Intro: How to Build the Ultimate Indoor FPV Quadcopter
WARNING - AFTER BUILDING THIS YOU MAY FIND YOURSELF ADDICTED TO FPV.
Yes that's right. FPV is so much fun you are going to forget what time of day it is, forget to eat, forget to pick your kids up from school. Even dream about flying FPV. It's the perfect way to distress, chill out and fly some packs around your house feeling free as a bird. And if you get a few mates together you will have a full blown race course set up under tables, through chairs and down hallways in no time.
My name is Stewart from UAVFUTUES and I have created this guide on "Building the Funnest indoor FPV quad EVER"
What is FPV? Well FPV stands for First Person View. You can actually experience what it would be like flying around from the perspective of this awesome little quadcopter we are going to build. The "quad" sends a live video feed straight to your goggles, smart phone or computer and you can actually see what it is seeing. All this from the safety of your favourite arm chair.
Sound good? You know it does.
So lets jump right in and get started.
Step 1: Selecting the Parts.
Rigtio So we want to build the ultimate indoor FPV quadcopter. We want something that can fly around inside, so its got to be small, carry a GoPro camera, get good flight times, provide an FPV feed and be safe enough that you can bump it around without causing to much damage to the furniture or walls. So lets select our parts.You will need -
- 1 x Frame -
- 1 x Flight controller -
- 1 x Power Distribution Board (PDB)-
- 4 x Electronic speed controllers ESCs
- 4 x Brushless motors
- 1 x video transmitter VTX
- 1 x fpv video camera
- 1 x 3S lipo battery
- 1 x Velcro battery strap
- 1 x 5.8Ghz antenna
- 1x 2.4Ghz receiver
and some small bits and bobs like stand offs, electrical tape, 20cm of 18 gauge silicon wire (you can use the wire that comes on your motors ) an XT60 connector and a pig tail. (this is an antenna extension oink oink), heat shrink, a small amount of foam (you can get this from the motor packaging so you don't need to buy it) and some plastic screws.
Now these are my recommended parts but feel free to use you favourite brands or suppliers.
- 1 x Frame - Owl carbon fiber frame from FLEXRC.com
- 1 x Flight controller - SP F3 racingboard
- 1 x Power Distribution Board (pdb)- Diatone simple PDB
- 4 x Electronic speed controllers ESCs - DYS emx20a ESCs
- 4 x Brushless motors - DYS 1306 4000kv motors
- 1 x video transmitter VTX - I am using a Fatshark 250mw vtx but I recommend a Hawkeye because its smaller and lighter.
- 1 x FPV video camera - micro 600tvl cmos camera
- 1 x 5.8Ghz antenna - Aomway 5.8 sma antenna
- 1x 2.4Ghz receiver - lemon satellite receiver.
- 1 x 3S lipo battery - Im using a 3S Multistar 1400mah because it is all I have, but I recommend a smaller battery. A 3S 800mah would be perfect
Step 2: Getting Out the Tools
To build this amazingly fun flying contraption you are going to need some tools and basic soldering experience. But don't worry. Its not too hard and if you take your time you will be fine. The only totally necessary tool is a soldering iron. The rest you can probably do without if you must but they are strongly recommended.
We will be using.
A soldering iron
some wire cutters
A glue gun
some hex keys (3mm or 2mm depending on your motor choice)
And that's it.
Now we are ready to start building.
Step 3: Prepping Our Frame and PDB
So the first thing we need to do is prep the PDB.
Looking at the close up of the pdb we can see there are several tabs (these are the little metal surfaces where we will be eventually soldering out wires)
We need to "pre tin" these pads. This is basically adding a little bit of solder to each tab so its ready to be soldered up to a wire. By doing this pre tinning it will make all our solder joints much easier.
Once that is done simply install the battery strap by sliding it through the two slits in the frame and we are ready to install the PDB into the frame.
Step 4: Installing the PDB
This step is pretty easy. Basically we are going to mount our PDB into the frame so its nice and secure. This will allow for easy measurement later on when connecting our ESCs and motors.
Carbon fiber is conductive!!! So to prevent an accidental short circuit, tape over the bottom of the PDB. You don't have to do this part but its recommended and only takes a fraction of a second to get done.
Once our PDB is prepped take the 4 plastic screws and bring them up through the bottom of the frame. Slide the PDB over the screws and use some 5mm standoffs to screw them down. Tighten them up firmly but not too tight. Your PDB should be secure with no movement if you shake the frame around.
Step 5: Installing Out Motors.
Next we need to install our motors.
This Owl frame takes 1306 motors and uses m2 screws. Simply screw the motors to the frame using the screws that came with the motors. Be sure it's on the same side as the PDB. You want the motors wires to be aligned so they are all heading towards the PDB. This will help keep our quad clean and also reduce weight.
Now its time to cut the wires a bit shorter. You can see that there is way too much wire needed on such a little build. We are going to cut them to a length of about 10mm. If you are feeling a bit worried about such a short wire you can try cutting them to 20mm just to be safe.
Now we can also pre tin the motor wires. Strip back a small amount of the silicon covering so about 2mm of exposed wire is showing. Add some solder to it with your soldering iron and it will be ready to easily bond with the solder joints of the escs when the time comes.
Keep any spare wire you cut off because we can use this later.
Pro Tip: Use Locktite on you motor screws once you are happy with their orientation. This will stop them coming loose in flight from tiny vibrations.
Step 6: Electronic Speed Controller Prep (ESC)
The ESCs are a major part of the build. They require some soldering, planning and measuring. Don't worry. Its not too hard or complex. It just takes some time and planning.
One great thing if you are using DYS xma20a ESCs is they come ready for soldering. They have 3 little pads just like the ones found on our PDB. Pre tin them just like we did in step 5.
If you are not using the xma20 ESCs don't worry. You just need to cut the heat shrink off (that is the plastic around the outside) and desolder the 3 wires that would be used to connecting up to a motor.
Once you have prepped all 4 ESCs we are ready to move on and install them into our frame. Woo woo
Step 7: Installing the ESCs
Now its time to actually install our ESCs into our frame and hook them up to our motors.
This step can be a little tight but with some practice you will have a great looking quad.
The three ESC pads we pre tinned need to be soldered to the three wires we pre tinned coming off the motors. Now for the tricky part.
We need to make sure our motors are spinning the right way. There are two ways we can go about this. Both explained below.
Option 1. (the easy way) Wire the motors up without any of the wires crossing over each other and program the ESCs through the computer using the program Blheli suite. There is an option in software that reads "motor direction" simply click reverse and this will change the direction the motor spins.
Option 2. (the simpler but more time consuming way) If you don't like the idea of doing some ESC programming you can wire the motors differently. Connect the three wires to the three esc pads without any of the wires crossing over. So wire one goes to pad one, wire two to pad two and wire three to pad three. This will need to be done to motors 1 and 4.
Motors 2 and 3 will be similar but you will need to cross two of the wires. So wire one to pad two, wire two to pad one and wire three to pad three.
This will ensure that two of your motors are spinning clockwise and two are spinning anti clockwise.
Note: Depending on what motor ESC combo you have the direction might be opposite. If this is the case then do the instructions of motor 1 and 4 on motors 2 and 3 and vise versa.
Step 8: Wiring Up the PDB
Now are motors are connected to our ESCs the next thing we need to do is wire everything up to our PDB.
THIS IS PROBABLY THE MOST DIFFICULT STEP AND NEEDS CAREFUL PLANNING
So we are going to have a lot of wires and a lot of solder joints that need to be soldered to our PDB. It's not complex just tightly packed. So try to keep wiring to a minimum and keep joins neat and tidy.
On the PDB we need to connect the following.
2 wires for our battery lead.
2 wires for powering our VTX
2 wires for powering our FC
8 wires for powering the ESCs
and 4 small ground wires from the signal /ESC lead.
This might seem like a lot but you can do it. After this its all easy sailing(flying).
Start by soldering up a voltage and ground wire for your battery. This can be connected to any normal pad (that is the ones without a 5v or 12v next to them). If you are using the Diatone PDB that comes with the Owl kit I recommend soldering it up the the pads labeled "V in" and "-".
Once our battery leads are in the next thing we need to do is wire in our VTX wires. These will be responsible for powering our entire FPV set up. Depending on your transmitters specs you can solder it up to either the 5v, 12v, or unregulated pads. Most VTXs will run fine on the 12v pads. But double check so you don't fry anything. There will be a spec called max voltage when you are looking online. Our quad will be running a max of 12 volts from its 3S battery so if your VTX reads something like 6v - 24v you are golden and good to go.
The reason we are using the 12v pads is because if you ever decide to step it up and run a higher voltage battery this 12v pad will keep the voltage for our VTX at a nice and usable 12 volts.
Now the VTX wires and battery wires are all set up the next thing to do is connect some wires that can be used to power our Flight Controller (FC). Flight controllers run off a much smaller voltage then the rest of the quad. So in order not to cook it, we need to connect the wires up the the 5v pads on the PDB. This will ensure that regardless the voltage coming from your battery, you will always have a nice 5v for your FC.
Ok now for the ESCs. There are 4 wires coming off the ESCs.
- 1 voltage wire,
- One large ground wire,
- One small ground wire and
- One signal wire.
It's a tight squeeze but we need to connect all the (red) voltage wires to the standard "+" pads on the PDB. (not the 12v or 5v) and we need to connect both the large ground and small ground wires to the standard "-" ground pads on the PDB.
When trying to connect all these up, measure each wire, cut it accordingly, pre tin the end and solder it to the correct pad. IF YOU MAKE A MISTAKE and cut something too short. Don't worry. Just desolder the wire, replace with a longer one and try again.
Once you are done. Give yourself a high five, and take pride of your awesome work. That is the hardest part done.
NOTE: The yellow or (white, depending on your escs) signal wire will be connecting to our FC so dont worry about that one just yet.
Step 9: Installing Our Flight Controller (FC)
Alright. Time for the fun stuff. Lets install our FC.
This step is fairly easy, especially after all the soldering practice we have had on our PDB. Depending on which FC you are using things may be slightly different but the steps will still be applicable.
We need to add the following wires to our FC.
A voltage and ground wire to power it, the 4 signal wires from out ESCs. and a 3.3v power lead that will be used to power our receiver.
Lets start with the receiver power lead. On the underside (or top) depending on your FC. There will be a pad labeled "3.3" or "3v". You need to pre tin that tiny pad, take a spare bit of wire you previously chopped off your motor wires, strip the end of the wire, pre tin it and hook that up to the pad so you now have a wire connected to the pad that can be used to power our receiver. You have done all these steps previously so I know you can do it.
Next we need to connect our 4 ESC signal wires up to our FC.
On the FC there will be a series of ports labeled 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 and underneath these will be a row of "+" ports and also a row of " -" ground ports. We need to connect the signal wire from ESC 1 to port one on the FC, ESC 2 to port 2, ESC 3 to port 3 and ESC 4 to port four.
Now all that is left to do is hook up the power to the FC. Take the wires you previously soldered from the 5v port and its corresponding ground and connect them to any of the "+" and "-" ports below the numbered ports we just soldered on the FC. Make sure you hook up the voltage wire to the + and the ground wire to the "-".
Once this is done we are ready to secure down our FC with some plastic screws. It should be all looking very neat with only a 3v wire for the receiver and a 12v VTX wire showing.
Step 10: Installing the Receiver.
So everything from here is smooth sailing. All the tight technical stuff is done. We just have to hook up a few more components and we will be ready to rock and roll FPV style.
The receiver we are using is a spectrum satellite receiver. It is light, small and perfect for our indoor FPV machine.
Here what we need to do connect the three wires. The signal, the Voltage and the Ground.
The voltage wire is easy. Simply connect up the receiver voltage to the 3v wire we soldered to the underside of our FC we did in the previous step.
The signal wire and ground wire are also super simple and connect up the wires that come out of the FC. The voltage in this case is the red wire and the signal is the white. Simply cut the wires and solder them directly to the the wires of the receiver.
Step 11: THE GOOD STUFF. the Fpv
Alright. Now if you were crazy enough you could actually get this thing flying right now minus the FPV. But because FPV is so amazing lets keep going and finish our build.
There are 4 parts to the FPV system we need install. They are
- A Video transmitter (VTX)
- An FPV camera
- An antenna extension cable (pig tail)
- and an antenna.
Lets start with the VTX. This is the part that is going to send our picture from our camera out to our goggles/ monitor/ iPad.
Its super simple to set up and is the last bit of soldering we need to on our PDB. We should have 2 spare 12v wires coming off our PDB that we soldered in in step 8.
These wires are what is going to be powering our VTX. Depending on what VTX you are using you need to attach the wires to a plug that fits in your VTX so it can be powered up. Super simple and if you have made it this far you wont have any dramas.
Next we can connect our camera. This is also super simple. The VTX will have 3 wires coming out from it that are yellow, black and red with a little plug on the end. All you need to do is plug it into the back of the camera and BOOM... its connected.
We wont actually connect the pig tail and antenna just yet until after we put everything into the frame. Which is actually out next step...
Step 12: Putting It All Together.
So we now have a fully wired up quad. We just need to somehow put it all together.
This is your chance to get creative and this is probably the most fun and exciting part of the build. We need to find a way to get everything to fit and make things nice and neat and tidy. Depending on your components it may look a little different but this is how I did mine.
For me I made a camera mount out of some of the left over foam that came with the motors. I cut it into a cube and drilled a 8mm hole through the foam. Next I slid the camera lens through and put some black electrical tape around it. It came up looking a treat.
For the ESCs, motor wires and ESC wires I used some black electrical tape to secure it down directly to the frame. It holds it in place very well, is light and also matches with our colour scheme.
The VTX was a little more difficult in this build so I mounted in on top of the quad so it was out of the way of the propellers. It was secured down with a very stylish bright yellow pig tail : )
And finally any spare wires, bolts, or screws that were loose or needed attention were fixed up and made pretty.
Now lets get her ready to fly.
Step 13: The FPV Antenna.
Ok so everything is almost ready to go. But we have a few more things to install in our quad and they are perhaps the easiest of all.
First we need to install our pig tail. This is basically an antenna extension that, in the event of a bad crash, will take the stress of the impact and leave our VTX undamaged. It is super easy to set up. Simply screw on end of the pig tail onto the back of the VTX... Yep that easy.
Next use the .5 mm hole in the back of the frame to bolt down the other end of your pig tail to. Once that is done you can now screw you antenna straight to this pig tail.
Now finally we can put some propellers on and we will be ready to rock and roll.
Step 14: Adding the Propellers.
Ok finally here we are. At the end of our build. Just one last thing to do. Put some propellers on. I am using some Dal tri blade 3040s but fee free to use what works best for you. Just make sure they are 3 inches long and fit with your motor style.
On a quadcopter their are actually two sets of propellers. One set spins clockwise and the other spins anticlockwise. Luckily for us prop manufactures make it easy now days and put a little imprint on their blades. "R" means it will spin clockwise and needs to go on motors 1 and 4. Example "t3040r"
Motors 2 and 3 use the props without the letter "r" Example. t3040" These are anticlockwise.
Now screw these down nice and firmly and we are ready to go.
Simple connect the battery, Listen to your quads first words...usually something like "beep beep beep" and get ready to have the most fun you have had in years.
Check out the next step for some beginner flight tips.
Step 15: Enjoy Flying Like a Bird
So that is it. You have successfully built your flying contraption. Strap your goggles on and get ready for the ride of a life time. It honestly feels like you are a bird or Superman Flying around.
These things can be quite dangerous so never fly around someones face or towards people.
Here is a video of my build flying around the house. Instead of the propeller noise I decided to tell you a bonus story as well.
A full build video can also be found on my channel that details the exact same progress if you get stuck at any point.
Welcome to the hobby.
And as always