High Power Rocketry

Drones are great. But there’s just something about a big ol’ rocket that keeps me coming back for more. Check out this 8′ high power rocket we made at school. Yes, there is drone footage. Yes, we almost smashed a drone at 400 mph.

 

 

Look out below! Dropping objects from 400ft

Small unmanned aircraft systems are really good at what they do – capturing stunning aerial footage. This capability has been utilized by dozens of industries. From real estate listings to search and rescue operations, everyone needs eyes in the sky. But what if your drone could be more than a flying camera? What if it could be a workhorse?

Enter FliFLi Airdrop

Supported Models: Phantom 3, 4

FliFli unlocks a whole new capability of your aircraft: carrying payloads. With its receding mechanical latch, a pilot can take and drop objects as far away as the remote allows. When it comes to possible applications, the sky really is the limit.

Included in the box: charging cable, carrying case, remote lanyard, remote, FliFli device, mounting plate
Tip:  I prefer to use the two-headed charging cable like the the one included with the PolarPro light bars to charge both the device and controller at once.
You’ll notice the design looks an awful lot like the Phantom, from the white color scheme to the LED lights.
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The operation is pretty simple. One button press displays the battery power, and holding the second time switches the power on or off, just like the aircraft or batteries. When powered on, pressing the controller button once opens the mechanical arm and a second press closes it.
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 Pros
-Quick and easy to assemble.
-Mechanical arm mechanism can be utilized in many ways
-FliFli can support any load the drone can handle; the arm holds the payload very securely
-Aesthetic design looks like an official DJI product
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Cons
-Relatively short battery life, including shelf life
-Remote range shorter than drone controller range (although still over 3,200ft)
-Mounting bracket does not fit flush against aircraft; see first .gif
-Only currently available for Phantom series
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The applications are limitless. What would you drop with a FliFli? Let me know in the comments. Until then, here’s some ideas to get you started:
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It’s Lit 🔥: These LED lights attach in seconds

It snaps on like a gimbal guard, but don’t be fooled – this is an LED bar.

PolarPro Light Bar

Supported Models: Phantom 3, 4

Here’s the quick and dirty about flying drones at night. Recreational pilots can do so at their discretion. Commercial Part 107 flights require a 107.29 waiver for operations before morning civil twilight and after evening civil twilight. Either way, you’re going to need lights.

There’s an excellent night flying primer by Zacc Ducowitz over at Drone Pilot Ground School.

I ordered my PolarPro light bar from Amazon.

 

Amazon used a really large box to ship a small box. Logic. While the product was in good condition, the front window did have some some untrimmed plastic which came off as a little tacky. Oh well, it’s what’s inside the box that matters.

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Inside the box are two LED light bars, identical in every way but light color. One shines white, the other red, but neither are labeled. A double-headed mini-USB charger is also included. I was pleased with how easy it was to assemble and operate. Each bar snaps securely across the legs in a matter of seconds. There’s only one button, located on the back. The first press turns the light on, a second press changes into “blink” mode, and a third turns the device off. The batteries last for 90 minutes (or 150 minutes blinking). However, there is no way to check the battery power. The overall build quality feels like a premium product that could have come from DJI themselves.  Plus, they come with a lifetime warranty through PolarPro.
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Looks pretty spiffy if I must say so myself.  
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Have you ever wanted to fly at night? Let me know in the comments.
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Bonus: Some night flying inspiration.
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Extending DJI Go with LITCHI

Supported Models: Mavic, Phantom, Inspire, Spark

Supported Operating Systems: iOS, Android

You may have heard the term “Litchi” thrown around in drone forums and videos. Litchi is a 3rd party app that seeks to improve upon the official DJI Go app. If you‘re anything like me, you’re probably wondering why anyone would shell out $22.99 for something that DJI offers for free.

For me, it started when I was struggling to stitch panoramic photos. My pictures were getting rejected by DroneBase. Even the best programs like Kolor couldn’t make heads or tails of my photos. Manually rotating the aircraft just wasn’t cutting it. After some research, I learned that the Litchi app would completely automate the process. Before even reading the other features, I decided to give Litchi a shot. And boy did it work – not only did the photos fit together with laser-precision, but a recent update allowed for in-app stitching. The Litchi “high quality” stitch still had some errors, not to mention their logo taking up sky real estate. (I asked if that could be turned off, but, alas, Litchi support told me no) With a little cleaning up in Photoshop, I was still able to get this pano on my very first day.

So panoramas are an area where Litchi has a huge leg up on DJI Go. However, let’s step back and compare pros and cons of Litchi to help you decide if it’s something you’d honestly get any value out of.

PROS

FPV mode: As great as the official DJI goggles are, not everyone can spend $400 on the experience. Litchi supports 3rd party VR headsets, including head movement tracking, to bring the experience to anyone as cheaply as $10-$20.

Improved Waypoint Mode: Litchi’s waypoint mode is loaded with features like curve smoothing, points of interest, batch adding/editing, mission pre-design, etc. It even finishes its mission after losing connection to the controller. The official Go app requires you fly the mission manually first.

Tracking for All: While the DJI Go app offers subject tracking for the Phantom 4 series, Litchi extends this feature to owners of other models as well.

Freedom: While I value safety, DJI was starting to feel like big brother telling me where I can and can’t take off or fly. Unlocking areas around airports that don’t even exist anymore was getting old, and Litchi doesn’t have the same location nanny that Go does. Actually, there’s ZERO pop-ups on your screen with Litchi.

CONS

No Cache, Previews: As far as I know, there is no way to preview non-pano photos and videos taken with Litchi without actually hooking up to a PC. The app isn’t very upfront about this, and I spent forever hunting down photo/video on my device that didn’t exist.

Camera Settings: DJI is a camera company first and foremost – the Litchi app just doesn’t offer the same detailed control over camera settings that the Go app does.

Bugs: I haven’t personally had an error or bug, but do a little Googling and you’ll find that there are still wrinkles to work out in the code. The latest patches can be found on the Litchi site. Remember, you can switch back to the Go app mid-flight if you do experience an error in Litchi. Whatever you do, stay calm, take a deep breath, and use your head.

Design: Face it. DJI has the budget to create a fully fleshed out, aesthetically pleasing app. Litchi just doesn’t have the same UX that Go offers.

CONCLUSION

While Litchi isn’t for everyone, it does act as an indispensable extension of the DJI Go app for those who need it. I found it worth the price for the pano feature alone. If you feel uneasy about dropping money on software, consider the following. The whole point of buying any accessory for your drone is to solve a problem by making your aircraft do new things. Whether it’s hardware or software, you’re unlocking new capabilities in the sky.

Note on Android version: The Android version of Litchi has a slightly different UI, but the same basic capabilities. Many Android users report a disconnect bug with the Go app, so switching to Litchi is a possible solution. Keep in mind that the Android version is actually pricier than the Apple version at $24.99.

*Supporting the blog is free to you. Just use this link if you purchase the iOS version of the app.

Welcome to We Mod Quads! I’m Zack, a Part 107 certified aerospace engineering student. I made this blog to test and share the coolest aftermarket products for drones. I will primarily test and discuss products in the context of DJI families of aircraft. Often, these items work with other makes and models as well. Hopefully We Mod Quads content is as fun and educational for you as it was for me to make! Outside of studying rocket science in class, you’ll find me crewing hot air balloons, training Muay Thai, or snowboarding.

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