engineer-in-wonderland

Rooting around in the fascinating stuff at the bottom of a draw labelled 'Engineering - Junk Miscellaneous'. Delving amongst the delightful...

Fun in a box

Hubsan Q4I am not normally one for gadgets, but an amazing little quadcopter has both put a smile on my face and sent me nuts over the past few days.

For a couple of months before GCSE time, I was helping with revision.

This was a pleasure and, I think I learned as much about teenagers as my tutee learned about maths.

What I didn’t learn was, short of gluing her to a chair, how to persuade a teenager to study on her own. Any tips?

Anyway, as a thank-you, student and mum presented me with a Hubsan Q4, claimed to be the smallest quadcopter in the world.

- to which I am now addicted.

Hubsan Q4

Inside

It is equally: fun, fascinating, and frustrating.

Fun, because it really works and can zip around doing amazing things (in the right hands).

Facinating, because Hubsan has squeezed an awful lot of technology into something weighing 12g and smaller than a coaster (45x45mm), including gyros – see below for more.

Frustrating, because I still can’t fly it for more than five seconds without crashing it into something.

There have been victories – the crashes are getting softer, for example.

Hubsan Q4

Underneath

Tiny nudges on the controls in my (the wrong) hands cause it to set off like a dog after a squirrel – which gives you some idea how agile it is – From floor to ceiling takes about one second – so you find out early on….

And all this is with it set to sluggish ‘beginner-mode’.

To be fair to me, one review site says it is jumpier than most because it is so small.

Part of gaining some tiny measure of control was to discover the gyros need calibrating, and once this is done it only drifts slowly after taking off, rather than flying off in a random direction.

Hubsan Q4

Under the battery

By the way, the most helpful calibration video I found is here, and is actually about the larger X4 model – fine Q4 calibration (I think to allow for motor and propeller differences) involves sitting one corner of it on a few sheets of paper during the procedure, rather than the more techie X4 method.

Hubsan Q4

Leds tell you wich end is which

Helpful things include the front propellers being a different colour than the rear propellers, so you can tell which end is which when it is flying, and different coloured LEDs on the corners for the same reason.

Construction is beautiful – the chassis is the circuit board, with almost all the outer part milled away leaving only motor support spars.

On the PCB are four motors, gyros, possibly some accelerometers, a four channel 2.4GHz radio, a 100mAh Li-polymer cell, and the control chips.

The battery gives up to five minutes of flight. Or up to five minutes of running after it, depending on your skill level.

Charging is through a custom USB cable with built-in control circuitry – and takes 10-20minutes.

Hubsan Q4The remote control is tiny, and helpfully has controls that spring back to their central positions if they are released – except the throttle which you have to learn to push back to zero as soon as things start to go wrong – after about two seconds in my case.

What am I doing this weekend?

Finding a large field with short grass where I can practice without knocking the kitchen and the office about.

Thank you Becky and mum. My fingers are still crossed for good results. Hmmm, maybe there would be less crashing if I uncrossed them…

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