I'm going with a joystick for the main controls because everyone knows how to use one. A joystick is primarily used for direction and speed, it should be received well as a participant interface.
I need 6 commands minimum (up/ down/ left/ right/ forward/ back) and the joystick that I chose is made up of 4 microswitches, so only 4 controls. I love arcade buttons, so I decided to add 2 of those.
Inside of the controller is an Adafruit Feather (has an ESP8266 on it) and a battery.
I used Inventor to model this. Already realized that this rev 1 is missing holes for the battery charging and a reset switch. I also should have added screw holes on the bosses to make them less hollow.
I can fix these post print though :D
and started printing last night. It looks good so far!
I'm pretty excited. The blimp flies and is as controllable as a large envelope full of helium in a drafty house can be ;)
The blimp shown here is 24" diameter, 8" high.
So what's different about this revision and why does it fly?
Motors are spinning super fast and drawing about 200mA each.
New motor drivers provide motors with battery voltage, but control voltage is separate, allowing for motors to get maximum power.
Board is 0.8mm thick and cut the weight of the PCB in half - thank you @oshpark!
Buck boost converter is slightly on the edge with allowing 1.3A, but is much more capable than the voltage regulator in earlier revisions.
Code has been revised so that there is no lag between control switch and motor.
I had a memory leak in which the ram was spinning down and causing the connection to drop. Turns out the libraries (2.4.1) provided for ESP8266WiFi have a bug. A down rev (2.4.0) fixed that problem, but it still took me a day to figure it out.
Evaluate battery draw with special wattmeter designed to look at single cell draw
The hardware is there to measure battery levels, add this to code and send signal when low.
There are still connection loss issues, hopefully adding error handling to code will address this.
FUN! Design controller for joystick and buttons. I'm envisioning a figure eight so that it fits nicely in the hand.
Test with 24" blimp when that arrives
Add ESP reset switch or button to gondola hardware
Add ESP reset switch of button to joystick hardware
I designed an intermediary board to test out a new buck-boost voltage regulator, new motor driver, and a tag connect cable. For those of you in the ESPxxx forum, this is v2 intermediary board with EN tied to VBATT.
I intend to run the board with a single cell Lithium battery no less than 3.6V.
For testing, I am using a benchtop power supply (adjustable V, 3A) or a wallwart (5V, 1.6A).
The new voltage regulator, ADP2504, can provide a current output (see diagram on page 6) of over 800mA at VIN 3.6V. The inductor is rated for 700mA. Capacitors are X5R type.
Screenshot of ADP2504 schematic::
So far, I have populated the board with the ADP and the ESP-12S.
These two weird things are happening:
With power input from benchtop > 4.6V, ESP is able to program and hold the program. Under 4.6V, it is iffy, meaning that the program does not run all the time. Same (expected) results with wallwart at 5V.
Current draw after ESP reset is less than 60mA, but sometimes (often at lower voltage) the current draw jumps up to as much as 210mA.
Does anyone have an idea why this could be happening?
UPDATE: benchtop power supply is wonky and gives inconsistent readings, shuts off randomly, and probably puts out inconsistent power. My best guess is that its constant current output is stuck on something not desirable. I've had it for over 8 years, so....
To add to the gotchas:
New Macbook Pro is incompatible with anything FTDI (seriously WTF)
Fluke 16 measures a full 0.1V higher than the benchtop - no clue what is accurate now.
3VDC wall wart with indecipherable 2008 cell phone end now chopped off puts out something definitely not 3V!
Brand new air gun is making a horrible death rattle.
I decided to go the route of a redesign on a couple of components. It was obvious that the voltage drop in the original voltage regulator was causing the regulator to be a steady 3.3V, especially as the single cell battery dropped below 3.7V. This caused the the ESP to reset occasionally.
I've chosen an Analog Devices buck-boost regulator to replace the AP2112. Yes it costs $1.57 more than something else, but this one has a lot of documentation, and is more likely to work the first time.
After @Ted Yapo commented on my last log, I also realized that the fan motor driver I chose has a high voltage saturation need on the two outputs, limiting the power actually available to the motor itself. I've used fan drivers for other projects and like the simplicity of the part, but I redesigned the board to include an actual brushed motor driver.
I made a square, somewhat spread-out PCB to test the new features, it's an intermediate step before putting all these new parts on the board and having no space to probe.
I sent it off last night to @oshpark's super swift service. It includes:
Tag Connect layout! >> this one I'm really excited about
New buck-boost >> already realized I forgot to put the thermal vias in
New motor driver >> only one, so the the buck-boost won't be getting that hot anyway :)
On-off linear switch (replaces annoying momentary)
My flight test showed me that my motors didn't have enough lift/ draw enough current/ rotate fast enough. I ordered several motors to test from Uxcell ranging from 13,000 rpms to 40,000 rpms.
All the motors I bought have rpm ratings + voltage, but no kV rating.
Motor kV (the rpm constant, not kilovolts) is the relationship between rpm and generated back emf (force). It's defined as the number of revolutions per minute (rpm) that the motor will turn when 1V is applied to the motor with no load. So rpms/ volt.
A low kV (more winds, thinner wire) will have higher volts/ less amps/ higher torque so it can swing a larger propeller.
A high kV (less winds, thicker wire) will have low volts/ higher amps/ lower torque for swinging a smaller propeller.
The blimp is working a lot better. The motors are just not fast enough, nor are the propellers moving enough air to make enough of a difference. I put a 500 mA battery on it which is why now there are 5 balloons needed to hold it up :/ (I am afraid to weigh the gondola now).
Tonight I got all the motors working and attached the blimp's gondola to a big purple cube filled with Helium.
There it is! The blimp sort of hovers and falls at the same time despite the motors turning as fast as they can. You can barely feel any lift from the poor little things! I've bought a lot of motors from random places, so now it's going to be time to figure out the right one with the right propeller.
The motors I'm using pull 230 mA at max speed. The drivers I'm using spec a max of 70 mA, although I'm pulling 110 mA (and no heat, maybe I'm misreading something?).
I think the main problem is the battery though. It's one cell, 105 mA, so it just doesn't have enough ooomph. I also haven't measured the inrush current yet... could be that it's just killing the battery in one short second.
Define best possible scenario for battery + motors (GAINING WEIGHT NOOOO)
Order new motors
Revisit motor drivers
Add 2 momentary buttons to controls for up/ down (save joystick for forward/ reverse/ left/ right)
Today I connected a Feather (Adafruit's HUZZAH + some other niceties) with a giant red joystick. The joystick switches ON-OFF via 4 microswitches rather than proportional movement. That's OK, the motor drivers I've started out deliver an ON-OFF signal as well. All 4 switches work and have been tested using the onboard LED on the ESP8266 (on the HUZZAH).
Working on making one ESP8266 (connected to joystick) talk to the other ESP8266 (connected to motors + blimp). Found a project on Instructables to get started with. Now the motors are controlled by joystick :)
There's some massive lag here, not really sure why.