Most FCs have companion software that is used to update the dozens upon dozens of configuration parameters used in the FC. One does not typically need a laptop at the flying field unless you have changed components on the quadcopter or updated the firmware in the FC. If so, being able to change the parameters is necessary. Many FCs, such as the one I use, allow the user to enter cooridnates, using a computer, for a pre-planned flight mission. When launched, the FC then assumes full control of the flight and if all goes well, lands the quadcopter at the designated location when the mission is complete. This is where experience comes into play as you don't want to send your quacdopter on a flight path where it could run out of battery power before returning home, else you'll be out in the field or woods looking for it.
Here you can see the FC and GPS modules mounted on top of the upper deck of the quadcopter. A protective plastic shell covers both modules. It provides for some degree of damage protection (in case of a crash) as well as keeping the sensitive electronics out of the direct airstream. Wind pressure can easily cause false sensor readings in the barometer which can cause instability and other problems. It also allows the pilot to monitor a number of LED indicators on both of the modules during pre-flight checkout.
Speaking of LED indicators you can see some of them in this photo. They are used to indicate a variety of functions such as GPS lock, meaning the module has a solid and reliable GPS signal, and FC communications status. Even the telemetry radios use LED indicators to indicate radio link and data transfer status.
The telemetry radios, of which there are two, are used to transfer FC data between the quadcopter and a laptop PC at the launch point. This allows the pilot to monitor a wide variety of flight data, just like a pilot would do while looking at gauges and displays in a real cockpit. Airspeed, altitude, and heading are just a few of the readings available. Navigational data is also transfered by the telemetry radios. This allows the pilot to see a real-time update of the quadcopter's postion on a map displayed on the latop.
When it is all assembled and the FC is properly configured for all of the parameters that are unique to a particular quadcopter's configuration, you can launch and fly the quadcopter. There is a learning curve involved with flying a quadcopter, just like any other RC aircraft....and yes, I've crashed mine a number of times. Spare parts are your friends.
Afer a few flights, I decided to cut some pieces green and orange swimming pool noodles. These pieces of foam where then attached to the front and back of the quadcopter. It made it much easier to quickly identify the front and back of the quadcopter when at distance. My eyesight isn't as good as it was so I'll use any advantage I can.
What you see in the above photo is a typical outing for flying the quadcopter. I have a small laptop that works nicely for displaying all the telemetry. Note the antenna on the telemetry radio that is plugged into the laptop's USB port. To get the most out of my flying sessions, I use a battery charger that can be powered by my car's battery so I can easily recharge the quadcopter's flight batteries. This provides more flying time when I hit the field.
And there is one more thing I should mention about building and flying a quadcopter....it is an experience that can be shared with your grandson too! That is something you can't put a price on.
I hope this write-up about my quadcopter has provided you with some basic information on what goes into building one of your own. They are fun to build and fly. There are FAA rules that you must abide by when flying. It protects the occupants of someone flying in a real aircraft, it protects you, and it protects me from your quadcopter falling out of the sky because you did something stupid. Be safe and have fun!
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