GPS Upgrade, Newbie point of view

Joined
May 8, 2017
Messages
1,226
Reaction score
632
Location
Portland Oregon
As the newbie to the drone world and new owner of a 3DR solo in Portland OR (see, did the newbie introduction at the same time, that's multi-tasking that is!) and I thought I’d give my feedback on upgrading the GPS (just in case it helps with anyone’s decisions).

Got my solo from B&H and was pleased with the “out of the box” performance. However a few flights in and I was pretty frustrated at the long “GPS” lock times. On most days (varying weather conditions), I was waiting for over 5 minutes to get a GPS lock. One day it was about 10 minutes. The average amount of sats I would pick up was 8 on the ground, 12 in the air maximum. So after reading up about the GPS issues, I decided to upgrade to the mRo GPS u-Blox Neo-M8N. I also decided to avoid the cardboard GPS fix and just install the Ver 2 GPS shield from 3DR. Took about 4 days to get the gps chip and a week to get the Ver 2 Shield (no tracking number from 3DR and the following day they dropped the price from $30 to $15...grrrr...). After taking my solo apart (and discovering it was using the Rev A board), I installed the new gps and the shield, then took my solo out to fly.

Powered up the drone, started the software, was connecting the Wi-Fi and immediately got 6 sats (this was under 1 minute). Within 2 minutes there were 8 sats, then it jumped to 12. Please note, I live on the side of a rather large hill surrounded by trees that block a lot of signals, even getting a GPS signal off a Garmin or my phone in this area can be tricky. Once I got up in the air, I was getting between 20-21 sats. Have to say, huge difference and well worth the upgrade.

As for swapping the chip itself, it was actually straight forward and easy, plenty of youtube clips out there showing how to do it. I found that using a small jewelers flat head screwdriver was the best way to pop off the hood covering the GPS screws. The only worrying bit was that the screws holding the battery compartment in place were really tight. I can imagine someone could easily put too much downwards pressure on the screws trying to unscrew them and possibly snapping a leg and damaging their gimble. Even more so if they are using those foldable leg extenders. I found the easiest way to remove the screws was to again, use a small jewelers Philips screwdriver and hold it in a grips. That way I was able to get the torque I needed to loosen the screws without having to apply anything other than minimum downward pressure.

Really glad I did the upgrade and I’d fully recommend any new owner do the same, especially if you have long GPS lock times or loss of signal.


Happy Flying!
 

LuvMyTJ

Admin
Joined
Nov 4, 2015
Messages
459
Reaction score
301
Location
Live! From New York!
Hello,
It is a pleasure to welcome you to the 3DRPilots forum.
I hope that you will be able to use the forum to further your safety knowledge and for the exchange of innovative ideas and as a resource for
current developments in 3DR quadcopter’s. If your new to RC aircraft be sure to read the manual a few times and watch lots of Youtube videos on the subject to give yourself a good start.
Enjoy!
 
  • Like
Reactions: IrishmanPDX
Joined
Mar 21, 2017
Messages
30
Reaction score
2
Age
56
Thanks for posting. I'm a new solo pilot myself. Where did you source the upgraded gps chip? My sats are tolerable at best yet my range is terrible. Not sure which antenna to try as so many to choose from.
Good job on write up.

Blue skies..
 
Joined
May 8, 2017
Messages
1,226
Reaction score
632
Location
Portland Oregon
  • Like
Reactions: cosmic explorer
Joined
Feb 9, 2017
Messages
23
Reaction score
9
Age
46
Thanks for posting. I'm a new solo pilot myself. Where did you source the upgraded gps chip? My sats are tolerable at best yet my range is terrible. Not sure which antenna to try as so many to choose from.
Good job on write up.

Blue skies..
Fpvlr antennas, they are directional, and we'll worth the money. Plug and fly installation. Was getting 1800 ft stock, with the Fpvlr s got 5400ft in town. Seen vids of people getting 12000 to 18000 ft in rural areas with low interference.
 
Joined
Jun 22, 2017
Messages
42
Reaction score
12
Location
Saint Paul MN
Gents,
Somewhat on topic just throwing down on this thread. I am a brand new 3dr owner (one with GPS MRO upgrade and one stock without) last night was flying the stock 3dr with Solex and was up about 250 and approx. 500-700 feet away and got a “lost GPS signal” then immediately as I focused on it getting ready for manual flight back it immediately stated it was in “loiter”. I searched GPS lost last night and spent some time reading horror stories about lost GPS and after I discounted the ones that I believe to be pilot error because of flying in back yard under trees right up next to your house I did see some that occurred in situations similar to mine. In my case the GPS lock on the ground did take much longer than normal. I have 6ish flights under my belt with this drone and this was the first time it took 8-10 min to get an Okay to fly message. Here is my question (s)

If it does loose GPS even for a brief moment then my return to home I assume is now screwed/reset to this position last time lock was re-established correct?

If it states “in loiter” that means it has found GPS again correct?

If GPS continues to be lost I assume Solex will continue that verbal warning


Soap box:

Learning to fly this quad manual as I read here is repeated over and over and over again from the tallest bully pulpit slamming down on the bible of experience. It now appears this may be the best sound advice you can provide for a new 3dr drone pilot. I would say I am a c- pilot in manual especially with some wind. Given that (Not complaining to much with price point on these however would be super pissed if I forked out original sticker) Must I now only fly on very calm days to be assured I can manually fly it back. What is “In line of sight” really depends on who you talk to/ask for me with a drone that is not reliable I call it “china drone close” as to be able to see drone lights at all times to understand orientation. Assuming the only folks that post are ones that are not happy I am hoping that these Solos are fairly reliable and what I experienced last night was an anomaly. I will do the GPS upgrade on my second drone as for now it is grounded. I read a bunch of folks in this forum that preach about being able to manual fly and how important that is and for that I fully agree however GPS lock and return to home function provides me as a drone photographer the ability to film things I normally would not try as I am under the impression I have a safety net if I lost radio signal. So last question: With the GPS mod and shield installed can these drones be trusted or should I always fly in a distance that I can manually fly it? (China drone manual flight distance approx. 200 feet out similar to kite and string) if you guys that have lots of flights under your belt please let me know as this advice will direct me to find out if I stop putting up my 300 GOPRO. I fully realize there are no guarantees in life but some basic odds would be helpful. 70% chance it will work or 50/50 etc. Thanks ahead of time for sharing your experience I greatly appreciate it.
 
Joined
Oct 17, 2016
Messages
934
Reaction score
270
Age
56
Location
Naples, FL
In my opinion the best to discover what happened is to review your flight log on mission planner. I have never had a problem with the mRO GPS unit. As a matter of fact the last Solo I did with the mRO I also bought the EMI shield Jordi sells. I put it between the copper and the mRO unit. Had as many as 28 Sats. Although even with all those satellite's my HDOP is still .6. I would have to really look at my logs closer to see if it has ever been lower. Make sure you have FLY:MANUAL assigned to your A or B button. Solo is very trust worthy.
 
Joined
Sep 27, 2016
Messages
1,154
Reaction score
305
Age
55
Location
Southern Maryland
I have hundreds of flights on my (3 flying, 3 NIB) Solos and never had any major issues. Properly managed they are very reliable.
I'd upgrade to the V2 GPS shield (or at least do the "cardboard mod") on your second Solo.
If you want to build confidence and experience, pick up a couple of "parts" Solos off eBay for $60. Many of them just need a little TLC and they are perfectly flyable. Fly without a gimbal or camera. This will build your skills quickly.
 
  • Like
Reactions: David Boulanger
Joined
Jun 22, 2017
Messages
42
Reaction score
12
Location
Saint Paul MN
Thank you for quick input/advice gents. I will learn how to and read through logs to see my issue last night. Yes I will also take advice and begin to be a master at manual flight. My concern is loosing GPS out where I can't see orientation perfect as in the slightest wind depending on what you were doing when GPS checks out drone could get away from you real real quick and at this point you have no RTH function and stuck watching it disapear in the sunset. Would be nice if you could configure something on the drone itself to do something if GPS is lost. Like please do your best to loiter/level out until I can figure out how to manually fly you back :eek:
Last night it was a quick deal and when it checked out I wasn't flying aggresive so keeping it leveled out until GPS hooked back up was more scary for me then anything else however if it would have happened 4.2 seconds earlier while I was flying out to my film desitination it would have been a ton more dicey. I was also getting close to plan out some missions in tower possibly out of controler range (setting on in tower to complete mission even if radio signal is loss) :eek: this would have been real real real bad...

What Cheap GOPRO Knock Off works in gimble and live video feed? Don't care about camera controls and I can ballance it myself. (This will be my tower mission planner drone along with a message in a bottle) I did search this in forum and there is a list but post just gives camera's and doesn't tell me if HDMI video feed works, or if video flip settings work, or if these work in Solex app, or if a model only works through gimble or if it only works without gimble. I was only able to find partial info on topic.

Thanks again for help.
 
Joined
Feb 20, 2017
Messages
405
Reaction score
103
Age
76
There is a app. that I use before every first flight of the day it's called UAV Forecast. It will let you know the Sat config at the time and will give "NOT GOOD TO FLY" or GOOD TO FLY. Also temp, wind dir &speed. I was very surprised to see just how many bad days or times there are.
 
Joined
Oct 17, 2016
Messages
934
Reaction score
270
Age
56
Location
Naples, FL
There is a app. that I use before every first flight of the day it's called UAV Forecast. It will let you know the Sat config at the time and will give "NOT GOOD TO FLY" or GOOD TO FLY. Also temp, wind dir &speed. I was very surprised to see just how many bad days or times there are.
With GLONASS on the mRO GPS its usually the KP Index that will say no good to fly. It almost becomes a non issue. And its O.K. to fly without GPS in many cases.
 
Joined
Sep 27, 2016
Messages
1,154
Reaction score
305
Age
55
Location
Southern Maryland
RiverPilot,
If the quad looses GPS it will attempt to hold position, but will drift with the wind. You can still control the aircraft or command a landing so a fly-away won't happen. If it looses GPS and link to the controller it will switch into Land mode. Just don't be over water if that happens...
 
Joined
May 11, 2017
Messages
39
Reaction score
3
Age
64
I have hundreds of flights on my (3 flying, 3 NIB) Solos and never had any major issues. Properly managed they are very reliable.
I'd upgrade to the V2 GPS shield (or at least do the "cardboard mod") on your second Solo.
If you want to build confidence and experience, pick up a couple of "parts" Solos off eBay for $60. Many of them just need a little TLC and they are perfectly flyable. Fly without a gimbal or camera. This will build your skills quickly.

I removed my cardboard mod and made one out of an old unused iPhone screen protector mylar, just did a test flight and it did help, I was able to connect in about a min, I am going to leave it in that condition for more test flights.
 

New Threads

Members online

Forum statistics

Threads
12,676
Messages
145,391
Members
14,868
Latest member
thehopkins