Building a FPV Quadcopter

Like probably half of the guys in the world, once the Drone Racing League videos started coming out, I became fascinated with quadcopters. I started reading up on the carbon fiber racing quads, and watching all kinds of videos on how to build and fly them. My wife saw me watching build videos and asked me when the parts for mine would show up… I decided to order everything that afternoon.

I had always wanted to fly an RC airplane, but never got the opportunity. Now was my chance to build and fly something cool. I dove in head first, ordering most of the best gear I could find. On a recommendation from an online forum, I ordered a ZMR 250 clone kit, which included the frame, ESCs, motors and most everything to put it together. I ordered the 1st version of this kit from Multi Rotor Mania.

To get a flyable quad, I would at least need a flight controller, receiver and transmitter. Again on some recommendations, I went with the RMRC Seriously Dodo Rev 3 FC, the FrSky X4R-SB receiver and the Taranis X9D Plus Transmitter.

I had never soldered something this complicated before so I needed to order some tools. I headed to Amazon and ordered what I thought I might need. I got a new chinesium soldering iron, a soldering iron holder, some miscellaneous size heat shrink, M3 standoff spacers, a cutting mat that everyone online seemed to be using, and a heat gun for the heat shrink.

I also needed some batteries and a charger, so for those I took some more advice and procured a turnigy charger and 10 3s 1500mah 35-70C batteries from HobbyKing. These are really starter batteries, so they should do well for a first timer

Some of the tools arriving!

I ordered some fancy looking LEDs from RMRC, and decided to give soldering electronics a go. I didn’t blow anything up and they worked!

A few days later my quad kit and transmitter arrived, so it was time to get jamming…

I started assembling the frame. The instructions were pretty clear, plus it was kind of obvious where parts needed to go. I installed the standoffs to mount the PDB and flight controller. I also connected the receiver to the flight controller using this wiring diagram from rcgroups.com

I then bound the receiver to the taranis transmitter successfully, and verified the configuration in cleanflight with the flight controller hooked to my computer via USB. This was a pretty big accomplishment for someone who had never soldered anything resembling circuits before.

Now on to soldering the motors to the ESCs. For this I had to remove the heat shrink from the ESC and desolder the existing motor leads. I was nervous, because I didn’t know how hot I could get the existing solder to remove the leads before I would toast the ESC. After removing the leads, and then soldering the motors directly to them, I had to test them out. I used this handy servo testing unit. The motors all worked. I didn’t fry anything yet!

Now on to the FPV equipment. I wasn’t going to be able to fly this thing without seeing where I’m going. For these I went with a Sony Super HAD CCD mini camera and Hawkeye 200mW video transmitter. Connecting these was pretty straight forward. Power into video transmitter via 12 volt regulator and filter, and power from the video transmitter to the camera. Signal from camera to transmitter via a homemade cable. Viola.

Now that I’ve verified all the individual components, it’s time to button this thing up and assemble everything. I mounted the flight controller and PDB on the standoffs. Soldered power from the PDB to the LEDs and Flight controller. Connected up the ESC signal wires to the flight controller, and we are ready to put the top plate on and Fly!

And we are ready to crash! After my first crash, I realized I didn’t have the prop nuts on tight enough and lost one. I got a whole 30 seconds of flying…

A quick run to Home Depot for some M5 locknuts and I was at least ready to fly again. This time I tried FPV with my fatshark goggles. This was a little disorienting at first, and I wasn’t really ready for it. I crashed 10s of times and decided line of sight flying was good for getting the hang of the controls for now.

I attached my Xiaomi Yi HD cam to the quad and just started flying around.

I really sucked at flying. This is hard! Time to download FPV freerider, and connect my Taranis to the computer and fly the sim for a few hours.

After a few hours I felt comfortable enough to get out and fly some FPV. I took the quad to a field nearby and success! I crashed a few times, but was able to fly pretty damn good for a first timer.

Warning! The Yi’s sound sucks so this is abnormally loud.

After a few more sessions I felt pretty confident about flying…

I even got a fancy pelican 1500 case to carry all my gear around in. Now I’m cool.

Keep on practicing…

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List of purchases for this project:

Amazon

Qty Product Price Notes
1 Vastar 60W 110V Adjustable Temperature Black Welding Soldering Iron $16.99
1 Trakpower Deluxe Iron Holder with Sponge $8.54
1 Anytime Tools AT201262 Heat Shrink $6.70
1 Rosiness 180Pcs M3 Nylon Hex Spacers $8.99
1 Revell Modelers Cut Mat $11.71
1 TruePower 01-0712 Mini Heat Gun $18.74
1 GoolRC HJ Digital Servo Tester $10.99
1 YI 88001 16MP Action Camera $99.99
1 Pelican 1500 Case with Foam $109.95