EEVblog #230 – ArduCopter ArduPilot Troubleshooting

Dave, Phil, and Rog battle Murphy to find an elusive short on their ArduCopter ArduPilot IMU (OilPan) board before they can get their CanyonCopter in the air for its first test flight.
Or, how to trace down a short on your power rail.

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  1. That was a bit of fun.

    I enjoyed the tip about using high quality, professional, name brand, ultra sharp probes as a pointer to scratch laptop’s LCD screen.

  2. The HP 547A current tracer is a very useful tool for finding shorts

    They can be found on ebay.


  3. I generally put a current-limited supply on the rail and then trace millivolts. It’s pretty convenient because it gives you an indication that you’re getting warmer when the voltage keeps going down as you go along some trace.

    Innocent traces have the same voltage all along them.

    Besides, you don’t need as good a meter. 😉

    Fun post.


    Phil Hobbs

  4. Kudos for keeping all the trouble shooting in the video from before you found out the problem. I’m sure a lot of other people would’ve ‘lost’ the video before transmission.

    Also, I’m just in the process of building an ardupilot based quad, tho’ with my own frame. Your first test flights seemed very similar to mine! I was testing indoors and managed to lose control and smash three rotors!

    Look forward to seeing the full flight! I’m waiting for the UK weather to behave so I can take it outdoors for my first maiden flight.

    Great video blog btw. Been watching it for a few months now. Very informative and fun to watch.


    • Doesn’t make a very interesting video if I leave out being led up the garden path!
      I’m not embarrassed to show my steps.
      It’s not like I was dumb on this one, there were some very good reasons for not finding that short sooner, and I think that’s valuable to share.

      • Best video in a while, I think.
        Troubleshooting is interesting, because it requires both knowledge, experience and imagination.
        Nevermind the simple solution at the end, the journey there is the reward, in my opinion.
        I hope you find more opportunities like this to show how to use instruments in practise, instead of just reviewing them.

  5. Hey Dave,

    During the video I heard you ask whether you could stop the motors from the controller. The controller should have a Throttle Hold switch that will completely stop the motors. I don’t know if the functionality is programmed in but I would try it out.

    Also its not generally a great idea to drain the battery until it is at or below 3v. Could damage/kill a cell or the whole pack.

    This one got me wanting to finish mine…

    Love the podcast !!


  6. Since we are just building the same Arducopter electronics your video was very interesting. I linked it in my website. Great site, awesome videos!

    Just one security hint: NEVER grab a quadrocopter with spinning props from the top!
    Why? Look here:

  7. To find a ‘hard’ short I find if you use a bench power supply which is current limited to say a 100mA, and applying the voltage across the short, within a few minutes you will find the ‘hot spot’…i.e. the short.

    I thought you were leading up to this trick when you mentioned ‘blowing up the short’.

    Current limiting the source will ensure the ‘blowing up’ may not happen but will certainly ‘higlight’ the short.

    • Funny you mention finding the hot-spot. That was the technique I was waiting for. Though in my lab we use a high resolution thermal camera. Works like a charm, a bit pricey for a hobbyist, but in a professional lab it can pay itself off real fast.

  8. Wow – one of your best videos, Dave.
    I recommend doing more debug videos with other people in the video with you, either as camera operators or occasionally asking questions. You seem calmer (voice stays lower), and you seem to be having more fun.
    The video was made better with the artificial constraint of *really* not wanting to drive over to the lab, making do with the instruments on hand, and getting a great result.
    I hope whoever forced the 4-pin connector into the 6 pin jack (and bent the pin) bought the lemonades at the end of the day.

  9. Hehe I remember going through that stage with my quad copter as well! A few tips: Adjust the PID sensitivity to not much to get slow reactions, and adjust the trims on your controller so the thing will hover in one place without needing constant inputs.
    Checkout the training wheels I put on mine 🙂

  10. Hi

    This is a most useful technique, in fact I could already use it to find an etching error on an itead pcb.

    Thank you so much !


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