(Draganflyer V Ti Pro)
Draganflyer Preflight Checklist
- Make sure all batteries are fully charged.
- If you’re using them, make sure the heat sinks on the motors properly and the air vents aren’t covered.
- Gently pull / twist the carbon fiber rods. If they pop out of the mounting brackets tighten the screws. By twisting them, you’ll also be able to see any hairline fractures that could cause potential flight problems.
- Check to make sure the rotors / motors are on straight and alighted properly and that they’re on securely – if one moves a little during flight, it can throw off your trims significantly.
- If you’re using the video camera option, make sure the mount and camera is secure and that the screws aren’t loose.
- Check to ensure the circuit board is in the braces securely.
- Also quickly check all the screws to make sure they’re tight including the nylon screws on the rotors and under the Draganflyer on the base plate.
- Make sure the transmitter is on and the throttle is all the way down and set all trim levels to the center, then set the thermal intelligence if you’re using it, place the Draganflyer on level ground and you’re good to go.
Learning To Fly / Flying The Draganflyer
Before you attempt to fly the Draganflyer, as with any RC helicopter, read the instruction manual in fullness and watch the instruction DVD. Also take a few minutes to familiarize yourself with the radio transmitter and actual mechanics of the Draganflyer.
If your unit came with the onboard camera, it would also be a good idea to remove it to prevent damage while you get the hang of flying the Draganflyer.
You should start by learning to hover it. I’d do it indoors with the thermal intelligence off for two reasons.
1. There’s no wind to worry about.
2. Learning with the thermal intelligence off will make you a better pilot. By the time you take it outside and turn the Ti on, you’ll be an expert.
I learned to fly it indoors without the thermal intelligence and once I brought it outside and turned the thermal intelligence on, flying it was a piece of cake.
Start with moving it around on the ground (preferably a smooth surface) to get a feel for it.
If the Draganflyer is flying off-level, you can use the trims on the transmitter to correct for it. Even a little weight imbalance, a slightly misaligned rotor or the performance of each individual motor can cause imbalances, so setting the trims to adjust for it is necessary. You may need to adjust them significantly to get level flight.
When you’re using thermal intelligence later, the trims will still need to be adjusted, but not by as much. If you set it on level ground and set it before flight, it should fly more or less level.
Once you get the hang of how it works, slowly bring it an inch or so off the ground and try to hold it within a 3ft by 3ft area.
When you’re good enough to keep it in a 3ft by 3ft area, bring it up to 12 inches and keep it in the same space, then graduate to 2ft off the ground, 3ft and so on.
When you’re able to hold it in a hover about 3ft off the ground, practice moving sideways about 5ft, then stopping and holding it in a hover. Do this in both directions (left / right).
Once you master that move, try flying a figure 8, circles and a 4 point square indoors before you take it outside.
For more advanced moves, try hovering it with the front facing you (backwards), landing on a box or ledge, flying around an obstacle course (trees, playground – power lines not recommended).
You can practice your moves on the free FMS Flight simulator where both the standard Draganflyer as well as the $5,000 X-Pro Model are available as free downloads.
You can control the simulator with your keyboard or for about $25 from Draganfly Innovations, or $10 from many other online retailers, you control it with your Futaba transmitter.
As of current, the simulator doesn’t work with Windows Vista, so keep a copy of XP around if you plan on using it.
With the thermal intelligence turned off, it took less than 5 minutes to get it trimmed up and hovering in my basement, but I did have a little RC heli experience . In about 3 batteries, I had it flying around the place quite easily.
I also let my younger brother (with zero RC helicopter experience) give it a try, and after a little coaching from me, he had the hang of it in about an hour. In another hour, he was zipping around the local soccer field.
It’s not hard to learn on and if you can find someone locally with experience flying it and practice on the simulator, the learning curve will shorten significantly.
Flying the Draganflyer is quite easy when compared to a normal RC helicopter. The hardest part of flying it was keeping track of which side was the front, so I took some fluorescent pink tape and wrapped it around the front of the frame bracing.
Flightlog / Maintenance
If you hear any funny sounds when flying (high pitched whirring, clicking or grinding) land immediately to diagnose the problem – it’s not going to go away on it’s own and will only get worse. Same thing does for smoking motors or circuit boards.
If you can’t tell what rotor is the source of the problem, hold the Draganflyer firmly in your hand, turn it on and move the control stick left, right, up and down until you hear which rotor is causing the problem.
The work best with smooth edges. If they get roughened up from use or hitting something, you can smooth them out with a piece of fine sandpaper.
The motors are brushed and will wear out. Throughout the 50 of so flights I put on my Draganflyer, I ended up replacing all of them. Adding the optional heat sinks can help extend their life somewhat.
Replacing them requires a soldering iron and some very basic soldering skills to remove the lead wires and solder them to the new motor. It’s so really important that you solder the wires on correctly – the front and rear motors spin clockwise, and the left and right motors spin counter-clockwise.
The Draganflyer I received had a gyro that went bad after the first couple of flights. After a little negotiating, the people at rctoys.com sent me a new one free of charge when I convinced them I could replace it myself and didn’t need to send the heli back..
One other problem I experienced was a glitch that popped up now and again causing you to temporarily loose control of the heli.
I had this happen to me 3 times in about 50 flights, once resulting in a hard crash where I wasn’t able to recover in time.
I don’t know if it’s a design flaw or something else, but from what I’ve seen on discussion forums, I’m not the only one to experience it.
Update: According to the rctoys.com website, it was a receiver issue and has been remedied, though I haven’t tested the updated model. It’s just something to take into consideration if buying used… and luckily repairs are fairly cheap.
Anyways, maintenance is pretty simple, nothing more that giving it a good look over to check for broken parts, loose screws and keeping it clean. With the glitch crash, a run in with a tree a few other hard ladings, over about 50 flights, I purchased about $150 in replacement parts including a couple of new canopies for paining. That’s not too bad, considering a single crash on a single rotor heli could easily be double that.
Customizing The Draganflyer
There’s not much that can be done to upgrade or customize the Draganflyer which was a bit of a disappointment.
Rctoys.com doesn’t really offer anything in the way of upgrades, except for video options, the frame bracing, larger capacity batteries and motor heat sinks.
There was a guy making carbon fiber rotor blades for the Draganflyer that was selling them online for a while for about $100 a set, but he seems to have disappeared along with another dude from Australia selling landing gear to protect the motors (pictured above).
To customize my Draganflyer a little, I painted the canopy a flat back (on the inside of the clear dome) and replaced the green LED’s for blue ones which looked awesome.
(Customized Draganflyer with black canopy, blue LED’s & landing gear)
Blue LED’s run off about 5 volts while the standard green ones run off 3 volts, so I had to add a standard NPN transistor (available at radio shack) to the circuit board for each LED to up the voltage. There’s a 5 volt source available from the pins at the front of the circuit board (on each side) which I used to power the LED’s
I wouldn’t recommend changing the LED’s out unless you have some electronics / soldering experience and modifying the circuit board will void the warranty.
Some other people have also upgraded the entire heli to a brushless system that about doubles the lifting capacity, power and increases flight times. You can find out more on the brushless conversion here.
How To Save $100 – $300 on a Draganflyer
Even though Draganfly Innovations sells the base model Draganflyer on their website (www.rctoys.com) for $799, they consistently sell them on eBay where I’ve seen them go for as low as $500 with an average selling price around the $600 mark.
They claim they sell them at a loss that’s made up for in publicity, advertising and the cost of replacement parts. They also sell a refurbished unit that works like new for about $100 less on their website or on eBay.
For the first few months, I thought “this is fun” but was soon thinking “what else can I do with it?”
Even though I used it to shoot a few videos, aerial videography is nothing that I do for anything other than fun.
As far as entertainment value, I got a lot out of it in the first few months, but it’s quite limited in what you can do aerobatically. It’s not like a fully 3D RC helicopter where there’s always a new move you can learn or something else you can try. There are only so many ways to fly it and so many things you can do with it before you run out of options.
However, it’s great at what it was designed for – it’s an excellent tool for quality aerial footage at an affordable price.
Should you buy a Draganflyer?
I can’t really answer that, but if you’re looking to learn to fly a simple RC helicopter or have a need to quality aerial footage, then it would likely make a good investment.
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