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Did my own gimbal repair - some thoughts

Discussion in 'Pro/Adv Discussion' started by Arcticm39, Feb 24, 2016.

  1. Arcticm39

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    About two weeks ago, over confidence and flawed depth perception resulted in my P3A hitting the trunk of a tall palm tree and dropping 20 feet to the sand below. I sprinted to my whimpering precious. Two props scratched. No problem. DJI props are relatively cheap, and I have extras. What made me howl was misshapen gimbal yaw arm and the odd bend on the roll arm. I cleaned the P3A and powered it up. The camera system was warped, pointing the lens up in the air and 20 deg to the left. Multiple gimbal calibrations didn’t fix the problem. Fortunately, the drone still flies beautifully. Small comfort. What good is a flying camera that couldn’t see straight? For a day, I pondered the damage and considered leaving it as is, but being the OCD person I am, I couldn’t do it. A day and a few clicks later, I bought replacement parts on eBay for $59 (shipped to me in 6 days).

    The good news is I fixed the camera… after 4 long hours. Thinking back, the work actually wasn’t that difficult or complicated, even with my unsteady, sausage fingers. Most of that time was spent puzzling over what I did wrong (surprise, camera didn’t work the first, second, third, or fourth time I put all the pieces together). I did watch the gimbal fixing videos on youtube and browsed related web pages. The master repair guy on youtube did the same repairs so quickly!

    At the end, all I can say is – it is a learning experience. I now have a thorough understand of how the mechanism is put together. And I bet if I have to do another similar repair, I can complete it in two hours or less. Having said that, if you are thinking of doing this repair – consider 3 questions: Do you really have the time to do it, however long it may take, and see it to the end? Do you enjoy mind-numbing, hair-pulling frustration? And, if you do eventually give up, do you have an out? Prior to deciding to enter the fray, I called a local hobby shop that sells mostly RC drone and got a repair quote from the owner, who is intimately familiar with the Phantom family - $150 to do the work I described, but it would take 2-3 weeks (he is severely backlogged). How many Phantom also suffered the kiss of the palm? The quote was reasonable. But, an inner voice kept nagging that if the guy on youtube could do it in 35 minutes, then surely I can do it, too. Eventually, impatience and cheapskate-ness persuaded me to do the repair myself.

    If you are impatient person (and foolhardy like me) and want to do this repair, you can easily source youtube for the proper step-by-step. Here are some of my own take and pitfalls to avoid:
    1. Before disassemble the bent or broken gimbal/camera, draw a rough schematic of gimbal arms and attachments, including the ribbon cable routing. Take plenty cellphone pictures of the complete gimbal/camera from different perspectives. Then, watch the youtube videos from beginning to end. Watch video again.
    2. Make sure you can obtain replacement parts. Luckily, I found a yaw/roll arms and ribbon cable kit on eBay for $59. If the camera is shattered or the motors are in pieces, then you are probably SOL - it may be beyond easy repair.
    3. You will need bright lamp, small Torx and Phillips head screwdrivers, tweezers for handling the ribbon cable, small long nose pliers, and a large black cloth. I used the cloth to catch the tiny screws so they won’t bounce off my desk and disappear to where light don’t shine.
    4. Have many small boxes to keep/separate the various tiny screws. Draw/label the boxes. There are eight or nine sets of screws for various PCB and motor attachments. They are not interchangeable.
    5. Don’t forcefully pull/pinch the ribbon cable. I managed to save and reuse the old ribbon cable. Use the right tools and don’t strip the tiny screws. If you do, then you are …
    6. Be sure to fully insert the ribbon cable connection (into the tiny slot). It must be inserted all the way to the white line, or the systems may not communicate properly. You will know if it is not right. The camera/gimbal will either not move or it will do a wild dance. I messed up here, twice, and had to take everything apart in order to find the problems.
    7. Properly align the motor shafts (for yaw and roll arms). I also messed up here, twice, even though the master on youtube specifically cautioned this. More time wasted as I completely disassembled the system to find the problems. Again, you will know if you did it wrong - the gimbal will spin and shake like there is no tomorrow.
    8. Have patience and perseverance. A few times, I thought about packing everything up, sending it to the hobby shop, pay 2 bills and wait 2-3 weeks. The aggravation wasn’t worth it. That was when I knew I should get up and leave the work area for a while. I did the repair over two days.

    Was it worth it? $59 of parts (didn't need the ribbon cable) and 4 hours of my life. To be honest, I am not sure it was. It would have been so much easier to pay the man. But, I am impatient and did I say cheap? It was a truly wonderful feeling though to see my P3A flying in the air again, camera aiming straight and recording beautiful videos, far and high above the palms!
     
    ObiDon, stoneyb245 and robsquad like this.
  2. robsquad

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    the tree video would be good !
     
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  3. AndersE

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    Thanks for sharing. Tried the same repairs myself. Didn't go very well. Brand new yaw arm and ribbon cable from eBay. I got everything together after some hours but when I powering it on the gimbal goes crazy and shakes. And there is no connection to the camera in the GO app. I planned to sell it as spares, but maybe I should give another try and see if I can fix it. Based in your input I believe I can get the gimbal to work properly again. I'm more concerned about not having any connection with the camera. Any ideas regarding that specific issue?
     
  4. Ted4797

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    Aftermarket ribbon cable will cause all sorts of problems. I would like to find one that works.
     
  5. Mal_PV2_Ireland

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    I fix them myself. Did you get a spurious ribbon cable or an official dji cable? Some of the spurious ones can be hit and miss. Normally takes me 30 mins to an hour depening what needs to be fixed.
     
  6. Arcticm39

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    I experienced similar symptom when I misaligned the motor shaft on the yaw and roll arms. Watch this youtube video...
    In particular - 16:00 and 23:30. Did you do motor shaft alignment correctly?
    Good luck on your repair.
     
  7. billyghawaii

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    AndersE there is an excellent post of repairs failing because of the ribbon cable. Mine came from F.stop Labs is that one you got?


    Sent from my iPhone using PhantomPilots mobile app
     
  8. Ted4797

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    Do the ribbon cables from F-stop work ok?
     
  9. AndersE

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    Yes, I got mine from F-stop. But, and this is important, I don't know if there where any issues with the ribbon cable that I got. I didn't get the camera or gimbal to work, but there could be many other reasons for that.