Littleton Fire Rescue turns to drone to help save lives

LITTLETON, Colo. — Firefighters in Littleton are hoping a drone will help the department keep a better eye on first responders and allow investigators to better understand how a fire began.

On Monday, a fire was reported at the Terra Vista Apartment complex off of S. Federal Circle. The blaze damaged at least seven townhome units and the American Red Cross was offering assistance to at least three families. No injuries were reported for either residents or firefighters.

The fire allowed the department the chance to use an aerial drone to help survey the damage.

“When you’re up that high, and you’re looking at the damage from above, its easier to see those [burn] patterns,” said Hank Carter, a veteran firefighter with the department. In the last few years, fire departments across the country have turned to drones to help them better understand fire operations.

The drone carried a small camera that records digital video to be captured and later reviewed on a computer.

JJRC F180 (In-Depth Review)

The JJRC F180 (sometimes known as the DFD F180) is a 6-axis micro quadcopter that’s aimed at beginners or simply anyone who wants to experience flying a quadcopter without spending a fortune. It’s also one of the smallest and most affordable quads produced by JJRC. At first glance, you’ll notice glaring similarities with the popular Hubsan X4 — from motor and propeller size down to its body dimensions. This makes many wonder if the F180 is actually an X4 clone. Despite these similarities, the F180 is still unique in some ways, mainly in how it flies.

Weighing in at 38g with battery and prop guards, the F180 is the type of micro quadcopter you buy mainly for flying indoors although it is capable of flying outdoors in calm weather. The F180 is also an ideal quad for those who have larger drones but want a smaller one for training purposes to improving their piloting skills.


Being so light and with its flexible prop guards, the F180 is the type of quad you can crash over and over again without ever worrying of seriously damaging it. I’ve crashed mine from heights of 3 to 4 meters without any scratches or dents. Crash it as much as you wish to improve your piloting skills so the $1,000 drone that you spent months saving for does not have to endure all those mistakes you have to go through in your learning curve as a drone pilot.


Even if you’re not looking for a trainer drone, the F180 can still be a fun toy to fly since it can move around in tight spaces and perform 360-degree flips in any direction thanks to its 6-axis gyro.

The F180 is also available with a 2MP 720P HD camera in the form of the JJRC H6C which is available at about $50 at Amazon.


  • Main Rotor Diameter: 5.8 cm
  • Radio Channels: 4
  • Flight time: about 7 minutes (with prop guards), about 8 minutes (without prop guards)
  • Body Material: Plastic
  • Control Mode: 2.4GHz
  • Control distance: up to 100m
  • Battery: 3.7V 300mAh Li-Po
  • Remote Control Battery: 4 x 1.5V AA Batteries
  • Charging Time: about 45 minutes
  • Suitable for: Ages 14+
  • Dimensions: (13.5 x 13.5 x 3.5)cm (L x W x H)

For less than $40 with shipping, the F180 quadcopter comes with flexible prop guards, radio transmitter with mini LCD screen, a spare set of propellers, 1 battery, a set of motor stubs and USB charger.


The F180 is available in 3 colors – black with red trim, gold and black with blue trim.


Unlike most quadcopters in the sub-$50 category, the F180 comes with a 2.4GHz 4-channel transmitter that has a mini LCD screen for displaying information such as throttle position, flight modes, battery power, radio reception and throttle trim. This is a nice feature to have and sets it apart from other quads in its class. The transmitter is also compatible with other X4 clones.

Binding the transmitter to the F180 is as simple as powering the quad up by connecting its battery cable, turning on the transmitter and then moving the left throttle stick up and down. Before turning on the transmitter, the F180’s LED lights will start blinking initially, indicating that it is ready to bind. Once binding is done, the LEDs will stop blinking.

A button on the upper left of the transmitter lets you toggle between 4 difficulty modes – 25%, 50%, 75% and 100%. At 25%, the F180 flies conservatively and is easier to control — a setting that’s ideal for beginners. At 100% it becomes more responsive and flies more aggressively.

The button on the upper right is the dedicated “stunt” button. Press this button when the F180 is flying and the transmitter will start beeping indicating the F180 is ready to perform a flip. To perform a flip, move the right stick in any direction while you hear the beeping and the F180 will flip in the direction you choose. For example, if you move your right stick up, the F180 will perform a forward flip and vice versa.

The control pad on the lower right is the aileron/elevator (right stick) trim while the lower left control pad is the throttle/rudder (left stick) trim.

How it flies

Overall, the F180 is easy to fly and is quite stable in the air. It has a yaw rate that is faster than other models in its class and has a unique way of doing flips. Unlike most other micro quadcopters that flip like pancakes, the F180 lunges in the direction it is being flipped. So if you make it flip forward, it will lunge forward like a hungry spider pouncing on its prey. This unique way of flipping is something you will get used to quickly. Just remember to provide the F180 with enough space when performing a flip or else it might slam itself against a wall or some stationary object.

The flexible prop guards on the F180 provide very good protection not only for the propellers but also for the entire quad. You can crash the F180 hard in any direction and it will come away literary unscathed, probably with only a few minor nicks on its propellers.

The motors on the F180 are not as noisy as other similar-sized quads which can sometimes get quite loud. I like the way it sounds — not too noisy with a nice buzz.

Below is a short F180 review and test flight I found on YouTube.


If you’re looking for an X4 clone with a difference, the JJRC F180 might just fit the bill. It’s a nice mini quadcopter that’s easy to fly and is reasonably stable and provides thrills when you need them in the form of lunging 360 flips that are unique to the F180. The mini LCD screen on its transmitter also gives it the edge over other quads in the same price range and is a nice feature to have.

The F180 is a quad that was built to take a lot of abuse, thanks to its flexible prop guard which also doubles as a protective cage for the entire quad. You can fly the F180 over and over again without worrying that a crash might seriously damage it. The propellers might get damaged due to extremely hard crashes but they are very affordable and easy to replace.

For those looking to get their first quadcopter, I’d recommend the JJRC F180. It may not have all the bells and whistles that a Phantom 2 may have but it is so much less intimidating to fly and best of all, inexpensive to crash.

Drone Photography Is About To Get Way Better

Danish camera maker Phase One Industrial has unveiled a new aerial camera that could help take drone photography to the next level.

The lightweight iXU 180 is the world’s smallest 80-megapixel medium format aerial camera, the company said in a statement. The camera can be integrated into small oblique systems that can fit inside a gyro mount, giving drone operators more flexibility for aerial photography.

Phase One iXU 180

The company’s last 80-megapixel camera, the IQ 180, has already produced stunningly detailed aerial footage. Here’s a look at a time-lapse video filmed with the iXU 180’s predecessor:

iXU 180 will begin shipping in mid-April. A Phase One spokesperson said the camera is priced at $60,000.

Introducing the the world’s first ever Phantom Flex4K drone

What happens when you put a Phantom Flex4K high speed camera on a drone that has 12 motors and a payload capacity of 15lbs?

You get to experience aerial photography nirvana that’s worth $250,000 and that’s exactly what the drone experts at Brain Farm did with their modified Heavy-Lift Aerigon Drone System — the world’s first ever Phantom Flex4K drone.

The Phantom Flex4K itself is an amazing piece of equipment, capable of shooting 1000 frames per second at a resolution of 4K that makes for impressive footage where time slows down to a crawl — the type of slow motion footage commonly featured in action scenes in TV series such as Spartacus and movies such as The Matrix trilogy. When Brain Farm rigged their Aerigon Drone to lift a Flex4K camera, it literary brought the whole Phantom slow-motion experience to all new heights.

Brain Farm’s modified Aerigon cinema drone is the original bad ass of all cinema drones (Photo by Andy Bardon).

When Brain Farm started dreaming of their ultimate cinema drone, they discovered that the stock Aerigon did not have enough thrust to lift the Phantom Flex4K so they teamed up with Intuitive Aerial — the Swedish maker of the Aerigon Drone System, to come up with a turbo-charged version of their stock Aerigon drone and the results, as seen in the video below, are simply amazing.

Brain Farm’s modified Aerigon boasts an increase of 40% in its power output and a retooled gimbal to carry the Phantom Flex4K which weighs close to 15lbs. The project itself took 5 years to complete and what we have now is the equivalent of a flying Ferrari with 12 motors.

UDI U841 (In-Depth Review)

The UDI U841 is a micro quadcopter that has a diagonal rotor size of 100mm and comes with a few unique features that sets it apart from other quads in the same class. At first glance, the 6-axis U841 appears to be another Hubsan X4 clone as it seems to have roughly the same propeller size, motor and dimensions. But upon closer examination you’ll notice that the motors are slightly larger than your average X4 and when you throttle it up, it becomes apparent that this is no X4 clone by any means.

Thanks to the larger and more powerful motors which are some of the biggest I’ve seen so far on a 100mm-size micro quadcopter, the U841 has a far more punchy throttle response and a lot more reserve power compared to the ubiquitous X4. The extra power also means the U841 is very precise in the way it flies and super easy to control. But more powerful motors also means a power-hungry drone and although the U841 comes with a 3.7V 450mAh battery, it has an average flight time of a little over 7 minutes without any payload. In contrast, the X4 comes with a 240mAh battery and has an average flight time of about 9 minutes (without payload).


Despite its shorter flight time, I’d still choose the U841 over an X4 anytime when flying indoors — those powerful motors can be quite addictive. Put the U841 against a X4 in a vertical drag race and the U841 will easily smoke the X4 anytime.


The U841 is also more than just a little micro quad with powerful motors. It comes with a set of propeller guards that double as wheels, giving the U841 some unique features such as the ability to “climb” walls and ceilings as well as rolling on the ground like a small RC car.


  • Size: 100mm (diagonal)
  • Weight 64g (with battery, micro SD card and standard prop guards)
  • Battery: 3.7V 450mAh Li-Po
  • Flight time: 7 minutes (no payload), 2-3 minutes (with video recording and prop guards)
  • Dimensions: 176.5 x 140 x 60.5 mm
  • Control range: Up to 30m
  • Control frequency: 2.4GHz
  • Maximum memory card support: 64GB
  • Video recording modes: HD 1280 x 720p
  • Max bitrate of video storage: 30 Mbps
  • Supported file formats: FAT32, Photo: JPEG, Video: AVI

I’m a big fan of UDI’s quadcopter designs. The entire range of UDI products have an overall aesthetic appeal that is a lot more refined than what the average drone maker has to offer. If you take some time to contemplate on any UDI product, you’ll notice that extra effort has been put into its looks and styling.


The U841 is no exception to this. It almost looks like a black mini Lamborghini with white racing stripes, four small propellers and a pair of menacing blue “headlights”. In my opinion, the U841 is one of the most good looking micro quadcopters around today. It also comes with a really nice radio transmitter that looks as good as it feels.

The flexible plastic used on the U841 and its prop guards appears to be the same plastic used in the UDI U818A which is known to be somewhat immune to abuse. That said, I believe the U841 is one very tough micro quadcopter that can survive extremely hard crashes and knocks.

Strip all that extra weight and the U841 becomes a mini beast of a quadcopter.

Each U841 comes shipped with an extra set of propellers, 3 different sets of prop guards, a USB charger, a 2GB micro SD card and a USB micro SD card reader. My unit came with an extra battery which was great since this little quad drains batteries pretty fast.

Not your average micro quadcopter

The U841 is unique from other micro quadcopters by its special flying configurations. Besides the standard prop guards, the U841 also comes with 2 sets of special prop guards that also double as wheels. The first is a set of four small wheels that attach to the sides of the quad, allowing it to skim the ground like a RC car. The second set consists of two large “Ferris” wheels that allow the U841 to “climb” up walls and move against ceilings. I find the U841 hardest to control when having those large Ferris wheels on although it can appear deceivingly easy to fly in its promotional videos. Hit a wall or hard surface too fast and the propellers will rub against the large wheels. Due to their bigger size, these wheels are also the heaviest props which means shorter flight times.

The U841 can be flown in 4 different configurations.

Apart from these special prop guard configurations, the U841 has all the standard features of typical micro quadcopters. This includes the ability to flip. By pressing down the right stick inwards, the transmitter will start beeping which indicates the quad is ready for a flip. Pushing the right stick in any direction will make the quad flip in the direction you chose.

The transmitter is powered by 4 pieces of AAA batteries and comes with a mini LCD screen that shows you how much battery power it has, radio signal strength, throttle trims, gyro sensitivity level and throttle level. The transmitter has good ergonomics and feels really good in your hands — a far cry from the cheaper transmitters that often come with other micro quadcopters.

The U841 can fly at 3 different gyro sensitivity levels — Low, Medium and High. In “Low” mode, the U841 will fly slower and is easier to control while “High” will unleash the full power of its motors. To toggle between levels, press the left stick inwards.

The U841 also comes equipped with a built-in 720P HD camera for recording stills and video at 30fps.


Due to its unique prop guards and because it was released only a few months ago, the U841 carries a price tag that’s slightly higher than the competition (it currently costs about $60 with shipping). However, in the coming months it should become more affordable.

The U841 looks great in white and red too.

This is a powerful little quad that I’d recommend if you want to fly mostly indoors. The power and raging sound of its motors will convince you it’s not your ordinary 100-size quadcopter. Due to its powerful motors, the U841 has a lot of traction and responses fast to stick movements unlike other quads with smaller motors that tend to feel a bit sedated.

Those bigger motors also have their drawbacks. Due to higher power consumption, the U841 has less than average flight times. Without any payload, it can fly for about 7 minutes. With video recording turned on and prop guards attached, it gets a paltry 2 to 3 minutes of flight time.

More power on the motors also means more damage on the propellers whenever you crash. Despite having prop guards attached, the U841 can still grind its propellers really hard whenever you crash. Always remember to throttle down whenever you think a crash is inevitable to avoid grinding your propellers.

Other than these minor issues, the U841 is really a fantastic micro quadcopter to own and fly. Whether you’re flying just for fun or whether you’re using it as a trainer drone — the U841 won’t disappoint. It’s also a drone that can operate fairly well in tight spaces thanks to its size and control precision.

Hybrid Power Could Let Drones Fly for Hours

Companies like Amazon are annoyed by the FAA’s draft drone rules that restrict commercial use of unmanned aircraft. But the regulations may be a moot point unless delivery drones can actually get where they’re going and back. Commercially available quadcopter drones such as the popular DJI Phantom 2 can fly only half an hour or so on a day that isn’t too windy while carrying less than a pound of payload. Before the drone revolution happens in force, manufacturers must extend the flying time.

Top Flight, a startup out of Malden, Mass., says it has the answer to the range problem in the form of hybrid propulsion, a little like what’s in many new cars. The company’s drones in development carry gasoline-powered generators that charge their onboard batteries in flight. The result, COO John Polo says, is a drone with six 26-inch rotors that can fly more than two hours at a time in gusts of up to 35 miles per hour, while carrying payloads such as cameras, infrared sensors, or crop-spraying equipment.

“The concept of a hybrid engine is an onboard generator,” Polo says. “It’s generating juice all the time. It’s generating juice for the motors, and it’s generating juice for the electronics and whatever is on the payload.”

Military grade

Top Flight is barely a year old and employs fewer than 10 people. But, Polo says, what separates his people is their pedigree. The market is now full of companies like DJI, 3D Robotics, and Parrot that build hobbyist-grade RC aircraft and are trying to make them viable for commercial use. “The manufacturers that manufacture from that bottom-up thinking don’t understand how to make something really safe and redundant, let alone try to fly it beyond the capacity of a battery,” he says.

By contrast, Polo’s Top Flight team is made up of engineers who came from working on military drones, and the military has already tackled the challenges of extended flight and carrying heavy payloads. “We’re following in those footsteps, but making those commercially viable at a much lower price,” Polo says.

Top Flight is aiming for a price point between the $1,000 that DJI charges for a Phantom 2 with camera and the $100,000 price tag for a typical high-end drone that runs on gasoline-only propulsion. “At $19,000, you’ll be able to carry five pounds for two and a half hours, fly 100 miles semi- or fully autonomously, and have gads of redundancy built into it,” Polo says.

The startup is working with clients who want the first production models for industrial applications such as oil pipeline inspection. The company plans to have prototypes ready for customer testing by the end of the summer, and more refined versions for customers by the end of the fall. While this first version will carry five pounds, Top Flight is planning a 30-pound-payload model. “At some point, when it’s called for, we’ll build something at 200 pounds of payload,” Polo says.

Drone traffic control

Batteries are just one piece of the technological puzzle needed to be solved for widespread commercial drone use. Another big challenge for widespread commercial drone use will be managing all the traffic. Imagine potentially hundreds or even thousands of drone flights in a given area at once as delivery drones compete with flying traffic cams and police drones for airspace.

SkyWard, a startup based in Portland, OR, is working on drone dispatching and routing software that would treat the flying machines like packets in the Internet, routing each unit to its destination via the optimal path while avoiding collisions. SkyWard is planning a series of demos through its Urban SkyWays Project, first in London this May and then in Vancouver in June, Nevada in July, and in Portland in September.

Another company vying for dominance in drone traffic control is $3.3 billion defense contractor Exelis, which plans to add drone tracking to the ADS-B system it built for the FAA and that is already in place for tracking manned aircraft. Exelis’ program manager for unmanned aerial systems, Christian Ramsey, tells PM that his company will officially announce its drone-tracking offerings in April and demo them at the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International conference in Atlanta in May.

All of which will be overkill unless drones can fly far enough and carry enough weight to be commercially useful on a large scale, which is why Top Flight is focused on making that possible. If the future really does look like a thousand commercial drones doing business all over the country, maybe we’ll have hybrid tech to thank for it.

Heat-seeking drones latest weapon in battle against rhino poachers

As night draped itself across the savanna in South Africa’s Kruger National Park, a small round disk twinkling with green lights and sounding like a swarm of bees rose straight up into the sky.

Here, on the tarmac of a small airstrip near Skukuza, the latest in drone technology is being tested out as rangers seek to gain the upper hand against poachers who are slipping into the park and felling an average of three rhinos a day in pursuit of their horns and the riches they will buy.

The little unmanned aerial vehicle shooting about 250 metres into the sky is just one of a number of models that will be tested in a year-long pilot project run by a company called UAV and Drone Solutions.

The idea is to give extra reach and eyes to rangers trying to police 20,000 kilometres of territory often covered in scrubland and offering plenty of places for poachers to hide.

The drones use heat imaging to send pictures back to specially kitted out control vans.

There is even a Canadian connection. An Ottawa based-company called C-Com provides the mobile antennas on top of the vans allowing images to be sent via satellite in real time.

“This can make a difference, and it does work,” says Rob Hannaford of UAV and Drone Solutions, adding that the company has tested its wares already in the neighbouring province of KwaZulu-Natal.

“Wherever we flew in KZN and we had an aircraft in that particular area there was no poaching,” Hannaford says.

“If we moved out of the area, activity started again. So although we never physically caught a poacher … and we never saw a poacher … there was a visible policing deterrent.”

‘Drone fever’

Still, Hannover admits that to be effective in Kruger, the rangers will have to have multiple teams.

They will also have some work ahead of them convincing the man in charge of Kruger’s anti-poaching effort, former South African army General Johan Jooste, someone who conducts his job with military precision (and has a soft spot for country and western music).

“I call it drone fever,” Jooste says when I ask him about the pilot project.

“Unfortunately whenever they show you a drone power point or a glossy or a video it shows a pipeline or a road or a highway and they say you can even see the numbers on the number plate.

“Now there are no number plates in this bush.”

Still, testing out these drones is a sign of just how wide a net the authorities are willing to cast for ideas in the fight against poachers, and maybe an admission they’re not winning the war.

“I’ve fought 14 wars and this is by far the most taxing,” said a big burly man named Otch when I visited Jooste at his “operations centre” near the airstrip.

Otch is also a former South African military man drafted by Jooste for this campaign.

“This is the last hope for the rhino,” he says, pointing at his old friend.

A bit melodramatic perhaps — there are plenty of people aside from Jooste trying to save the rhino — but a war is what it is and there is no doubt the rhino is fighting for its survival as a species.

Brazen poaching

There is a strange elegance to these great beasts as they move through the bush – tank-like, gargantuan — yet somehow light on their feet.

And they are less aggressive than they appear, making it easier for the poachers to get quite close to them, say conservationists.

To see their carcasses with the faces hacked off is a heart-wrenching sight, all the more so given that the slaughter goes to feed ill-informed notions in countries like China and Vietnam that the horn contains both mystical and medicinal properties.

There have been some attempts at public awareness and education campaigns, but critics say Asian governments are indifferent to the plight of the rhino.

“Wherever a rhino isn’t safe,” says JP Van Zyl Roux, a South African police officer specifically assigned to combating the illegal trade in wildlife and endangered species.

“It’s a straight, easy commodity, the same as drugs, firearms, endangered species products,” he says.

As long as the demand remains high, national parks and private reserves will have to fortify themselves against poaching attacks. It’s just too lucrative for criminal gangs.

“You have high-profile, violent criminals who are changing from hijacking and cash-in-transit robberies to rhino horn because the risk of being caught is a lot smaller.”

“People would go into a game reserve late afternoon, [at] first dark shoot a rhino and have the horns chopped off, into the vehicle and by 2 o’clock tomorrow morning it’s in Johannesburg.”

Even natural history museums in Europe have been hit by criminal gangs if they have old rhino heads hanging on their walls. It’s a mind boggling, globe-straddling trade.

It is also a trade that won’t be stopped without greater will on the part of governments, including that of South Africa.

The pot of gold at the end of the rainbow is so big it invites all sorts of graft. Van Zyl Roux says the South African government here has paid lip-service to the problem without enacting legislation to deal with it.

Some accused poachers, for example, are let out on bail for as little as 300 rand. That’s about $30, and an invitation to repeat offend if ever there was one.

In the meantime, South Africa, guardian to 80 per cent of the world’s rhinos, is allowing the great beast’s numbers to decline to the point where conservationists warn that it could be extinct within a decade.

In fact, one of the biggest indictments of the South African government’s record so far is the attempt by some groups to move rhino herds out of the country altogether – drones or no drones — in a bid to protect the gene pool.

Say Hello to the TX8 — The 3D Printable Octocopter Drone, Featuring 10″ Props

When it comes radio controlled aerial vehicles, multicopters are more popular than ever. The 3D printing community has gone to great lengths in order to provide for 3D printable replacement parts for these accident prone vehicles–and some designers and developers have gone so far as to create entire 3D printed quadopters, hexacopters, and, in rare cases, even octocopters.

For one New Zealander, named Brendan, 3D printing has been a hobby of his since he got his first 3D printer back in 2013. Around this same time, he was also frequently playing around with quadcopters. He was even part of the group that tested out the 3DR IRIS Quadcopter before it was officially released, and he had also constructed several quadcopters by himself, so it was only his natural progression to begin thinking about how to combine both hobbies: 3D printing and flying robots.

“My initial searches for 3D printed quadcopters turned up designs that essentially mimicked existing off-the-shelf models,” Brendan tells “They didn’t take advantage of some of the benefits of 3D printing – or make allowance for some of its limitations. The first challenge I set for myself was to come up with an improved design for the main arms. The result was the approach that I’ve used in all of my designs – essentially the combination of an ‘I’ beam (that provides vertical strength and rigidity) and a hexagonal ‘tube’ that provided torsional strength while keeping within the 45 degrees maximum overhang rule for 3D printing.”

Brendan first completely designed and built his T6 Hexacopter, and then followed that up by fabricating the T4 Quadcopter as well as a few smaller models, such as his T4 mini 250 and 315.

“All of these designs follow that basic principle of keeping the greatest mass (the batteries) as close to the centre of rotation as possible,” Brendan tells us. “Also, the power electronics and high current wiring is kept down below the battery away from the flight controller to reduce interference with sensors like the magnetometer.”

Brendan’s latest design is probably his most magnificent. It is an octocopter, called the TX8, and it features two motors and two propellers on each of its four arms. It also includes two 4-in-1 ESC motor speed controllers which are wired in such a way that the top and bottom motors are on separate controllers.

“The coaxial design (2 motors on each arm) does reduce the power a bit, compared to an 8 armed octocopter, but only by about 10% and there is a saving in weight, compactness, and overall simplicity that I think are worth it,” Brendan tells us.

The body and non-electrical/computer components are all 3D printed, after being designed in SketchUp. The TX8 weighs just 2.65kg, including batteries, camera, and the gimbal, and it hovers at about 45% throttle. Other features of the TX8 are as follows:

  • Very light but also powerful
  • It is completely 3D printable without the need for any support
  • Strong braced tube section arms with plenty of room to conceal the motor wiring
  • Arms can be folded down or removed altogether for transport
  • Flight controller from 3D Robotics, but it also works fine with other controllers
  • Has a RF “invisible” frame instead carbon fiber or aluminium
  • The 2 x 5000mah 3S batteries gives it a 15+ minute flight time
  • Option of adding larger batteries
  • Designed for dual 3S or 4S batteries located near the center of rotation/thrust with room for up to two 6000mah 3S or 4200mah+ 4S batteries
  • The floating vibration reducing top plate is designed for the Pixhawk

Brendan has made all of the 3D printable files available to download for free on Thingiverse, and he recommends reading this guide to learn more about setting up the electronics. He also offers some friendly tips for those of you who may want to 3D print your very own TX8. They are as follows:

  • Don’t limit yourself to traditional thinking. 3D printers can create all kinds of geometry that is completely internal to the part you are making–for example internal bracing and galleries.
  • Don’t create big spaces just to be filled with infill–they don’t provide as much strength as well as thought out “walls” with open space between do.
  • Think in terms of threads. If you need strength, try to visualize the threads of plastic wrapping around key points (such as bolts) and then continuing on all the way to the other end of the part. If possible don’t interrupt that journey. One example is the arms in in the TX8–at the motor end on the sides of the “tube” there are small gaps that let some of the threads run all the way from one end of the arm to the other.
  • Following on from above, if you need strength, then make sure your layers are oriented in the best way so that if the layers do start to delaminate it has less chance of causing a catastrophic failure.

What do you think about Brendan’s Octocopter? Would you have designed it any differently yourself? Have you tried 3D printing and assembling your own? Discuss in the TX8 Octocopter forum thread on Check out another video of the TX8 in action below.

New 3DRobotics Drone Coming Soon

3DRobotics will be releasing a new drone on April 13, according to a teaser that was recently released on its website. The new model appears to depart from the utilitarian but functional design style of earlier 3DR drones such as the Iris+ and features an exciting new approach to aesthetics.

The teaser does not reveal much detail about the new drone but does give away its name — Solo, for a split second halfway through the video. My guess is the new drone will be called 3DRobotics Solo and will feature the latest APM 3.2 flight controller. 3DR seems to be emphasizing its ease of use with baboons in the video “handling” the drone and its transmitter.

In the video, the new drone sports a sleek body design with a glossy black 3DR logo over a matte black finish and is accompanied by a transmitter that comes with a phone holder — a clue that indicates the new drone probably comes with FPV as a standard feature. The transmitter itself looks ergonomically designed with two dials at the top which might possibly be used to control the drone’s camera gimbal.

The new 3DRobotics drone is scheduled to be revealed just 5 days after the release of another drone by rival company DJI which many expect to be the new Phantom 3.

DJI Releases New and Improved Phantom 3

DJI has announced the long-awaited successor to its highly popular Phantom line of quadcopters — the DJI Phantom 3, — in glitzy product launch events that were held simultaneously in 3 different cities around the world: New York, London and Munich.

At first glance, nothing much appears to have changed on the surface and the new Phantom 3 has an exterior that’s very similar to its predecessor. But underneath that familiar X-shaped exterior lies a host of new features and improvements which include:

  • A new distortion-free camera with full manual control
  • More powerful and efficient motors
  • Impoved ESCs
  • Improved flight stabilization
  • Improved GPS which can lock on to more satellites faster and with better accuracy
  • YouTube live streaming
  • Lightbridge with 1 mile range
  • Inspire 1-style transmitter
  • Optical flow sensors for more accurate indoor flying (trickle-down technology from the Inspire 1)
  • Director feature in Pilot app for automated on-site video editing
  • Automated flight logs and Flight Simulator in Pilot app

Many of these new improvements and features are centered on the Phantom 3 stock camera which makes it a highly formidable aerial photography platform. To emphasize this point, DJI refers to the Phantom 3 as a “flying camera” instead of just a quadcopter with camera and gimbal.

The Phantom 3 will be sold in two variants — the Phantom 3 Professional which comes with a 4K 24/25/30fps camera and the Phantom 3 Advanced which shoots 1080P video at 60fps. Both cameras are capable of shooting 12MP photos with flight times of about 23 minutes. But the thing that has truly got many people excited about the Phantom 3 is its retail price. The Phantom 3 Professional is priced at $1,259 while the Advanced goes for $999. Both models are now available for pre-order and will start shipping at the end of April.

With such attractive prices, the Phantom 3 will certainly put a lot of pressure on its rivals, namely the Yuneec Q500, Walkera QR X350 Premium, Hubsan X4 Pro and upcoming sub-$2,000 drones from companies like 3DRobotics. At this point, its obvious DJI rivals have only two options. Either reduce the price of their existing drones to remain competitive or release new drones with similar or better features to the Phantom 3. DJI has certainly dropped the gauntlet in the drone business again and the ball is now in its rivals’ courts.

The Phantom 3 may have a really impressive list of features but whether it lives up to all the hype remains to be seen. Features will remain features until they are proven to work flawlessly in real situations. But DJI has already proven its worth in producing reliable products accompanied by excellent after-sales service so it’s going to be interesting to see if the Shenzhen-based company can continue to maintain its status as the gold standard in consumer drones with its latest offering.