This article isn’t going to be of much interest if you are not a new owner of the Xiaomi Mi Drone, although you might get a few ideas from it.
After about three months of flying, I’ve learned a thing or two – mostly the hard way – and thought I’d pass on what I’ve discovered. I suppose we all have our personal preferences, so you may not agree with all my ideas, but if you find just one thing that makes your flying easier, I’ll be happy.
Let’s start with…
The Remote Controller, or R/C:
- The way I hold the controller means my middle fingers rest nicely on the video start/end and snap-a-photograph buttons on the bottom of the R/C. This is not good. It means I’m randomly starting and stopping the video and taking photos while I’m flying. I had to find a solution.
So, I glued a couple of pads of some spongy material on the outside edges of the buttons. As a result I don’t touch the buttons accidentally, but I can press them when I need to.
- Since I use an iPad as an R/C FPV screen, I had to buy and fit one of those third-party holders. The first problem I had with this contraption is that it progressively loosens the screw and nut that holds the lanyard mounting point – i.e. the same place you fix the iPad gizmo. Before you mount yours, I’d recommend opening the R/C casing (check out this video to see how) and get the nut as tight as possible. Some Loctite would help, as would a second nut.
But the biggest problem I encountered was that the weight of the iPad would cause the upper part of the mounting (where you actually put the iPad) to fall back … usually in mid-flight. I solved this by hunting through my bitsametal box and finding two pieces that would act as supports. Fitting them involved cutting away part of the plastic, which in turn freed-up two holes for mounting the metal brackets. It’s crude, but effective. I’ve had no more problems with the iPad suddenly falling backwards.
- This tip is definitely a case of YMMV, as my R/C battery may be defective. But, whenever I press the left-side power button to check the battery level, it shows me four LEDs to indicate fully charged. It’s lying. If I plug-in the USB cable to charge the R/C battery, often only one or two LEDs light up, and it can take a couple of hours for the battery to charge fully. As I say, you may not have this problem, but it’s caught me out a couple of times mid-flight, when the R/C has started beeping and acting strangely.
- Snip off that irritating flap. It has to be open when you’re outside and flying – either so you can connect a USB cable or the WiFi dongle, so what use it? Unless you live in a tent in the middle of a desert, I doubt any significant amount of dust can get in there when you’re indoors, so the only use for the flap seems to be to drive you crazy. Do the same to the battery charger connector.
- By default, the right-side wheel will adjust camera exposure. And that’s where my right index finger rests. Which means, just like the buttons on the back, I move it accidentally. The left-side wheel, that adjusts the gimbal angle, is spring-loaded and auto-centers. Moving that accidentally is less likely. I’ve made a few flights where the video has been totally washed out – i.e., almost white – or so dark it was impossible to see anything.
But, as I say, adjusting the camera exposure is the default setting, which you can change in the Mi app. The setting of the right dial can be changed so that it adjusts the intensity of the front LEDs, which in daylight, I could care less about. You can still alter all the camera settings inside the app.
- While we’re on the subject of the adjustment wheels or dials, have you ever tried to make a video while moving up and over an object, and at the same time adjusting the gimbal from horizontal to vertical? It’s when you discover you need three hands – in order to move up and forward while changing the gimbal angle. Making the first two maneuvers is not too hard because you can see the drone, but it’s tough to co-ordinate that with the speed of the gimbal change angle.
You can make this a little easier by making use of the notches in the wheel. You can stick a finger nail into a notch and move the wheel to the bottom and hold it there. The gimbal will move at a steady speed without any further adjustment.
To learn what speed, you can experiment when not flying. I find the third notch will result in about a 12 second movement, the fourth notch about 8 seconds and the fifth about 3 or 4 seconds. The first and second notches are probably too slow.
- Due to the weight of the iPad, using a regular lanyard to support the R/C can be less than comfortable. I solved this by putting a key ring through the lanyard hole and then attaching a more robust, and more comfortable, strap from a shoulder bag.
Next time, in Part 2, I’ll talk about the Mi app. Coming soon.