boot scenario. Once I switch back to OpenElec is then again will boot. So I’m not sure what’s going on with RetroPie but I will have to diagnose this issue tomorrow.

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