How to repair your Imax B6 charger screen

Quite a while ago I bought a second hand Blade 130X helicopter, which came with an Imax B6 charger included in the deal. The charger always performed flawlessly, but the previous owner damaged the screen on it, and only half of it was working.

LiPo charger display repair
My Imax B6 charger. you can see the display acting up on the right side.

At the beginning I could not be bothered by it and just used it as is: I was missing the total mAh I was putting back in the batteries, but that was it.

A couple of weeks ago I decided that enough was enough and that I had to repair it. To my surprise the operation is fairly simple and completely inexpensive, so I decided to make a quick tutorial on the website for you to try and do the same should you be in the same position.

As a note, this operation works with every Imax and most of the Turnigy chargers on the market, because they all use the same display.

What you need to perform this operation is:


  • Phillips screwdriver
  • Soldering iron
  • Pliers and cutter
  • Replacement display. It is a 1602 16x2 LCD Display, model HD44780. I bought it on eBay for about a couple of dollars.



DISCLAIMER: Before you start, beware that this operation requires you to disassemble and solder electronics components. I cannot be held responsible should you get injured or damage your charger.

Without further ado, let's dive in!

Disassembly

These charger are dead easy to take apart: 4 Phillips screws on each side of the main body allow you to disassemble the two side plates. You will notice that the main body is an aluminium extrusion which holds the electronics board within its internal profile. Ingenious!

Imax B6 Disassembly
Circled in red the four screws which allow you to take the two side plates apart and access the electronics board

Once you have removed the side plates you can wiggle carefully the board out of the main body.
Please be careful doing so because the four buttons protrude through the case, so you need to push them down while you slide the board out. Once you do that, you will be left with the board

Imax B6 electronics board
This is the electronics board of the Imax B6, with the malfunctioning screen
Desoldering Destroying the old display

Yes, I tried to do a clean job and desolder the old LCD out of its place. Well, I could not; The thing is pretty stuck down and no matter how much heat I would throw at it, there are too many pins (16) to desolder to be able to remove it.
So on I went with option 2: cut the pins, remove the LCD, solder a new set of pins and move on.

Imax B6 removing LCD display
All the 16 pins have been cut out, because of the impossibility of desoldering the LCD out of its place
 Once the pins were re soldered to the main board, things get really easy: just slide the new LCD into place and solder each pin to the corresponding pad to the screen, like so:

Imax B6 replaced LCD
The new display is back in place, all is ready to be reassembled and tested
Next and final step is, obviously, to slide the board back in the case, again paying attention to the four buttons and hook it up to a power source to test your work.

For reference, please find the schematics of this charger: accidentally I damaged the traces on the board and had to rewire some connections between the CPU and the pins. I used this pictures I found on rcgroups, so I thought that you might find this useful as well.

Stay charged!

Imax B6 schematics
The schematics for the Imax B6


Tiny Whoop on a budget: Eachine E010S

Admittedly I got on the Tiny Whoop craze a little late, given that it exploded more than a year ago, back in 2016, and many models have been developed since.
Still, I was listening to the Flite Test podcast, and there was an episode about the Tiny Whoop craze and that got me curious about this cheap and exhilarating rc discipline.

tiny whoop
What is this tiny whoop thing?
It all started with Horizon Hobby selling a micro quadcopter, the inductrix. It is a 1 cell powered indoor quad for beginners, to train at home with an indestructible aircraft which is so light (under 30 grams) that it cannot cause damage to furniture, appliances, people or pets.
Shortly after, a cool dude called Jesse Perkins modified its Inductrix adding a micro FPV camera and transmitter and started FPVing at home and outdoors, performing incredible tricks with this tiny quad. He started then modifying it with bigger batteries and better performing motors and the race was on!
Now millions of Inductrix have been modified and races are happening everywhere in the world. The success of the Tiny Whoop movement was so big and quick that Horizon Hobby marketed an FVP version of the Inductrix, the Inductrix FPV.

Obviously the Chinese market came out with a plethora of clones, which perform more or less flawlessly, and have the double advantage of the cheap price and the possibility of binding to almost every TX you might have, instead of requiring the DSMX protocol.

For the sake of testing all I can I recently purchased a Eachine E010S from Banggood.com and honestly I am starting to appreciate what all the fuss is about!

Eachine E010S Tiny Whoop
The Eachine E010S Tiny Whoop clone

This thing is exhilarating! I quickly paired it with my old DX8 radio and my Fatshark goggles and, a bit skeptic, I took off for a run in the apartment where I live. First crash was after 10 seconds, against a wall. I was prepared to pick up the pieces and start ordering replacements, but to my great surprise this thing is indestructible! It is so lightweight that almost nothing can damage it.

Lately I secretly build a race course in the apartment (my girlfriend would not be so happy about transforming the living room in a fpv obstacle course), carefully moving around some objects and creating some little interstices, and I spend every free minute fpving like crazy while grinning like a madman.

Being that I cannot leave things stock I performed a few mods:
- changed the antenna to a whip (you do not really need the performance of a cloverleaf, and a whip is much more resistant to crashes)
- purchased a canopy to protect the camera
- got some different propellers with 3 blades instead of 4, for longer flight times

This is how my clone Tiny Whoop looks like today:

Modified Tiny Whoop

Custom E010S Tiny Whoop
My customised Tiny Whoop clone : I modified the antenna, added a protective canopy and changed the propellers to 3 blades for longer flights. It is great!

I am a complete novice at this discipline, therefore my videos are not that interesting, but I suggest you take a look at Jesse's youtube channel to realise how cool this thing is. Compared to 250 fpv racing these Tiny Whoops are WAY cheaper, WAY safer, WAY more accessible but also WAY less fast and WAY less thrilling.
Having tried both I enjoy the two disciplines, and the thing that I miss in the Tiny Whoop scene is the competition which makes the 250s so much fun. Today, in France, where I live, the scene is pretty small and few are the Tiny Whoop races, whereas the 250s are everywhere.

All in all: totally recommended! For the price, try it, you might be surprised!

Should you get a DJI Spark?

After flying the DJI Phantom 3 Advanced for a couple of years, I realised that even though I was going hiking surrounded by beautiful landscapes, I could not find the space to take the Phantom along and so I was leaving this amazing, and expensive, piece of equipment at home, while I could have been taking great videos and pictures to show.

I started taking pictures with my DSLR and kind of forgot about the aerial views, until DJI did it again, and came out with this amazing piece of technology which is the Spark.

I bought it almost immediately and was blown away by the quality and the size of it. Obviously it is a trade off: some functionalities I was used to have with the Phantom are missing, but I am not a professional photographer or videographer, and my pictures are mainly for a social media audience, and the Spark is awesome for this task.

Moreover, the price point is quite attractive, at the time of this article the Spark combo sells for $599, while the Mavic goes for $1099.
Obviously the Mavic is a completely different machine, offering better performance all around, but for an occasional, hobby grade use, the Spark ticks all the boxes.

What you get in the box


DJI Spark flymore combo
In the flymore combo you get plenty of important accessories, which you will not regret having. Surely the most important is the radio controller, which not only extends the range, but allows a finer control. 
An additional battery, a multiple battery charger, a spare propeller set, the prop guards and two carry bags complete the kit.
The colour choice

The DJI Spark is meant to be less of a professional tool, and it is designed to appeal more to a young audience. Its appearance reflects this choice and you can buy it in five different colours

DJI Spark colours
The DJI Spark comes in five different variants: Alpine White, Sunrise Yellow, Lava Red, Sky Blue and Meadow Green
Technical specifications

The Spark comes with some amazing specs for its tiny size:


Overview


Price
$499 (Spark only)
$599 (Spark + controller)
$699 (fly more combo)
Control systemSmartphone or transmitter
Weight 300 grams
Flight time≈ 12 minutes
Operating rangeUp to 2000 meters (FCC)
Up to 1000 meters (CE)
Max speedUp to 50km/h
ManufacturerDJI

Camera specifications


Photo resolution12 MP
Video max resolution1080p
Compatible camerasDJI proprietary camera only
Stabilisation2 Axis brushless gimbal
Focal Length25 mm equivalent
Sensor1/2.3" CMOS 
Supports / connectionsMicro SD / USB
Photography DetailsISO 100 - 1600
Format JPG
Single Shot
Time Lapse
Auto Exposure Bracketing
Burst Shooting
Panorama (180° and 360°)
Shallow focus mode
Video DetailsISO 100 - 3200
Live view
MP4 and MOV formats
1080p 30fps

Battery specifications


Cell number3 (12,6V)
Capacity1480 mAh
Weight95g
Battery price≈ $49

The controls

The Spark is the only drone produced by DJI which can be controlled either by a smartphone (iOS or Android) or by a remote controller, sold separately or in the fly more combo.
While controlling the Spark with the phone/tablet is an extremely effective way of piloting, mainly because of the portability and the setting up speed, using the controller really offers an advantage in terms of precision and distance.
The controller speaks both to the phone/tablet and with the Spark via Wifi, using the 2.4 GHz and 5.8GHz bands and allows a flight range of up to a kilometre in CE areas and up to 2 kilometres in FCC areas.

One of the best things about the Spark is the DJI GO4 app interface: like the last drones produced by DJI, the Spark takes advantage of the powerful control tools offered by the app, which helps pilots during the flight and now offers a simple editing tool and online sharing shortcuts.

One of the main upgrades coming from older DJI products are the intelligent flight modes, which at the moment, for the Spark, are six:

DJI Spark intelligent flight modes

NORMAL
This is a standard RC type of flying, either with the virtual joysticks on your smart device or with the remote controller

QUICKSHOT
This mode is one of my favourites and it allows you to quickly film a scene introducing a cinematic movement...automagically!
Once you tap the Quickshot icon you can choose between these modes

Rocket - which turns the camera vertically down while the Spark climbs vertically;
Dronie - the Spark flies backwards and upwards while the camera is locked on the subject;
Circle - You choose the subject, the height and the speed while the Spark circles around it;
Spiral - The Spark climbs while circling around your subject.

ACTIVE TRACK
the Spark follows the subject, either from the sides or from the front / behind

TAPFLY
Just click a point on the screen of your smart device and the Spark will fly there

TRIPOD
All the movements are slowed down to allow for a much smoother filming

GESTURE
This is one if the most discussed features of the Spark, with some saying it is just a gimmick, and others loving it. I tend towards the first group, given that to me, the pleasure of flying comes from manoeuvring the aircraft myself.
What it does is to allow the "pilot" to take off, zip around, take selfies and movies without the need for touching the sticks, all with their hands movements. As of now, this is what you can do

Palm launch - holding the Spark in your hand, it scans your face and takes off at the push of a button
Palm control - By moving your open hand left / right / up / down the Spark follows the movement while the camer is locked on you
Away and follow - Just wave the Spark goodbye and watch it fly back a couple of meters and start following you
Beckon - Open your arms to call the Spark back to you
Selfie - Simulate the frame of a picture with your fingers and the Spark will actually take one
Record - Lift one arm and lower the other to start filming

Conclusion

To me the Spark, and now the Mavic Air, are the most portable - high quality quadcopters on the market today.
The Spark is oriented towards a more general public than the Mavic series, but it offers an excellent performance at a fair price.

Personally I think I found my "to go" personal aerial photography platform, and I am super happy to have invested in it.
Now the debate is wether to sell the trusty Phantom 3!





What are ND filters and why you need them on your drone

Recently I purchased a DJI Phantom 3 Advanced, and there are SO many possibilities when shooting with its camera that I soon discovered the need for ND filters to be able to get the full potential of the video capabilities.

ND filter for drone
Demonstration of the effect of a neutral-density filter - Photo courtesy Robert Emperley

DJI Phantom 3 vs. Cheerson CX-20

Following from my last article regarding the Cheerson CX-20 quadcopter, this time I would like to talk about how it performs compared to the "top of the line" model, the DJI Phantom 3.



Cheerson CX20 - DJI Phantom