First off, this is my first instructable so please be gentle.
Now that that is out of the way, I am going to teach you how to build a mini racing drone. This is a hobby that has been rapidly growing in popularity and after reading this article you will begin to understand why. If you have never had any experience with any kind of multi rotor i would suggest going out and getting yourself something like a Cheerson CX10 or a blade nano QX for FPV practice indoors as this will improve you skill and when you do get a proper one you will be in much more control than someone who hadn't practiced with a smaller indoor quad. Something else that will help are simulators, Simulators such as FPV free rider or liftoff are great tools to practice flying but you must already own a transmitter or a playstation / XBox controller, These simulators are growing fast and the production side of things are getting a lot closer to creating the perfect mirror of a real life quad.
Step 1: Watch This Video to Give You a Better Idea of What Drone Racing Really Is
This is a short video that i made with a couple of my friends that are into drone racing too, it gives you a bit more of an understanding as to what really goes into these machines and what they are capable of doing. As you saw there, these are a lot of fun but its one of those things that are easy to learn but very hard to master, whether that is the building process or the actual skill involved in flying them.
Step 2: Choosing Your Frame
Lumenier QAV Raceblade
I chose this frame because it flies very nicely and you can choose to purchase either the 4",5" or 6" frames to suit the kind of copter you want in the end. It is made of carbon fiber and is made by a well known trusted brand called Lumenier which has great customer service. In fact, my frame had a couple of scratches on the arm so i contacted them and they immediately send me out a brand new one.
Step 3: Choosing Your Flight Controller
Naze 32 (Rev 5)
The Naze 32 flight controller is one of the most used flight controllers when it comes to racing. it is easy to use and there is so much support online if you have any trouble. Hobbyking is a store you will get to know fairly quickly if you get into the hobby. Hobbyking are also always having sales which is why i chose to link you to the hobbyking website to purchase this controller.
Step 4: Choosing Your Motors
Lumenier 2204 2300kv motors
Again i have chosen lumenier branded motors to save you ordering from an excessive number of places and also because Lumenier is high quality and take pride in there customer service. Many pro pilots fly these motors and they can take 3S-4S which i will talk about later. It is basically the different voltages of batteries that will produce more power for pro pilots or a smaller amount of thrust for beginner pilots depending on what you run. These motors will capably handle 4,5 or 6 inch props to suit the frame that you purchase to go with these.
Step 5: Choosing Your Props
Gemfan, HQ, DAL
When it comes to props, Props are the "consumables" especially for mini quad pilots that like to push there machines harder and inevitably crash harder and break more props. The good thing though is that they are not too expensive. If you are extremely strict on money for one, drone racing is not for you. secondly if you do want to commit to the hobby you can buy gemfan propellers. It obviously depends on the frame size for what props you should get. You may have seen numbers such as 5045BN. At first this might look complicated but after a bit of reading its not too difficult, The 50 at the start means that the propeller is 5 inches in length so if the number was 4045BN it would be 4 inches in length and so on with 6045BN etc. the second part of the number is the 45 which mean that the prop has 4.5 inches of pitch so a prop that has 5 inches of pitch would look like 5050BN, the more pitch the prop has the more power it should theoretically produce. The last part of this code is the BN, BN stands for Bull nose which means that the prop doesn't slant off at the end like ordinary pros, this produces more thrust but decreases the efficiency which is why people would stick with the non bullnose propellers but if you eager for power the bull nose is the one for you. Another type of propeller is the triblade prop commonly written like 5045X3 or 5X4.5X3, this means that instead of having 2 blades the propeller actually has 3 blades which gives slightly more power. Lately companies have been making props up to 6 blades but we don't need to worry about those quite this soon. The other thing to think about with props is the brand, Gemfan is the cheapest but don't perform very well while DAL is somewhere in the middle, performing well and also being extremely durable. HQ is at the top with props, as the name suggests, these props are 'High Quality" and fly extremely nicely but the downsides being that they are expensive at over $1 per propeller and break very easily. Although it might be easy just to buy some HQ's and be done with it. It is a very good idea to buy a lot of different types of propellers to try them and see how they compare.
Step 6: Choosing Your ESC's
Electronic speed controllers (ESC's)
Kiss 18A http://www.getfpv.com/kiss-18-amp-esc-2-4s.html The Kiss 18A esc's are probably as good as your going to get for the price, These also take anywhere from 2-4S so they will suit the other coponents. The ESC's are the parts that control each motor and the speed at which it is spinning at a particular time so you want somthing decent. These are small and light at only 2g and 12X23mm in size. These are great for experiences builders but if you are a beginner and have never used a soldering iron before maybe consider getting somthing like the Little bee 20A esc which dont require you to solder wires directly onto the board. The TBS Powercube is also a great option where a flight controller 4 esc's and a power distribution board are build into the stack however you will need to purchase bullet connectors to solder to your motors or solder the wires directly to each other. I would recommend getting 5 esc's and 5 motors just in case something is wrong with one of them.
Step 7: Choosing Your Lipo Battery
1000, 1300, 1800 3s, 4s
http://www.getfpv.com/batteries/flight-packs/lume... http://www.getfpv.com/batteries/flight-packs/lume... http://www.getfpv.com/batteries/flight-packs/lume... http://www.getfpv.com/batteries/flight-packs/lume... http://www.getfpv.com/batteries/flight-packs/lume...
I touched on lipo's before but here i will go more in depth. A lipo is the battery that will provide power to the copter, the lipos vary in capacity, C ratings and power outputs. Capacity is measured in milliamps which is basically how long you will be able to fly the pack for before you will need to land. you can fly a 1300Mah lipo for longer that a 1000Mah lipo. C ratings is the number on a lipo like 45-90C. 45C is what you can run it at for as long as you like and 90C which is the second number is the rate at which you can draw from the battery for a maximum of 10 seconds before you should bring the power draw back down. Power output or voltage i the number like 2S, 3S or 4S, these are the numbers most commonly used in mini quad racing although people do use 1S and 5S and even 6S. To start out i would suggest a 3S battery which will limit the output slightly but still give you enough power to have some fun, you can go to 4S in the future when your ready in fact im still flying 3S and i have been for quite a while. for a 4" frame i would suggest a 1000Mah 3S to start with and you can go to a 1000Mah 4S in the future. For a 5" frame i would suggest either a 1300Mah or 1500Mah 3s to begin with and then a 4s in the future. For a 6" frame an 1800 3s would suit and just the same as the other size frames, you can upgrade to a 4S when your ready. A little more about the C ratings. To work out how much your quad copter will draw just search google for some prop test data on your particular motor that you are getting. find the max amp draw for the prop you will be running for example 20A then multiply it by 4 because you have 4 motors drawing that much power. so if it was 20A then you times it by 4 which is 80A. Now you choose a battery that you like so say i got this 80-160C 1000Mah battery. i would times 80 being our C rating by 1 Amp hours so you divide you Mah by 1000 and i end up with 80A and my motors were drawing 80A in total at max peak draw so i am fine.
Step 8: Choosing Your FPV Camera
The TBs ZeroZero is a 0 latency camera which is great for racing that fits perfectly with the frame dimensions of either the QAV Raceblade or the QAV210 or 180. It is water resistant and provides an inbuilt microphone for those pilots that like to hear whats going on. This camera takes anywhere from 5V to 22V so will not require a 5V regulator. It comes with all the necessary parts and cables needed and is overall a great camera.
Step 9: Choosing Your VTX or Video Transmitter
FPV Video Transmitter
immersion RC 25Mw
Anything above 25mW is illegal in most countries but if it is not in yours then you can get the immersion rc 200mW or the 600mW version which just produces more power and will get further range but with these lower mW ranges you need to rely on good quality antennas to get your range. The 25mW version only takes from 7-12V so you would have to get a separate 12v step down regulator either from hobbyking or getfpv. The higher versions do in fact work on 7-25V so you will be fine on anything up to a 6S lipo. This video transmitter also known as VTX is a very well known and respected product by a respected company, immersion RC.
Step 10: Choosing Your Antennas
Immersion RC spironet
As i said above, immersion RC is a very good brand so that is why we will be getting these antennas from them too. They are very durable and at the same time provide great range. These are the things that will keep your video clear so don't skimp on them.
Step 11: Other Items
Now you have the parts for a working quadcopter sorted out apart from the last few escencial parts
Step 12: Choosing Your FPV Goggles
This really depends on what you want to spend. you can get a 7" LCD monitor and purchase a 5.8Ghz receiver all for under $100 but if you want a pair of goggles you could get something like some fatshark teleporter V5's which are good but have a rather low resolution. If you are willing to spend a bit more you can got with something like a set of dominator V3's. There are many different types in the middle but you need to find what will suit you style of flying and budget.
Step 13: Choosing Your RC Transmitter or Radio
A transmitter is of coarse an essential part of this build, without it you wouldn't be able to control the quad. i suggest something like a turnigy 9x, or 9xr pro. i own a Flysky FSt6 which is probably the cheapest computer radio that you can get. A step up from these is the Taranis X9d+, This is extremely good value for the price and is what most pilots fly with. There are different brands also like, Turnigy, Spektrum, Futaba or JR, im sure that there are many many more but these are the main ones.
Step 14: Other Essential Parts That People Might Forget
Power distribution board
Liquid electrical tape
Step 15: Building Process
So now you should have a list of all the components, The first thing you will notice is the price, Yes it is VERY expensive especially for a first time builder but once you have the main parts liek the transmitter, soldering iron and miscellaneous parts it is a lot cheaper.
We are now ready to start the building process
Step 16: Overview of the Building Process
This RC hobby has a great comminity that is accepting of all skill levels and always ready to help someone out so before you go ahead and purchase your parts just run it by a few people online and see what they think of it. When you do order you parts and they do arrive dont rush into the build. Get a friend that knows what they are doing give you a hand but if you dont know anyone that is into it just take it really slowly and if you do get stuck somewhere just ask online and wait for a response before heading right into it. Just remember that oneday you will be the one helping out a friend getting into drone racing.
These should get you through step by step with all the things that need doing and any tips that i may have explained above that you might encounter as you go along.
Step 17: Step by Step Building Process
Basically these are the steps in very basic form.
- Get you bottom plate of you frame
- Screw your motors on each arm
- Solder you motor wires to your esc's
- Measure and cut suitable wire lenghts for attachment to you PDB
-screw on PDB with nylon spacers between the carbon and you PDB
- solder you ground and signal wires from your esc's to a servo cable for plugging into your flight controller
- Heatshrink your esc's
- Solder ESC wires onto the PDB
- Solder your XT60 Pigtail to the PDB
- solder on you BEC to the PDB
- solder on wires for you fpv camera unless you camera is powered from your VTX
- solder on wires for your VTX
- Bind your transmitter to your receiver, most transmitters are different so it will depend on which one you have.
- screw on more spacers above your PDB
- Place your flight controller on top
- Plug in the bec wires into your flight controller
- plug in the esc wires to the correct position on your flight controller
- secure camera onto the frame and plug in power and signal wires
- Secure you VTX onto the frame and plug in power and the signal wires from the camera
- screw your antenna onto the VTX making sure it is on properly
- get the break out cable that came with your flight controller and plug it from your flight controller to your receiver
- route your receiver antenna out the top of the frame and secure with a zip tie and heatshrink over the top
- ensure all components are secured correctly
- screw on the standoffs
- screw the top plate onto the standoffs
- put the battery strap through a hole under the top plate and secure it over the top
- place a charged lipo battery inside the strap
- double chack all connections and components
- MAKE SURE YOUR VTX ANTENNA IS ON PROPERLY
- MAKE SURE THE THERE IS NO + CONNECTION TO A -
- DO NOT PUT PROPS ON YET
Step 18: Final Configuration
Now that you have build you quad you need to flash and calibrate your flight controller. The first thing you need to do is find a usb to micro usb cord (the same as most non apple phones) and plug that into your flight controller and your computer. Download a program called 'Cleanflight' and open it up. Click the load firmware online and select the latest NAZE firmware unless you have a different flight controller in which case you would choose that. next click 'Flash Firmware' and wait. once complete you can click connect and you will see a 3d model of your quad copter. Place your copter on a flat level surface and click the calibrate accelerator button. Without any props on, turn on your transmitter and plug your copter in. Go to the Receiver tab and move your sticks. You must click save before leaving any menu
Left stick horizontal - Yaw Right stick horizontal - roll Left stick vertical - throttle Right stick Vertical - pitch
If you have a mode 2 transmitter your receiver tab should align with these and if it doesn't then you don't have the wires from your flight controller to your receiver in the right positions or if nothing is happening then you either don't have your transmitter on or you have not yet bound it to your receiver. At this point you will want to go into the motors tab and again make sure YOU DON'T HAVE YOUR PROPS ON then unplug your battery. On your computer you need to move the master throttle controller to the very top and then plug your quad copter in. it should beep for a short time then you must move the throttle value al the way back down to zero. You should now unplug your lipo and click save in the motor tab.
At this point i would be very surprised if you haven't come across any problems of difficulties the you needed help with, most people including myself have had a lot of trouble with build but over time you get to know the problems the may occur and know how to fix them.
Step 19: The Fun Part (Flying)
Firstly, i'd recommend practicing with something small like a Cheerson CX-10D like in the picture but when your ready to go to the next step here it is.
You are now ready to fly. Recharge your battery and put it back on your quadcopter. ensure that your fpv goggles or monitor batter is also charged and get out to a nice open location to learn to fly. you should begin by placing you quad on the ground pointed away from you and moving the left stick towards the bottom right, your quadcopter is now armed and if you gently raise the throttle it will begin to lift off the ground. Once your quadcopter is off the ground you might notice the it needs some trimming. if it is drifting one way you should see some small buttons below and beside each stick which if pushed the opposite direction of the drift that your quad is doing will eventually counteract it. It is probably best for someone else to do this step as flying and trimming is a difficult task for beginners.
After you have mastered hovering the quad and have worked out how to control it and what every stick movement will make the quad do you are ready to go and fly fpv. Flying fpv is considered easier the flying line of sight also known as LOS as you can actually see where the quad is going and from its point of view. Either have a friend fly around LOS while you watch the FPV signal and get a feel for it and then they pass it over to you or take off gently and slowly and just start flying around low to the ground at slow speeds for the beginning. When you get more confident and willing to do more you can begin going faster and flying higher.
From here its all up to you, i hope you enjoyed this article and found something helpful here, if you only remember 3 things from this article they would be. Don't rush into anything in this hobby, rushing into builds,orders, flight or anything will only result in crashes, fires or unwanted flight characteristics. If you get into any trouble just ask online, everyone involved in drone racing and the general RC community is always willing to help and grow the community and everyone was in your position at one point, places like RCgroups.com or the flite test forums are a good place to start, there are also many facebook groups dedicated to these exact things. My final tip would be to remember to have fun, these machines are fast and agile and make you feel like a professional fighter jet pilot but still remember that its all about the enjoyment and fun that you get out of it , remember that these are built for durability so don't be afraid to crash and props are the consumable so don't worry if you break like 20 on you first flights.