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Flying again after five years

Returning to the FPV hobby after a long hiatus
Published on May 14, 2023.

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Due to a combination of various reasons I haven't actually been doing any FPV flying for the past five years or so.

This had to change!

Taranis Firmware

My Taranis X9D+ has been running OpenTX 2.2 up to now. But there's a new fork around, called EdgeTX. From a user perspective it's basically the same. It is useful for potential future use of ExpressLRS.

So I upgraded my transmitter. This brought some headaches, as it turned out because I was trying to flash with a faulty USB port on my PC. Fortunately even with a completely erased flash the STM32 bootloader is still available via USB, so you can always revive a bricked Taranis without special hardware.

Taranis X9D+ opened
Closer look at Taranis X9D+ RTC battery

They also added a check for the voltage of the RTC battery, which promptly informed me that it is empty after upgrading the firmware. Luckily I still had a spare CR1220 watch battery in a drawer, so I just replaced it.

The MicroSD card was also broken, so I had to prepare a fresh one with the usual LUA scripts and the Mia Winter voice pack.

New Copter Batteries

The one thing that was really totally unsalvagable after the five year break was the batteries. Most had at least one cell completely dead. I actually tried flying with one of the remaining batteries. The copter did take off but the voltage immediately sagged to unhealthy levels.

So I got three Bonka U2 Series 4S 1400mAh 130C LiPos. Quite pricey but they work fine.

With these I could take my LX5 out to fly properly again.

New set of batteries
Flying below a bridge, over a creek

The copter still pretty much worked fine. It had some configuration issues, so Smartaudio and the Telemetry UART did not work, but this was already the case when I built it in 2017.

Upgrading Betaflight

Of course I also had to upgrade Betaflight. I was still running version 3.5.0 from 2018. The current version is 4.4.1 which comes with a whole bunch of improvements.

I also took this opportunity to finally put all my old and current Betaflight config dumps in a Git repo.

Some slight fixes to the hardware were also needed. One of the metal stand offs has already sheared, I had to cut a slot into the small remaining thread to get it out.

Copter with electronics stack half-way disassembled
Sheared metal stand-off
Metal stand-off with slot cut into thread

I also noticed that the UARTs for Smartaudio and Telemetry were simply swapped in the config. After fixing this they both seem to work fine.

Spectator Monitor

One recurring problem was the power switch of my spectator monitor accidentally getting switched on when putting it back into my backpack. So I replaced the switch and added an improvised "roll bar" to avoid this issue.

Power switch on spectator monitor
Look inside the spectator monitor (flash)
Look inside the spectator monitor (no flash)

While doing this I also noticed that there is also an Arduino in there. It is used to automatically switch the FPV Receiver on after powering on the whole device. Unfortunately I can't find the source code, but it is simply toggling a GPIO after some time, so nothing too difficult.

More Flying

So with the tweaks to my transmitter and copter done I headed off to try it out again.

First flights after BF 4.4.1 upgrade
Setting up for a flight outdoors

This flight was cut short a little by a local resident. They informed me that I shouldn't fly there to not interfere with local wildlife. I was not up to arguing, so I left after only two out of three batteries, or in other words eight instead of twelve minutes of flight time. I also didn't want to stress the point that this was next to a local small-scale airport, where propeller airplanes like Cessnas regularly take off and land (but not in use on this day). So I don't think my twelve minutes would have done much harm, relatively speaking.

What can you do? At least they were nice about it. 🤷

Cat Content

Also I kinda lost possession of my FPV backpack. The cats just have to occupy any available surface. There seems to be no way around it.

Ares on my copter backpack
Ares sleeping on my feet

But that's ok. It's just all the hair that's a bit annoying... 😒