We all know humans can't fly. Our bones are far too dense and flapping our arms does not produce adequate lift to overcome the pull of gravity, but luckily we can use technology to give us the experience of flying. I'm not talking about flying in airplanes though, or a hang glider, or jumping out of airplanes, or using a zip line. We can actually use multirotor aircraft to give us the impression of flying using a technology called FPV. I think "flying" with an FPV-equipped multirotor is even better than flying with any of the aforementioned technologies though because multirotors are infinitely more agile. Flying with FPV is more like being a bird and less like being thrown through the air. It is an amazing, and very fun, technology.
This Instructable will show you how to build what I would categorize as a high-performance FPV quadcopter that can be used to take amazing aerial photos and videos. We will be using a top-of-the-line flight controller (the DJI Naza M Lite) and an excellent FPV system from Fat Shark, with the PilotHD camera for both recording video and delivering the FPV feed. We will also be using high quality motors and ESCs designed specifically for use in multirotors. Finally, we will be using a premium-quality Spektrum radio system. More about the parts list for this project can be found in the next step.
I always like to keep in mind the big picture of a project as complex as building an FPV quadcopter. So, this Instructable will consist of four major parts which we will go through more or less (probably more on the less side) in order:
My intention for this Instructable is to make it much more than just a set of directions for assembling a quadcopter. I want this Instructable to help you understand how each part of the quadcopter works and understand the logic behind everything from part selection to build strategy. I am doing this for a few reasons. First, you might not build your quadcopter exactly the same way I am in this Instructable,or you might build a different multirotor in the future. I think it will help you to understand how everything works. Second, in case something on your quadcopter breaks (which is unfortunately somewhat likely because you will probably crash at some point) you will want to understand how each part works so you can make repairs. Last, and perhaps most importantly, I think quadcopter pilots who really understand how the technology works are better pilots. If you were a passenger in an airplane, you would certainly like to know that the pilot understands how the aircraft functions. Fully understanding the way an aircraft works allows a pilot to adapt quickly while flying to solve problems.
Instructable Table of Contents
To build your Quanum Venture quadcopter, you are going to need to order some parts, quite a few parts in fact. Before I list the parts used in this tutorial, I just wanted to make a note about the supplier I chose when purchasing components. I ordered all of the components used in this tutorial from HobbyKing. HobbyKing is an online retailer of a wide-range of hobby parts, including parts for building multirotor aircraft. The reason I chose to order components from HobbyKing is, quite simply, because their prices are very low. Now, I do not intend this page to be a review of HobbyKing, or of any of the products listed, but I just wanted to note that the trade-off for HobbyKing’s low prices is slow shipping speeds and non-existent customer service. This last point is probably the biggest drawback to using HobbyKing, their customer service is absolutely pathetic. If you don't want to use HobbyKing, you can usually find the parts you need from sellers on ebay.
Also, HobbyKing's stock levels vary widely and rapidly. There is a high likelihood that by the time your read this Instructable HobbyKing will have run out of parts, discontinued parts, or parts might simply have disappeared from the site. It it not so important that you use exactly the same parts I did. Use the parts list below more as a guide for making sure you get all the parts you need, even if you have to get slightly different parts. If you want help picking components, I've written a lot of information on my multirotor blog, Black Tie Aerial. There are a bunch of posts about choosing various components, from motors to FPV gear.
I just want to make one more quick note about shopping for parts before getting to the list. HobbyKing has warehouses located in many countries, with their main warehouse located in Hong Kong. I found that ordering all of my quadcopter parts from the Hong Kong (international) warehouse led to extremely high shipping costs (for me $114). So, after a lot of experimentation, I found that I could minimize shipping costs by ordering some components from the international warehouse, and some parts from the U.S.A. warehouse. Experiment with your ordering locations and try to get the lowest shipping price. I tried to come up with a universal strategy for this but the shipping charges vary a lot by location so try to come up with the best ordering strategy for yourself.
And then some of the parts are available from Amazon. You should not have any of the issues I just described with Amazon; your experience with Amazon should be great.
Now, on to the parts list.
Quanum Venture Quadcopter Parts
|1||Quanum Venture Quadcopter Frame||1||HobbyKing|
|2||DJI Naza M Lite Flight Controller with GPS||1||HobbyKing|
|3||Fat Shark Teleporter V3 Kit with (PilotHD Camera)||1||HobbyKing|
|4||Turnigy Multistar Outrunner Motor||4||HobbyKing|
|5||Turnigy Multistar 20A ESC||4||HobbyKing|
|6||3.5mm Bullet Connectors (20 pairs)||1||Amazon|
|7||14 AWG Silicone Wire||1||Amazon|
|8||8045 Propellers (set of four)||1*||HobbyKing|
|9||Spektrum DX6i 6-Channel Radio System||1||Amazon|
|10||Turnigy 2200mAh LiPo Battery||1*||HobbyKing|
|11||Turnigy Accucel-6 Battery Charger||1||HobbyKing|
|12||10CM Male to Male Servo Lead||1||HobbyKing|
|13||Turnigy Multistar ESC Programming Card||1||HobbyKing|
|15||OrangeRX R615X Receiver||1||HobbyKing|
Aside from the supplies listed in the table, you will also need a few general-purpose parts that you can get anywhere, like a hardware store, many places online, or even a department store:
1 The Quanum Venture quadcopter frame is a very inexpensive kit (~$40) but it is a very good product. It is actually a somewhat unique quadcopter frame. The frame consists of an inner structure made from interconnected aluminum tubes, and then a shell that encloses all of the electronic components. This is a nice change from most frames, which are just pieces of fiberboard stacked together. The frame looks great and is engineered extremely well for a kit in its price range. The Quanum Venture is purposefully designed for FPV flying. It's H shape means the front propellers will stay out of your camera's field of vision. There are many other reasons I really like this kit as well, which you will discover as we assemble it.
2 The Naza M Lite is DJI's entry level flight controller. Despite its position at the bottom of DJI's flight controller product line, it is still a superb system. It is extremely well designed, packed with features, and its "DJI Assistant" software used for programming is excellent. Among the features I like best is how easy the GPS functionality is to use.
3 The Fat Shark Teleporter V3 is a goggle-style FPV receiver. There are basically two types of FPV viewers, screen types and goggle types. Screen viewers are just small (about 7-inch diagonal) LCD screens, typically mounted in some kind of sun shade, used for viewing the FPV feed. Goggle type viewers, like the Teleporter V3, go, as you can probably guess, on your eyes. I chose the goggle type because it is more immersive. The PilotHD camera that comes with the Teleporter V3 is fantastic for FPV. The PilotHD is like two cameras in one; it is used to capture the video feed, and it also records video. This means you will not have to use one camera for the FPV feed and a second for recording.
4 The Turnigy Multistar motors are high-quality motors designed specifically for use on multirotor aircraft.
5 These Turnigy ESCs (electronic speed controllers), like the motors, are designed specifically for multirotor aircraft. HobbyKing often runs out of stock on these ECSs so you might have to select a different ESC for your quadcopter build. Pretty much any ESC will work, as long as it is 20A or higher.
6,7 These small bullet connectors and wire will be used to make various connection cables for hooking up various components.
8 These are the propellers for the quadcopter. The only thing to mention here is that, although you will only need one set, you might want to order a few extra sets. In a crash, the propellers are always the first thing to break so, if you do crash, you don't want to wait weeks for a new set of propellers to ship from Hong Kong. It is even fairly easy to break propellers while transporting your quadcopter. Since they only cost a few dollars, I think it is worth ordering a few extra sets of propellers to have on hand.
9 The DX6i is Spektrum's entry-level radio system. However, Spektrum is a top-quality brand in radio systems, and the DX6i is a great transmitter, especially for its low price ($~110). The DX6i is a 6-channel transmitter, which is sufficient for the Quanum Venture quadcopter. If you want to put a camera gimbal on your quadcopter at some point, you may want to upgrade to a 9-channel system, which will allow you to control the gimbal angles. The minimum requirement for the transmitter is that you must be able to adjust the end points of all the channels, especially the switches. This means you probably need a computerized transmitter. The DX6i also comes with a receiver which will be mounted inside the quadcopter.
10 This battery will power the quadcopter. Note that we also have a different battery for the Fat Shark goggles. You only need one battery for your quadcopter, but I actually like to have two so that I can swap them out in the field to extend my flight time. With a fully charged battery you should be able to fly anywhere from four to eight minutes, depending upon how aggressively you are flying; it is a bit like how a car's fuel economy depends on how aggressive the car is being driven.
11 This is the charger for the LiPo battery.
12 These servo cables are for attaching the radio receiver to the flight controller. The Naza M Lite does come with a pack of servo cables, however they are a bit too short to reach from the radio receiver mounting point to the flight controller.
13 This simple device is used to program the ESCs.
14 The PilotHD uses a microSD card for recording but it does not include one. Just go for the cheapest, lowest cost SD card you can get. A 4GB card will give us about an hour of recording time, which is plenty since a battery charge is only good for teight minutes of flying at the most.
15 If you haven't been working with multirotors very long, you might not realize that there is a bit of an ongoing argument in multirotor circles about this OrangeRX (HobbyKing) brand of radio receivers and genuine Spektrum AR610 receivers. Pilots argue a lot about which of these receivers is better and about their relative merits. On one hand, Spektrum receivers are, obviously, built specifically to work with Spektrum transmitters and many people maintain that genuine Spektrum receivers are higher-quality than OrangeRX receivers. The OrangeRX R615X is basically a knockoff of Spektrum's AR610 receiver. Although they are actually less like knockoffs than they used to be as today's OrangeRX receivers use different hardware than the Spektrum receivers. Now, if you search online, you will find extensive information about pilots testing Spektrum receivers against OrangeRX receivers. Many people have an automatic mistrust of cheap third-party product clones, but from all of the information I can find, the performance of these two receivers seems very similar. Furthermore, in terms of range at least, the contention is irrelevant here because both Spektrum and OrangeRX radio systems will easily achieve a 0.75 mile range, but the range of the Fat Shark FPV system is only about half a mile. My choice to go with the OrangeRX R615X is motivated by one factor: the OrangeRX R615X costs about $7 and the Spektrum AR610 costs about $50.
The total cost for all the parts for this project is (very) approximately $650. This does not include the price of shipping which, depending upon where you live and how you arrange ordering from the U.S. versus Hong Kong warehouses, can range from $50 to $100.
If you want to save some money, I think the best opportunity is keeping an eye on eBay. If you are patient, you can usually find some of the more expensive parts, like the flight controller, FPV system, and radio system, on eBay. I actually purchased my flight controller, radio transmitter, and FPV system on eBay and saved about $110, which it not too bad at all. However it did take me about three months of stalking eBay to get the parts, so it is really up to you.
The more sophisticated products in this list come with product manuals. I decided to link to the product manuals in case you want to find information about the products that I do not include in this Instructable (it is already quite long so I do omit some information). Some of the manuals are better than others (you might as well not bother with the Quanum Venture manual), but some are pretty decent: