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    Inexpensive "Better" DVR recording

    Inexpensive "Better" DVR recording

    So, you want everything... Do you want better race footage without adding weight, latency, performance, or cost to your build? As of this write-up, there are only a few options out there, none are gonna give you HD footage. I have tried 2 of these options. 

     First...

    Runcam Mini FPV DVR

     

    Specifications

    • Power Input: DC 3.3-5.5V
    • Power Output: DC 5V @ Max250mA
    • Work Current: 250mA Max
    • Video Input: CVBS@1Vp-p 75Ω
    • Video Output: CVBS@1Vp-p 75Ω
    • Encoder: MJPEG@AVI
    • Resolution: VGA(640 x 480) @ 30fps(NTSC)/25fps(PAL)
    • Audio Input: MIC
    • Micro SD Card: Max 32G
    • Dimension: 25 x 25mm @20 x 20 M2 mounting holes
    • Net Weight: 3.5g

    Installation is easy... cam in and cam out with power in at 5v.

    Note: Some fpv cameras require more than 5v to power so in that case, you would need to get separate power for the camera.

     

    Next... 

    QWinOut Super Mini HMDVR-S

     

    Then I tried a micro DVR I found on Amazon called the QWinOut Super Mini HMDVR-S. It is much smaller than the Runcam, but no mounting options.

     

    Specifications:

    • Power Input: DC 5V
    • Work Current: 260mA Max
    • Video Input: 75Ω TYP
    • Video Output: 75Ω TYP
    • Encoder: MJPEG@AVI
    • Resolution: VGA(640 x 480) 
    • Audio Input: YES
    • Micro SD Card: Max 32G
    • Dimension: 7.1 x 4.9 x 0.5 inches
    • Net Weight: 0.6 ounces

    First thing I did was remove the plastic case because... you know... weight. Wiring was easy but different. You need to splice into the video wire as there is no output. This made me skeptical because I was thinking this would degrade the video quality. It didn't though, the video was as good as if it weren't installed. 

    To splice into the video wire, I just split the insulation and soldered directly to the existing wire. Seemed easier than trying to double solder to a pad.

    Flight Results:

    Both units performed well and gave expected results. Non-interference DVR video. I will actually continue to use the QWinOut over the Runcam because of the size difference with same specs. The Video below is onboard DVR vs goggle DVR. Another cool idea is to wire the DVR after the OSD so you could record your telemetry to the DVR. If I had thought of it before I installed, I would have definitely done that.

    I think this is an excellent way to get decent race footage without all the downsides of HD options and I plan to add it to all my "race only" frames.

    Here is footage from the QWinOut vs Fatshark's DVR

    Split Mini V2 Good for Racing?

    Split Mini V2 Good for Racing?

         I tested the Caddx Turtle a few weeks back for its ability to substitute as a directly connected fpv cam for racing and recording HD footage. It failed. Since then, Runcam has released its version of a single 20x20 board FPV/HD cam called the Runcam Spilt Mini V2. Lets break it apart.

     

    Runcam’s stated features are as follows:

    • 1080P/60fps HD recording & WDR FPV camera
    • Power-off protection for video files
    • Ultra lightweight (12.5g)
    • Low latency TV-OUT (40ms)
    • Wide voltage (5-20V)
    • Anti-drop SD card (using the sd card retaining plate)
    • FPV aspect ratio 16:9/4:3 switchable
    • Modular Design: Replaceable Lens and manual focus supported

                        

        My question, like it was with the Caddx Turtle, is can this camera be used for competitive racing and also provide the ability to record HD footage?

    There are 4 main abilities that this camera needs to be a viable solution.

    • Weight
    • Latency
    • Day/night SD video quality
    • Ability to maintain its daytime latency at night

     

    WEIGHT

    Runcam Split Mini V2 - 12.5g

    Runcam Swift Micro V3 - 5.6g

    GoPro Session 5 -  74g

     

    LATENCY

         The Runcam split mini v2 has a tested latency of 37ms average and of 24ms minimum, which puts it right around the performance of the Turtle and many of the other stand alone FPV cameras. Static testing is one thing, but real world testing is another.

     

    SD VIDEO QUALITY

         This is an ability, in my opinion, that the Caddx Turtle failed miserably at. I flew the Split Mini V2 in the daytime and at night on the same exact quadcopter that I tested the Caddx Turtle on. No added or subtracted factors influence this comparison. In my testing, this was the biggest surprise of the Split mini V2. The clarity, its ability to handle contrast changes, and its night time brightness were, dare I say, better than my swift v2 and micro v3.

     

    NIGHT TIME LATENCY

         I don’t have the ability to test latency scientifically so I have to go off of feel alone. Of all the HD/SD combo cameras I have tried, I am happy to say its the best out there! I was able to fly at night with no discernible latency increase over daytime and racing felt the same as my swift micro v3 on an identical quad. I had such a bad experience with the Caddx that I was reluctant to try another HD/SD setup, but I am glad I did. You can get the Split mini V2 and throw it on a race quad, get that HD footage, and still compete!

     

    OTHER NOTABLE FACTORS

         They use a different cable to connect the camera to the PCB vs the V1. It is rigid and long and I had difficulty managing it in my very tight build. The lens is not a standard size lens so getting your favorite FOV could be difficult.

     

    SHOULD YOU BUY IT

         Absolutely, YES! If you are looking to record HD footage while racing without tugging around the weight of a GoPro or the like this is the one Id recommend. I did not expect to like this product and leave it on my competition race frame, but after testing it, I will absolutely keep it installed. Expect some real race footage soon…

    Caddx Turtle for FPV Racing???

    Caddx Turtle for FPV Racing???

    Caddx Turtle for FPV Racing???

     

    Like many of you out there, I want the ability to record heated FPV racing in HD without compromising performance due to increased weight. There are several small HD/SD FPV camera systems out there now, but can they really be a viable solution to this dilemma. I sought out to answer that question in the most unscientific way possible.

     

    The setup (Caddx Turtle)

     

    There are a few latency tests of the caddx that put it at about 33ms which seems on par with, say, a runcam micro swift 3 (at 23ms minimum and 33ms average). Seemed to me like a winner as I regularly run micro swift 3 on my race quads and am very happy. So here is how I decided to test it. I took 2 identically built Newbeedrone Flyby frames at 6s and flew them back to back on a night track. I felt like the night flying would bring out both the worst video quality and latency on both setups.

     

     

    Here is DVR video of each cam side by side on the same track with my best respective lap times. (Sorry, no HD cause it's already all over youtube) I was honestly shocked at the results.

     

    First off, I would like to point out how much worse the actual video you’ll see in your goggles is from the Caddx vs the Micro Swift 3. I did not adjust any settings on either cam, so both are stock. The quad with the Turtle had a Micro Swift 3 on it before and nothing but the cam was changed. It was a matter of adding the board and soldering 3 wires to the FC. I could deal with this quality difference if the performance was similar… It wasn’t.

     This is where the Caddx became a “NO WAY” option for me as a racing camera.

     The latency was awful. I mean really awful. I could actually see the time between me changing stick input and the video showing the result. I wasn't able to fly nearly to my normal precision and speed. I was over correcting, washing wide and going high on almost every turn. It was like using a Mobius as your FPV cam.

    The Caddx may be good for freestyle in the daytime on a 3-inch quad, but for racing at night with tons of fast pilots, this will let you down. I would even say its a bigger setback that if you were to go from sbus back to ppm. I'm not sure if racing was the Caddx Turtle’s intended use, but it does not work for that. I recommend a DVR board still, for now.

    Let's go micro split v2 :)

    The Hive_16 FPV Stack

    The Hive_16 FPV Stack

    The NewbeeDrone Hive_16 FPV Stack

     

     

              The Hive 16 is a 16x16 quadcopter stack designed for micro quads with up to 2s support and brushless motors. It comes with all needed electronics to build a quadcopter including a Betaflight F4 flight controller with BF OSD, 12a BLHeliS 4in1 ESC, 25-200mw VTX with smart audio, and Frsky or Spectrum diversity receivers. All you need, other than this stack, is a frame, camera, and motors/props to build a micro-sized FPV quadcopter.

     

    When NewbeeDrone gave me this stack to test, along with a Limitless frame, Hypetrain motors, and a BeeEye FPV camera, I was taken by surprise as I didn't even know this new product was being developed. I've never been a huge fan of micro-size quadcopters as I have never known a reason to own one, having many 5 and 6 inch quads already. After building and flying this quadcopter, however, I can now see a real purpose in FPV for this sized high-performance machine, which I'll discuss later.

    The Build:

     

    This is an entire quadcopter (minus canopy, props, and hardware)

     

    I started by partially assembling the frame

    It takes only 4 screws to hold the entire frame together. I put the screws through the bottom plate,df the right side arms, and through the top plate. Then repeat for the left arms. (the arms come as 2 in 1 and go left and right)

     

     

    Next, I added the stack. The stack comes preassembled and has vibration dampeners on the bottom. I screwed the stack in and held the dampeners with needle nose pliers to make sure they didn't twist until a good amount of torque was applied. (The FC mount screws also hold the arms in place, so make sure they are tight enough that the arms don't move at all)

    Then I inserted shrink tubing, twisted the motor wires and installed the motors using 2 M2 screws.

     

     

    Soldering the wires is the only slightly difficult part of the entire build. The way I did it is running 2 of the 3 wires around the standoff, from the front or back of the frame, and held in place with alligator forceps. I then cut all wires to length and stripped. Normally I would pre-tin the wires before soldering, but I found that unnecessary in this instance. I added flux to both the ESC solder pads and the wires, held each wire into the ESC pad slot, and soldered together. (The flux helps to flow the solder into the wires and ESC pads) 

     

    Now repeat 3 more times and solder the battery lead. I kept the battery lead long because its easier to shorten than lengthen.  Remove the top PCB to access the FC/RX and add the RX antennas. How you feed them is up to you. I ran them down the arms in the back and added zip ties to the arms, pointing in toward the power lead and used heat shrink to secure them to the zip ties. (picture shows them on the opposite side of the arm from what I ended up with.

     

    With the top PCB removed (VTX) I added the video antenna and plugged in the BeeEye cam to the connector. (There are solder pads on the opposite side of the cam connector to use a different FPV cam depending on your build) I then installed the VTX back onto the stack. When used, the Limitless frame canopy does not require fastening nuts to be installed on the top PCB. It just squeezes onto the standoffs and secures nicely in place.

     

     

    The build was very easy. The setup will be easy once settings are fine-tuned. I found that having a tiny, fully capable, FPV quadcopter allows me to fly in places too sketchy for a 5 inch or bigger while maintaining all the fun of its larger brothers. It is a killer setup and such a breeze to build. Once I finish tuning the FC for this frame and getting the Betaflight settings dialed in, I will add another blog explaining how it should be set up. Stay tuned...

     

    The Flyby from NewbeeDrone

    The Flyby from NewbeeDrone

                                                           

               There are a lot of racing quadcopter frames on the market today. Most of us tend to spend our hard earned money on a frame that has been tried and proven by the pilots we look up to. More and more, those frames are created by or co-developed by those pilots. But, if you really do some research, you will find that there are so many other, less popular, but very well thought out, very high quality and very inventive frames that get overlooked regularly by all of us.

              For the most part, the basic quadcopter shape and build materials have become a standard, and big innovation in frame design is now limited by material, battery size, and production costs. We do, after all, fly these things like maniacs and regularly crash and break them and therefore, understandably, the cost is very important.

              We all have our preferred style of frame and, with such a competitive market for race frames being sold today, how does a company trying to enter that market get their frame noticed? NewbeeDrone set out to answer that question. What we came up with is called The FlyBy. 

              The FlyBy is a frame designed to be "compatible" with all racing pilot wants and needs in mind. We put into The FlyBy the most amount of flexibility for the pilot while maintaining the fundamentals of a racing frame like weight, aerodynamics, and durability.

    Features:          

    • Can be configured to support all battery orientations (top, bottom, toilet top/bottom) while maintaining optimal weight distribution
    • When in the top mount toilet top orientation, the frame weight distribution (depending on the size battery) is centered on the prop line and is perfectly balanced on all axis giving the most predictable flight characteristics of any frame on the market as of this write-up
    • Compatible and tested with 4-6s batteries
    • Can support micro and full-size fpv cameras and the lens is protected from impacts
    • Supports motor sizes as small as 1806 and as large as 2307 (bigger if you're into that)
    • Antennas mounts are flexible to elevate damage or catching on racing gates. 
    • Designed around 20x20 electronic stacks (yes, we have found reliable 6s 20x20 4in1 ESC's
    • Aluminum or Titanium electronics cage that is easily removed to access electronics
    • 6mm thin and chamfered arms that are removable by 2 easily accessed M3 screws
    *Disclaimer - arms will ship with 3 motor mount holes, not 4 as pictured. The hole closest to the arm length was found to create a weakness in the frame at that point

      I have been flying this frame for racing for 4 months and personally cannot find something about it I don't like.  What do you think?