Building an F450 Quadcopter – Day 5 – Flight Controller Test – FAILED!

After putting the frame together I figured it would be a good idea to bench test the flight controller, ESCs and motors before we actually attached them to the bird.  S wasn’t around so I had to do this sneakily, figuring I would then repeat the process for S once I knew what I was doing.

APM RotationIn theory all I needed to do was hook up the motors to the flight controller, connect to the power module and give it a whirl.  The first question was which way around the FC connector wires go, but a quick question and I confirmed that the white wire goes towards the middle of the FC.  I had the motor order from the APM website and I was ready to go.

I connected the battery, moved the stick to the bottom right which should arm the motors and…nothing!

After some fiddling (and some blind luck) I figured out that I had the throttle reversed on the transmitter.  This video helped me to sort that out.

Unfortunately I now had a bigger problem.  I could arm the motors but only 3 of the 4 would spin.  Motor number 1 (front right and connected to APM output #1) was NFG.

Back to those cool guys on Quadcopters who pointed out that I really needed to calibrate the ESCs.  Oh yes (doh!). Armed with the knowledge that I had missed a step I went back.  But, even after calibration, motor 1 failed to start.

Motor 1 happened to be the one that I had left the power cable connected (for backup) so I wondered if that was the problem.  I removed the wire without cutting it (this time), reassembled and…still nothing on motor 1.

Now we were in full on trouble shooting mode.  I tried starting things and wiggling wires and calibrating the ESCs individually.  Nothing worked.

Screenshot 2015-01-25 22.15.30There is a way that you can connect a computer to the APM and have it run a test on each of the motors.  To do that you need to connect to the “console”, but each time I connected to the console I ended up with spurious characters appearing on the screen and I couldn’t enter any commands.  I tried all of the methods people suggested to get around that and finally came across a post with a person who seemed to have a very similar problem. His problem was solved by replacing the APM flight controller!

I was now starting to think I had a hardware issue.  I tried one last test which was to switch the connections on the APM between motors 1 and 4.  When I started up this time motor 1 (previously not working) fired up fine and motor 4 (previously fine) was no longer working, thus indicating that output #1 on the APM is the culprit.

Since I was still within the 30 day money back guarantee (just) I started a return with the company I bought from on EBAY. I posted this on the FB Quadcopters group and one the most helpful people there – MG – who had been making suggestions and providing encouragement all along said that he would send me a spare APM that he happened to have to avoid the wait time involved in returns and re-shipping,!  No payment, wouldn’t even accept shipping.  Just said to try it out and we can work out what to do once things were up and running.  Amazing!

So, for a short time at least, the fun and games has to stop.  But not for too long – MG’s APM should be here in a couple of days, assuming the snow doesn’t get in the way.

I’m constantly humbled by the outpouring of advice and support the Quadcopters group has provided and only hope that one day I will learn enough to pay it forward.

Stay tuned…we will get this bird in the air yet!

*** Pro Tip ***

The console has now been retired and the motor test functionality moved and can be found under the setup menus in Mission Planner.


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Filed under Building Multirotors, Drones, Education, Technology

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