Part 3 of our exclusive interview with the R&D Management team of the China based IndieGoGo Crowd-Funder ‘OnagoFly’.
This section of the interview will focus on the remaining questions around the drone functionality, the Android and iPhone apps and include discussion around some of the suggestions made by us and backers.
D-On: Many users have complained about your choice of brittle and inflexible props which break easily on single impact, why the choice of those specific props and will you be testing with alternative props to offer as spares in an online shop?
Wei: “Good question, I firstly have to say sorry to our customers as we do now accept that the current propellers are not great quality. We are now improving these and have contacted a new company whom are experts in this industry, we have provided our motor axis/dimensions to them for new props to be designed especially for us.
The new propellers are softer and far more flexible, the dynamics will also be better as well as reduced noise when running.”
D-On: Very positive to hear, but users whom have already received their OnagoFly and the old propellers may be disappointed by this, how can you address that?
Wei: “The old propellers are not perfect but they are usable and does fly well with them and so we can’t replace them for free, but the new propellers will not be expensive at all and so we would only charge a small shipping cost for backers whom would like them.”
D-On: On that basis, some users will wish to buy their spare props elsewhere, what are the precise dimensions and spindle size for the props?
Wei: “The spindle size for the OnagoFly propellers is 1.5mm and we recommend that customers do not use more than 3 inches propellers with a pitch of 2 inches (3″x2″).”
D-On: The ‘Lock’ button used to start/stop the motors, seems to be very unreliable and requires trial and error to get it to work?
Wei: “As mentioned earlier in the interview, we acknowledge the confusion here. The ‘Lock’ button should be pressed and held for approximately 2 seconds to start the motors spinning, this is for safety to avoid the motors being started by accident.
There is however another trick which can be used, put the throttle bar to the lowest point and at the same time slide the left control to the far right, this will also starts the OnagoFly.”
D-On: Also users have problems with the throttle slider. Is the app being improved so that the control inputs are more responsive and do not require the user to press on an exact spot to give inputs.
Wei: “Yes we have implemented a new joystick (in joystick mode) for the yaw control (on the left) which moves to wherever the pilots puts his finger on the screen. We will also consider doing something similar for the throttle on the right-side to make it more responsive.”
D-On: You have announced that you’ll be developing a v1.5 OnagoFly which is slightly larger and has a removable but smaller capacity battery. What is the impact here on flight time?
Wei: “Due to the smaller removable battery of the v1.5 (size to be confirmed but we shall confirm soon) the flight time will of course be shorter, however due to this we can now confirm that we will offer backers that choose to go with the v1.5 two batteries instead of just the one, for free.”
D-On: The first-generation v1.0 units suffered from battery charging issues due to the lack of a lithium polymer protection circuit to avoid cells dropping below an acceptable voltage, why was this not considered as it is standard when utilising LiPo batteries in any device.
Wei: “Honestly speaking we didn’t have previous experience in this area and we made a mistake when designing the batteries and charger. We have now learnt from the error and the new v1.0 (and v1.5) batteries now include a voltage protection PCB.
We also introduced a new charger which will avoid battery charging issues, this charger will work with v1.0 and also v1.5 batteries.”
D-On: For how long will you provide firmware updates for the v1.0 and v1.5 models? If a new hardware revision is released (i.e. v2.0) will you still provide firmware updates for the older versions?
Wei: “We will provide firmware updates for v1.0 and also v1.5 for a very long time, those models are very different to the plan for v2.0 which targets a very different customer.”
D-On: Is the app compatible with all versions of OnagoFly so that owners of the original 1.0 can take advantage of improvements made in the newer app?
Wei: “There is only one version of the app (for each OS) which caters for all versions of OnagoFly, this means that all backers can enjoy the updates regardless of which version of OnagoFly they own. We can also announce that the Android app will be updated again in a few days, iOS app will also have an update in the next few weeks or so (due to the Apple Store Approval delay).”
D-On: A decision was made that the low-battery state would trigger an auto-land instead of a ‘Return To Home’ (RTH) which was first suggested in the IndieGoGo campaign. As a quadcopter enthusiast myself I personally think that you made the right decision because RTH on a quadcopter of this size and limited capability with such limited control range is just not necessary, but backers would like to know the basis for this decision?
Wei: “We believe that customers will change their ‘home’ position frequently whilst flying the OnagoFly and so we did not want the OnagoFly flying back to the original home point autonomously without the pilot being in control of where it will be landing. Also, the OnagoFly should always be flown within visua-range (line of sight) and therefore we removed the ‘Return Home’ function.”
D-On: Talking of range, what is the maximum distance and altitude for OnagoFly and are any hardware/software limits imposed?
Wei: “We did some experiments around this and the maximum height and distance all depend on the Wifi signal and of course the strength of this varies between Smart Devices. In best conditions that we could simulate without Wifi disturbance, the maximum distance was approximately 100m. In terms of altitude, for safety concerns we have limited the maximum height to 40m.”
D-On: And are the distance and altitude shown on the screen to the pilot when flying OnagoFly?
Wei: “In the current app these details are not shown but in our new app released this week (Android) and in the next few weeks for iOS, we will show the altitude/height. We like your suggestion of adding the distance and so we will now consider adding that as well.”
D-On: The tab within the app for actually flying the OnagoFly is called “Media”, however this terminology it wrong as “Media” would normally be used to describe the part of the app for looking at photos/videos captured during past flights? Can this be renamed to “Flight Mode” or similar?
Wei: “Yes, that makes sense and we will look to rename this tab, thanks for the suggestion”.
D-On: With the iOS app, if you position the phone in a horizontal orientation, the ‘Connect to Camera’ button is not visible, also there are layout problems with the ‘Photo Album’ view in this orientation. Can these issues please be investigated and corrected in an app update.
Wei: “The ‘Connect to Camera’ issue has been fixed in the new iOS app to be released in the next few weeks and we apologise for the inconvenience. We will also investigate the ‘Photo Album’ issue.”
D-On: With the Obstacle Avoidance button under ‘Settings’, it is not clear whether the feature is turned ‘On’ or ‘Off’ indicated by the grey or blue highlight. Users have reported that the same confusion of ‘On’ vs ‘Off’ applies to other buttons within the app. Could you consider using more logical indication, for example highlight the button in green if ‘On’, if it is ‘Off’ then make it grey?
Wei: “Yes, good suggestions and we will consider implementing this!”
D-On: When taking a photo, no audio feedback or confirmation is given that it has been captured successfully. Could a ‘click’ or ‘camera shutter’ sound be introduced to the app so that the user knows that the capture was successful.
Wei: “Yes, I have good news that this has already been implemented in the new version of the app!”
D-On: When switching between ‘Video’ and ‘Picture’ mode whilst flying, the screen changes and this can affect the users ability to control OnagoFly. Are you aware of this issue?
Wei: “Yes, the screen change should take a very short time whilst the mode switches and this occurs due to the OnagoFly itself changing camera mode. The switch time should be less than 0.5-1.0 seconds but we will see what we can do to improve this and I will personally retest this tomorrow.”
D-On: When the OnagoFly starts its auto-landing triggered by a low battery (10%), would it be possible to make the OnagoFly emit a ‘chirp’ sound every 5/10/15/20/25/30 seconds (configurable) as this would help the user to locate their OnagoFly it if it auto-lands away from the pilot. A button on-screen would then be useful to press to stop the chirp sound once the OnagoFly is located.
Wei: “I see your point and this is a great idea. We will investigate this as a feature option and keep you updated!”
D-On: Some pilots such as myself enjoy to fly LOS (Line Of Sight) and do not require the video feed on the app. To improve the responsiveness of OnagoFly when flying like this would it be possible to have a button in the app to turn the live video feed on/off whilst flying. Without a live video feed, the control inputs of OnagoFly would be far more responsive because there would be less bandwidth utilisation over the 2.4ghz Wifi link. In addition, the video/photo buttons should still be available so that onboard video/photos can still be captured to the SD card. What do you think?
Wei: “This is a good suggestion, if we permit the customer to turn off the video transmission then the control range would also increase and the controls will be more responsive, so we will investigate this idea.”
D-On: is there a plan for a more detailed OnagoFly manual?
Wei: “We do currently have a printed manual in each box which is also available online, but yes we accept that a more detailed manual would be beneficial to customers and we will consider it after a little time, in the meantime we have improved tutorial videos coming as requested during Part 1 of this interview.”
D-On: In video footage captured by the OnagoFly, the camera is of course downward facing due to the fixed angle, could you consider in the next version the ability to tilt the camera (physically, not digitally) up and down?
Wei: “Yes, this is a possible feature and together with that we are also considering the addition of electronic image stabilisation for a future version.”
D-On: Backers have been receiving emails from Sam Tsu and other contacts in OnagoFly and ‘Acumen Robot Intelligence’ asking for the backer to confirm their telephone numbers and other details, why is this?
Wei: “Our shipping company DHL are strict and needed to confirm some elements of customer information which was missing or incorrect for some backers, part of which is the telephone number, required to keep backers updated with delivery.”
D-On: So OnagoFly has been quite a mission for you guys so far and whilst we’re not yet at the end, what do you see as the future for OnagoFly and your company?
Wei: “Wow, that’s quite a big question – we will develop OnagoFly generation by generation, we wish to integrate more innovative and useful functions in updated versions (v2.0) where we will provide far higher video recording and quality, as well as optical flow sensing and sonar to improve hovering and control input when indoors.
We’ll also implement computer-based visual tracking/following and far more so that you can forget about the drone and enjoy yourself and have fun.”
D-On: Thank you Wei (and also to Zoe) for your time, these three hours have been invaluable and on behalf of the backers, we appreciate the work and long hours that you and your team are putting in to OnagoFly.