When I thought the MJX was utterly lost in that large gum tree, as I noted in Part 2, I immediately ordered a second one because of the trip into the High Country we had planned for the end of Easter. I really wanted to have the drone along to capture some aerial footage of the surrounds and get in more practice away from civilisation. But since retrieving the MJX, I still can’t believe how tough this drone really is, almost unbreakable. I’ve watched videos of drones crashing and being totalled at first strike and someone said that I should have bought a cheap $30-$40 drone because as a first timer I’d crash and break them, so better breaking a $30 drone than a $130 one. Given the number of crashes so far, I think I would have exceeded that $130 in cheap drones in the first week.
In the interim, before our trip, I’d managed a bit more air time with the MJX and was becoming a lot more confident in its use. I was also a lot more careful how I flew the MJX, keeping it low and slow all the time (as slow as it would go). So by the time our Easter trip arrived, I was a somewhat better drone operator, but I decided to leave the new MJX at home, given that we were going to an area with lots of trees, scrub and other drone hazards. The existing MJX was getting a bit wonky, with one engine sometimes making whining noises, not always turning off with the others, or not always turning on, but it was still working and I thought it best to not risk the new MJX. I think the old MJX was also giving me a bit of grief with stability and control despite the new rotors, but if I could get a handle on a somewhat sickly drone, then a healthy one should be a lot easier to control. But one of the most frustrating things I’ve encountered is trying to find a reasonable and quiet place where I can learn to fly the MJX. You’d think that being out in the country, there would be ample places to do so, but that just isn’t the case.
As it turned out, our campsite was surrounded by a lot of trees and, in my usual fashion, they became a magnet for the MJX. In my first outing, I managed to fly into a tree and when the MJX hit the ground, the camera separated from the mount and so I was not going to get any aerial footage whatsoever. That was disappointing, as I was looking forward to doing something different, though not crashing into a tree would have been very different indeed. Anyway, I managed to get in a bit of practice, but with fairly strong winds and rotor blades once more becoming mangled, the flying was getting difficult. I discovered that the rotors were getting mangled by the guards that were installed, as when these hit an obstacle, they’d bend in quite easily and connect with the blade. Somewhat stiffer guards or a way of stiffening the guards would make things a lot better. Removing the guards would probably make things worse when meeting a tree or the ground.
Once back at home, I had another look at the camera mount and decided to try another method, again using parts from the earlier action cam box. While becoming more and more a Heath Robinson creation, the camera mount is now at least somewhat sturdier and doesn’t touch the ground when on a flat surface, not that it made much difference before. So it was back to more practice with the new setup and again I wished there was a way to retard the controls so that they weren’t so sensitive. I’d love to be able to do what I did with a simple addition to my Patrol and the electronic throttle controller. I know that this drone is partly designed for racing, but a granny mode would be ever so useful while learning. Less sensitive controls would possibly also reduce the sudden movements that affect video and perhaps allow easier hovering. Mind you, the additional weight of the camera, mount and extra battery seems to have somewhat tamed this beast.
But there was some good news on returning home, as the XT60 to XT30 adapter cable for the SkyRC iMax charger had arrived well before I expected, which was closer to some time in May. Now I’m able to charge and monitor the battery state with the iMax charger, rather than just relying on the USB charger. The iMax really does work well and gave a full status report on the battery charging process and the charging took about 10 min compared to the USB charger that would normally take an hour or so after not much more than two or three minutes of flying. I can now run the battery down far more and have it back to full charge in no time at all (mind you, I now have three batteries to play with). I can also use the iMax to bring the charge of the batteries down to a safe level for storage purposes, which is completely impossible with the USB charger and here’s a pretty good video on Li-Po battery management..
As an aside, my concern about losing the drone where I did was predicated more on what might happen with the battery than the mere loss of the drone. It’s incidents like these that caused me much greater worry than a lost drone, especially given the dry conditions. Thankfully the MJX reappeared and I didn’t have to take difficult search and recovery measures. I think I would have alerted the farmer that owns the property of the potential hazard and sought a way to recover the drone, which by that time I think would have been much worse for wear. As an example, the dash cam that I now use with the MJX had a Li-Po battery failure, which caused it to swell and break open the camera case. I removed the battery and reassembled the case and the camera works fine with external power. The battery still had full charge, so I connected it to a light and left it for over 12 hours before the battery was fully depleted. Then I soldered the terminals together and disposed of the battery.
As a side note, while doing a battery discharge test, I inserted the battery, connected the controller and put the MJX into start mode ie the rotors turning at idle and, after a few seconds, the rotors stopped. So I tried again and they stopped once more after a few seconds. Clearly this is a safety factor to prevent any accidents and whatnot, and so my battery discharge experiment had to rely on the lights staying on and flashing. But then after about 10 min or less, the MJX started beeping at me, warning that it had been left powered up. So it appears that the easiest and safest way to put the batteries into storage mode is with the iMax. Anyway, it’s back to more practice, as I’ve found a fully open location that won’t be impacted by other people, but on my first foray the winds were diabolical. More in Part 4.