This project has been well over a year in the making. It was very on again and off again but we are so excited to finally be at this point. Our racing team was founded in November of 2017 in preparation of the Sebring Team race in January of 2018. We put our heads together as a team and started brainstorming to give ourselves an edge in the upcoming race.
We decided that we could gain a huge advantage in our pit stops by finding a way to remotely power our vtx on and off. Mondo did some web searching and ended up finding the Polulu RC switches. We found one that would work and dug into Betaflight to get it to work. That thing was a huge PAIN IN THE BUTT! It needed a pwm signal from a motor or led pad on the fc, it needed 5v for the logic side of the switch and additionally what ever voltage you wanted to send to the vtx.
Many flight controllers wouldn't work and neither would a lot of different vtx models but we found a setup that would work. We got a bunch installed and met in a warehouse to practice as a team. This is where INSTANT PIT STOPS WHERE BORN! Afterword at dinner we talked about trying to make a product right then but at that time we decided we didn't know enough about product development to make our own switch. However, we were excited because we recognized that what we were doing was going to change the future of team racing.
Right out of the gate at Sebring, our preparation and tech paid off. We absolutely crushed the practice heats while the other teams around us crumbled. Our pit stops were absolutely the buzz of the team event and we were sure that within a couple of months there would be better switching options on the market. Overall the event didn't finish well for us. Even with our pit stops, we weren't fast enough to win.
In February we got an invite to XDC in Las Vegas which was the first event I know of that utilized graveyard channels. This was very challenging for pilots on underdeveloped flight software but overall it functioned fairly well. Our team utilized a mixture of pit switches and graveyard channel and our organization and speed helped us take 4th place at the event.
By March of 2018, we were surprised there were still not better pit switch options on the market so Tim Britt Jr. on our team took on the task of trying to figure out how to engineer our own switch.
The first version of our switch was a mounting board but Tim quickly pivoted to what we called a "piggyback" style switch in the v2. It was designed to work as a stand alone switch but could also be direct soldered to the new (at the time) Unify Nano VTX. One of the issues we were facing early on was the fact that Butterflight (a prefered flight code for some of our team) disabled functionality for "servo tilt" which was the command in the software that would allow us to send a pwm signal to the Polulu switch.
We found out that the devs of betaflight had incorporated what they called "pinio" into their software allowing for a tx or rx pad to be remapped and controlled by a mode switch. This pinio infrastructure is what our switches ended up being built on.
Both v1 & v2 utilized 'low side' switching, meaning that the switch would disconnect the ground wire going to the vtx. This is the same way the Polulu switch worked as well but we finally realized that some of the issues we were having with the original rc switch was because of the low side switching. Some video transmitters at low voltage and many at higher voltages would find a ground source through either the video wire or smart audio wire rendering the switch useless.
We started looking into doing high side switching but it was a bit over our heads so progress really slowed down for a month or so.
Around this time is when we started finally hearing that vtx switches were coming to the market in the form of Tiny's Real Pit, CL Racing's FC and the Whitenoise FC.
With plenty of other things to do with our time we decided to pat ourselves on the back for helping push innovation in this area and let the real product guys do their thing.
I can't speak for the entire team but for me personally, I was really let down with the first product to hit the market acted like they had come up with the concept all by themselves. We were happy the product existed but just a bit butt hurt that someone else was taking credit for a concept we helped develop. I had some friendly conversations with one of the designers and let it go, the product was pretty good.
However, what finally lit a fire under me to get this switch going were the clone wars. As additional products starting coming on the market we were super excited to see where guys were taking this. However, the thing that really bothered me personally was how one company claimed that the new products were coping their IDEA.
YOUR IDEA? Are you kidding me?
I started trying to learn this crap and realized I'm not smart enough to mess with it. I literally went to a freelance website to hire an electrical engineer to finally design our switch. While browsing the different engineers, I remembered a real estate client Christy and I helped sell and buy a house with who was an engineer for a local company. Kyle is an electrical engineer who didn't fly drones but, always seemed interested in these robots. So I shot him a message and within and hour we were chatting about what our switch should do.
This was perfect, Kyle had never even heard of these other guy's switches, knew nothing about their circuits and the next day over lunch he showed me the basic circuit he designed. Within a week I had an order from mouser and pcbway on my desk. With a rework gun and some solder paste I built the first prototype.
The circuit was completely designed by Kyle but the 'innovation' we added was an additional ground pad, nice large pads and a mounting hole that can be removed or slipped over a stack screw to secure it.
I had sourced the wrong led so that part didn't work but otherwise it functioned great. Kyle made some edits so it could handle a wider range in voltages and bam, I ordered a small assembled batch from the factory.
That's where we are now. The small batch is in hand, had countless packs ran through it and being tested by team members and sent to reviewers.
Commitments from retailers are rolling in.
Setting up this Kickstarter is really just my way to get a jumpstart on this process and let you guys be involved in the fun. I've gotten countless inquiries over the last year about our switch and now is your chance to back the pit switch from the team that started it all!
I've assembled some great perks for those who get involved and I want you to know that it means the world to us if you choose to. Interested in sponsoring our team for the 2019 season? You can do that here too! We plan to crush every team race that happens this year starting with the Mayhem race in April. It's going to be a great ride, thanks for coming along!
Shawn Ames - Heart of America FPV
Big time thanks to Tim Britt Jr. for getting the ball rolling, figuring out how to use pinio and making our early switches. Thank you to Kyle Mauzey for designing our switch and being such an amazing help through the process!
Paul "Nurk" Nurkkala
Shaun "Nytfury" Taylor
Jake "Jawz" Schnieder
Armando "Mondo" Gallegos
Christian "Amari" Van Sloun
Tristin "Racebot" Gilbert
Timothy "Sky" Ichiyasu
Dallas "Murica" Kemp
Nick "Nicnac" Hoffman
Tim "SeeYaTim" Britt Jr.
Shawn "Shames" Ames
HOA Goggle Strap:
For the jerseys and t-shirts, the ts are in grey on the left and our most recent jersey is on the right. We may redesign the jerseys though. Stay posted!
Risks and challenges
The switch is designed, small batch is in hand and a big batch is on order, enough switches are on order to fulfill this kickstarter and our currently vendor obligations. This is tested and works well but keep in mind it is a new product from a racing team. We have complete confidence this switch will serve you well!Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (19 days)