Saturday, May 16, 2015

Balancing a Quadcopter

After a short break, I am back to working on the Deadcat SK450 quad.  One thing I am learning is that balancing the quadcopter is important.

Model aircraft are very sensitive to their point of balance, but I did not realize quadcopters had a similar tendency.

If your quadcopter, properly calibrated with the trims set at 0, tends to go forward or backward slowly after takeoff in Stabilize mode, you are likely nose (forward movement) or tail (backward) heavy.  If your quadcopter is not symmetrically built (left to right across the centerline), you could also see a consistent movement left or right.

The solution is to move equipment to counteract the imbalance.  The battery is usually the easiest thing to move.  The process is like this:

  1. Take a short test hop inside or in very calm winds and note which way the quad wanders.
  2. Move the battery back if you wander forward, or move the battery forward if you wander backward.  Mark the battery's new position with masking tape.  See figure 2 for battery installation (farthest to rear) on my quadcopter when camera is installed.
  3. Try another test hop, see if the quad will hover in one place.  If yes, the balance is OK.
  4. If it still wanders, move the battery as in step 2. and also move the tape.   Take a test hop, see if it is fixed.  Repeat until you get a nice stable hover, something like you see in the video below.  My problem was the quad moving forward consistently, which is now fixed, it still moves from side to side due to my clumsy control inputs.
  5. Once you have the battery in the right spot, leave the tape in place and mark it so you know where to put the battery next time.  See figure 1.
Figure 1 Tape markings for different quad configurations

Figure 2 Battery installed in camera configuration

You may have to do this for different configurations, like with and without camera, so you would have two markings for where to put the battery.

Don't add weight to get a balance unless you really have to.  Adding weight just decreases flight time and dynamic stability.