Return of the Drone – Controller Enhancement

Drone caughtHello and welcome to the blog.  Once again, I did another drone flight but with a new one this time!  The old drone is lost, possibly forever.  It crash landed a couple of weeks ago near the edge of town.  Trying to recover it, I sprained the right ankle while searching for the quadcopter in a snowy farm field.  Once the snow melts, it may be possible to recover the tiny aircraft… There are pieces that would come in handy for spare parts.

On the first flight today I lost signal a couple of times with the drone heading toward an area it should not go.  When I could cut power a bit for landing,  the quadcopter veered off course.  It landed in the tree in my yard, roughly 20 feet above the ground.  No biggie – all I had to do was tape some broom handles together and stand on a ladder.  It looked kind of silly with me poking at a bare tree just after we had a 13 inch snowfall over the weekend.  Thankfully, the drone was retrieved uninjured.

controllerHere’s the link to the latest video from Monday:    Test flight near Highway 64

One of the minor problems I’ve encountered with Syma X5C-1 drone is that the range between the controller and drone is a bit limited.  The antenna in each device is 30 millimeters long – at that frequency it is equivalent to the 1/4 wavelength antenna many of us had during the citizen band (CB) radio days.  (The formula is 234 / frequency in MHz).  A little better performance can be gained by making a 1/2 wavelength antenna.  Remembering that 2.4 Ghz = 2400 Mhz, the 1/2 wave formula is 468 / 2400 … Basically, the new antenna + the old wire antenna will total 60 millimeters long.

Antenna_Back Cover OpenIf you can use a soldering iron, modifying the controller antenna is simple and you don’t have to watch a 10 minute video to do it!

Just take the back cover off the controller by undoing the four corner screws and the two screws next to the plastic dummy “antenna”.

Locate the antenna… It is just a piece of insulated wire (30 mm long) that extends near the circuit board.. and doesn’t even go into the decorative antenna tube!

All you need to do is to double the length.  Don’t get carried away though… More length is not necessarily better because antenna length must correspond to a transmitter’s frequency or inefficiencies will develop and performance can worsen.

So where can you get 30 mm of copper wire in a pinch?  I found some old cable TV coaxial cable and cut away the insulation; the center copper conductor worked perfectly.

IMG_1982So how long is 30 millimeters?  Without a ruler handy I did the next best thing.  I cut the wire to 36 mm using two dimes (using Google to learn the diameter for each is 17.91 mm) as a measure.  Soldering the two wires together would take up the extra 5.8 mm.

Next, very gently strip some insulation from the antenna wire on the controller.  Solder the extension wire to the original antenna.  Then just slide the dummy antenna (the black tube) over the wire extension and fit the tube back into its little slot.

Fix ControllerIf you can do this, then there is another performance enhancement that will further help boost the range.  This involves opening up the drone, locating the wire antenna, and doubling its length as well.  I’m not anxious to do that right now – perhaps with the first repair job the upgrade can be installed.  For now, we’ll see how good this initial tweak works.  Users have reported that it helps a lot.

As far as the new little drone, it’s doing great… no harm done.  Talk about fun!  For an inexpensive starter model, the X5C-1 is a great choice…  It would make a fun toy for those readers who are dwelling on BLM land out west…

Thanks for stopping by today.  If this page helps other drone owners, please leave a comment for the blog.  I learned about this fix from other Syma users and am happy to pass the word along!

Bradford, Jesse, and Serena
Jones County, Iowa

About VanTrekker

I am a former vandweller in Eastern Iowa who, for several years (off and on), lived in a 2007 Chevy cargo van. I still travel around Iowa with my tortoise shell cat, Jennifer Stefanie. Our favorite place to explore is the Country Heritage Community, the four far northeastern counties of Iowa (Clayton, Winneshiek, Allamakee, and Fayette). Ride along as we fish in pristine trout streams, enjoy fine home cooked camping meals, and meet new people. It's all possible on a shoestring budget. Happy travels always! --- Brad, the "Van Trekker"
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