Thursday, 2 April 2015

The Cactus Micro - $11 Arduino-compatible with ESP2866 wi-fi integrated

I recently purchased the Cactus Micro (made by - it is available on Tindie as well as through this eBay seller.

I have been quite impressed with this item, especially for $11.  It is an Arduino Micro (same driver as Arduino Leonardo or Lilypad USB) and integrates an ESP8266 wi-fi module on pins 11 and 12 for software serial.

Sunday, 15 February 2015

The LED Checker is pretty dang handy

I recently purchased an LED Checker through  It's a tiny little PCB tool for quickly checking and testing surface mount LEDs.  It was a steal for under $10.

There are traces and pads for just about any size and configuration of LED so you can not only check the polarity but also test for function and brightness.  Surface mount LEDs can be a pain because the polarity markings are not easily visible, and the orientation marking is often on the bottom of the unit.

Speaking of polarity markings on the bottom of SMT LEDs - see that big square pad on the lower right?  Coat it with solder, and it becomes a mirror, for easily inspecting the bottoms of LEDs for those markings!

For under $10 my only regret is that I didn't have one years ago.

Monday, 3 November 2014

Flying with Fat Shark FPV Goggles - First Impressions

Recently I got the chance to fly with some Fat Shark Attitude V2 goggles with head tracker and a matching Pan/Tilt/Roll camera mount.  Here's what I thought about the experience.  Maybe it will help you decide whether it is worth it.

Sunday, 26 October 2014

FPV Flying Gone Roughly

I detailed my setup for FPV (First Person View) RC flying in a recent entry.   I also posted a video of some pretty good flying.

But just in case that makes it look like I actually know what I'm doing, here's evidence that I've never really done this before.  Not all FPV flights go well.  Not all bad flights are disasters, either.  This flight was one that was almost a disaster.

Here's an animated gif-illustrated story of my latest flight.  It was a very cold morning but it appeared to be calm and I was all packed up, so I headed out.

Once I was at the field it was a lot windier than I thought.  I flew anyway.  I barely know what I'm doing.

Monday, 13 October 2014

FPV Video

A short while ago I taught myself how to fly an RC airplane and rigged it up with an FPV (First Person View) video setup, so I can watch from the plane's point of view while I fly.

Here is a youtube video (with the really boring bits edited out) of my first flight using a recorder for the video feed.  The whole flight was on one battery.

Check out my Guide on How To Build and Fly an FPV RC Airplane!

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

An FPV RC Setup, or The Guide I Wished I Had

I decided to get into RC aircraft with FPV (first person view) and did it the hard way by learning it all myself.  This is the guide I wished I had when I had started.

I was never interested in RC flying because as far as I was concerned, the plane is the one having all the fun.  FPV changes that by putting a little camera on the plane and letting you fly from the plane's point of view.  Now I can be the one having the fun, and so can you!

Friday, 12 September 2014

Hacking a Mini Quadcopter Controller to Add Yaw Control Shoulder Buttons

Some time ago I purchased a well-reviewed and recommended to me micro quadcopter, the Cheerson CX-10 (I bought mine from

It works well but I modified it to be even better.

It taught me that if I had started with a full-sized quadcopter, I would have certainly wrecked it!  Flying one is a lot harder than I expected, but happily this little thing is very sturdy and is radio controlled, not IR controlled, so it can be flown outdoors.  It has been very useful in teaching me the basics.

However, one complaint I have is that the Yaw control (rotating left/right to change where "front" is facing) is done by turning the throttle joystick left or right.  There's no real problem with this, but on such a small remote and small joystick it's nearly impossible to tilt the joystick left or right without also moving it up or down and changing the throttle.

I solved this with a minor hack to add two "shoulder buttons" that will rotate the model left or right at a moderate rate when pressed.  I can still use the joystick, but I prefer to use the joystick only for throttle and use the new shoulder buttons to control Yaw.  Much better!