The motivation behind building a XuGong 10 is simple: I love to travel and wanted a flying tripod for my GoPro that would fit neatly in the overhead bin and possibly even a camera bag. I briefly flirted with the idea of buying a
DJI Phantom but sanity prevailed and after much research I stumbled upon the XuGong 10 from ImmersionRC — a 450 size folding quadcopter that suits my needs nicely.
The one I purchased is the [now discontinued] V1 model. At first glance it looks very similar to the current ‘Pro’ version but there are significant differences: The V1 is made from fiberglass instead of carbon fiber, and it’s PDB doesn’t include an onboard OSD. On the plus side the V1 is still incredibly lightweight, uses high quality materials, and best of all was fully half the cost of the V2 Pro. The money I saved will be used to build a 2-axis gimbal for my GoPro based on the brilliant STorM32 BGC 32-bit gimbal controller.
Components in the above photo clockwise from the top: The STorM32 gimbal controller board, dual IMUs for the gimbal controller, a uBlox LEA-6H GPS module from 3D Robotics, and an APM 2.6 clone purchased from Ready To Fly Quads.
Motors, Props, and ESCs
YAY! The motors arrived! A set of 4 lovely Cobra 2217/20 950Kv motors from Innov8tive Designs that I intend to pair with props from APC and 30A ESCs from Ready To Fly Quads. After a bit of measuring and evaluating how best to mount these to allow the arms to fold correctly, I installed all 4 sets and moved on to building the 2-axis gimbal and FPV camera mount.
Custom Stabilized Camera Gimbal
The original XuGong 10 has no provision for a brushless gimbal. Instead, the kit ships with its own fiberglass servo-driven single axis (tilt-only) gimbal that includes a lobe off to one side for mounting a small FPV camera.
I really wanted a proper 2-axis stabilized gimbal on my XuGong and after much research into specialized gimbals for the TBS Discovery and the new XuGong 10 v2 I decided to just build my own using low cost off-the-shelf parts:
- A $15 black aluminum gimbal frame intended for a DJI Phantom
- A pair of $16 DYS BGM2208-80 brushless gimbal motors
- And a $35 STorM32-BGC 32-bit dual-IMU gimbal controller with Bluetooth
The gimbal frame works perfectly and required no modifications. I simply didn’t use the parts intended to suspend it from below a model. This simplified gimbal is considerably lighter than the original and attaches to the XuGong’s forward bulkhead via the roll axis motor. As a precautionary measure I reinforced the bulkhead by sandwiching a fiberglass plate from the unused XuGong gimbal with some CA.
The only hiccup was mounting the FPV camera. I tried placing it on the top deck but the gimbal took up a large portion of the view so, with the camera powered-up and the video fed to a monitor, I moved it around the XuGong until I found a location where the gimbal was out of frame and the camera could still be reasonably protected (as an aside, the camera had a 2.1mm lens installed but I was forced to swap that out for a 2.8mm to hide the gimbal from view).
To mount the camera I scavenged another part from the XuGong’s unused gimbal. This piece was intended as a hinge point for the camera cage and made a brilliant standalone mount. The only ‘gotcha’ was the camera now had to be placed on its side which required opening the camera and rotating its circuit board 90 degrees (the firmware for his particular camera doesn’t have an option for image rotation).
Ready for Assembly
My choice of the APM over the Naze 32 for this project is simple: At present the APM (and to a larger extent the 32-bit Pixhawk) offers the most robust safety features plus fully autonomous GPS missions which makes it an ideal choice as a camera platform.* I currently fly two types of flight controllers; the APM 2.6 from 3D Robotics running both Mission Planner and Droid Planner (for my Nexus 7) and the Naze 32 running Cleanflight.
Initial Testing, Frustration, And Changing Brands
After many frustrating hours fiddling and fighting with the old APM I finally gave up and switched to a NAZA M V2 flight controller. The APM was ‘okay’ in manual modes, but nothing I tried would make it fly perfectly smooth when set to Loiter, Position Hold, or Altitude Hold which is a shame because I was really hoping to fly autonomous missions with it. I’ve had reasonable luck with APM’s on larger machines but for some reason it just didn’t like the XuGong so, meh.
In stark contrast to the APM the NAZA was near flawless out of the box. After some minor tweaks it was hovering flawlessly and [until the APM] it holds its altitude even when pushed hard laterally. Unfortunately my success with that controller was not to be repeated.
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