Introduction: Your First FPV Racing Drone: Eachine Aurora 100 Upgrades, Mods, More
First, a little backstory...
I got my Aurora 100 brushless micro quad from Banggood about 6 months ago. Since then, I've grown to absolutely love it! Though others may disagree, I think the Aurora 100 is your best option as a first racing drone. First off, the Aurora is small. I've owned quite a few larger drones within the 180-500 class and they are outright dangerous! Not saying that the Aurora can't seriously hurt somebody or the walls of your house, but it's a LOT safer than the dangerous shredder of a 180 class. If you're new, you'll be crashing often and that means crashing safely. Furthermore, it can be tricky getting used to FPV and it would be a tragedy to accidentally turn somebody, or their dog, into a red slushie. But there's also strength and power to take into account. With the right upgrades (which I've listed in this post), you can turn your Aurora 100 into the ultimate flying machine. To give you an idea, I've been running the same props, motors, and frame for the last two months; and I'm not even a very good pilot!
In our Aurora 100 Review and Mod tutorial above, we cover the purpose of each mod and how to install it. For more information, please refer to the next step.
My current rig (August 2017): This is what I'm currently running and have been running for the last few months. I've tinkered with it quite a bit and think that I've hit the "sweet spot."
- Eachine ATX03 Video and Audio Transmitter (with whip antenna)
- Gemfan 2035 Polycarbonate "Indestructible" Propellers (these live up to their name) Note that I run these only about 1/2 the time I fly. After extreme crashes (often), I replace all four props with the ones listed below. I'm still deciding which ones are best. These are great because they are well balanced but bend easily. You'll just need to bend them back after every crash.
- DYS 2030 Props (these are the ones I'm running in the photos above) I like these props because they're a lot stiffer (and cheaper) than the GFs (Gem Fans), but they're weaker. After a solid crash into a streetlight, you can expect to break at least a blade or two. Sadly, about 1/2 of these props arrive very poorly balanced to the point where it's nearly unflyable due to the amount of noise this creates on the video feed (due to vibrations). Make sure to balance them! Lastly, I seem to get a little more thrust from these props and they're also are slightly more efficient (according to the thrust charts).
Step 1: Install the 3D Printed Mods
The 3D printed modifications and upgrades are listed below:
-Hybrid PLA & TPU Frame With Integrated Motor Guards Though not as strong as carbon fiber, these "hybrid frames" are highly durable and definitely worth a try for low-budget fliers. The Aurora 100 ships with a very weak stock frame (only 1.5mm thick carbon fiber) that will break easily. If you're interested in an infinite supply of cheap 3D printable frames that are STRONGER THAN THE STOCK FRAME and have integrated motor guards, you've come to the right place! The main thing I love about these frames is that they never fully break. When you slam into a street light at 40mph, the arm will flex and the PLA core will snap, but the arm will still stay fully attached, protecting your motor wires. I can't count the number of motors that got their wires ripped out because the arm of my carbon frame flew off! (I literally have a 1104 motor graveyard) Also, they have integrated motor guards which protect your motors from hard hits that can dislodge the magnets glued to your rotor (outside part of the motor). As for strength, one of my friends once said, "these frames are literally indestructible." Realistically, they can, and will, break, but it's definitely a great, inexpensive way to go. Note that this print does require a dual extruder printer. I also plan to start selling them in bulk on eBay sooner or later.
-Motor guards (for 11XX motors) protect the not-so-durable stock Eachine 1104 motors. If you're low budget like me, you don't want to (or can't) invest the $60 in a set of nice, durable motors. I've found the stock motors more than adequate when properly protected. Though these motor guards may add a significant amount of weight to your build, they are almost essential to using the stock motors. Also, even with all of these mods, my Aurora totally rips! Note that there are clockwise (CW) and counterclockwise (CCW) motor guards. For more info on the motor guards, see my other post.
-ATX03 VTX and camera mount allow you to install an upgraded ATX03 video transmitter! If you ever decide to race your Aurora at any events, you'll need a VTX capable of more than the puny 25mw the stock transmitter outputs (trust me, I tried). Even if you're on a different channel, the 200mw VTXs of the other larger quads will give you signal hell. The Eachine ATX03 video transmitter (VTX) allows you to select not only the channel, but also select the power at either 25mw, 50mw, or 200mw! Moreover, the ATX03 has an IPEX port, allowing you to plug in a durable whip antenna. The common cloverleaf antenna that most micro FPV rigs come with is very fragile and probably won't survive much, but a whip antenna will last forever. Okay, now let's talk about the 3D printed parts of this mod. It consists of two side panels which slide over your two front red aluminum standoffs. The ATX03 then slides in! These panels also provide great protection against annoying grass bits and other stuff that your props may fling into your flight controller (FC) stack.
-Camera Locks The camera locks are definitely some of the smaller mods that I've installed but do serve a useful purpose. Because the ATX03 is just a VTX, you'll need to install an external camera. With the stock VTX and camera rig, the whole thing was pinched between the carbon fiber and aluminum camera mount. This made sure that your camera didn't slide around during flight. When using an external camera, it can slide around in its place especially when trying to put on a lens cap! These two little pieces slide into the rectangular slots on the side of the aluminum camera mount and lock your camera in place so it doesn't slide out when you install your lens cap! If you're suffering from vibration issues, print them in TPU to help reduce vibrations transferred to your camera!
-Antenna Guard and Roll Bar If you're one of those people who love cloverleaf antennas and just can't bear to give them up to a dipole, you're in luck! These antenna guards are large enough to fit most small cloverleaf antennas that don't have a long coaxial cable (the wire connecting the SMA connector to the antenna). Even if you're not running a cloverleaf, whip antennas can break! Better be safe than sorry! These antenna guards also work as great roll bars. The top plate of most quads is known to be that part that will rarely, or never, break. This is sort of true with the Aurora. When you're flying fast, your quad will be tilted very far forward, meaning if you crash, you're more likely damage the top of your quad than when flying at slower speeds. Also, if you ever fly face first into a tree, there's a chance that your Aurora may fall upside down onto the pavement. By attaching these antenna guards, you allow them to break instead of your top plate. I've included both .STL and .SVG files for the antenna guards as some of you may want to try to CNC them out of carbon fiber.
-The Original Aurora Base Plate If you own a 3D printer, CNC, or laser cutter, I've included .STL and .SVG files for my rendition of the original Aurora baseplate! It's not very strong in PLA (the hybrid frame is much more durable), but it's nearly indestructible when CNC'd in 2.5mm carbon fiber.
Step 2: Future Plans...
Future Plans: Stay tuned for these exciting experimental upgrades.
-Upgrading permanently to 3S (soldering on an XT30 plug & upgrading ESC and/or motors)
-Trying higher discharge batteries
-Trying 5 blade 2035 props
-Trying 1105 motors
-Trying 1106 motors