What is a quadcopter gimbal?

A quadcopter gimbal is a camera-stabilization device

which helps smoothing out the video you shoot from your quadcopter. A video shot with a gimbal will have no jello and will be extremely smooth.

Gimbals come in all shapes and sizes, and can cost anything between $50 to$300 and up.

What does a gimbal do?

To put it simply, a gimbal counteracts the quadcopters rotation by rotating the camera in the opposite direction.

For this to work the gimbal has 2 or 3 axis around which it can rotate the camera. Gimbals use either simple servos or brushless motors for the rotation.

Just like quadcopters, gimbals get their information from the gyros built into the gimbal controller.

There are simple vibration dampening mounts on the market which call themselves a gimbal (for example this one from GoolRC). While these are not gimbals, they are still good at reducing the jello, the jelly-like effect of your videos.

Most gimbals can be controlled from the transmitter too, and you should be able to hook up them to your FPV goggle’s tilt and yaw sensor through the transmitter’s trainer port. While the gimbals are usually too heavy for FPVracing (check this pan-and-tilt solution for FPV), they are still great to look around when the quad is up in the sky.

Quadcopter gimbal types, pros and cons

A gimbal’s performance improves as you move from servo-based gimbal to a brushless motor based one, then move on from using two axis to using three axis.

2 axis gimbals with servo

are good for basic aerial photography and FPV flying. While these gimbals do not offer high performance, they are cheap, and most flight controllers support them out ofthe box, so no additional controller is needed. The gimbals can work as pan-and-tilt systems for FPV flying too. There are quite a few videos on youtube on setting up the flight controller and the gimbal – for a basic guide check out this one.You can find servo gimbals on Amazon, click here for the price.

To control these gimbals from your transmitter, you can either directly connect the servos to the receiver without stabilization, or use your flight controller’s built-in gimbal support. For more information check this reddit discussion and the Cleanflight mixer documentation.

2 axis gimbals with brushless motors

are intermediate level solutions with better performance than the servo based gimbals.

These gimbals use a special gimbal controller to drive the brushless motors smoothly, using softer signals than what the motor controller for the propellers use. The gimbal controllers have an external sensor board which moves together with the camera, so the feedback is very accurate.

As the outrunner motors have a huge torque, smooth movements are a non-issue for these setups.

3 axis gimbals with brushless motors

are professional systems for very high quality aerial photography.

As these gimbals have one more motor and one more axis so they can compensate for the quadcopter’s yaw too. Compared to the 2axis systems they weigh a bit more, so getting extra batteries for your quadrotor drone is a great idea.

For best results choose a gimbal designed for your camera. This way you will not have to care about balancing the gimbal (it should not rotate under the camera’s weight), nor PID tuning, as the manufacturer has already done these for you.

Controlling a brushless gimbal from your transmittter is possible too,you will have to connect the output from the receiver to the gimbal controller, and set up the gimbal controller to properly use the input.

Which gimbal to choose for your quad?

When choosing a gimbal for your quadcopter, keep it simple first. If you are just starting out with gimbals, a simple 2 axis unit is more than enough. Choose a gimbal that’s designed for your camera, so you can skip balancing and PID tuning.

Servo based gimbals are only good for basic photography, and will require a deep dive into your flight controller software, so just get a 2 axis brushless gimbal.

Generic servo gimbals

are the cheapest, they do not require PID tuning, and can work even when a bit imbalanced. Getting the basics to work is easy with these gimbals. However you will need a deep understanding of your flight controller software to control these from your transmitter while the flight controller takes care of the balancing.

This gimbal comes without servos and camera, and weighs 72 grams.

The Walkera 2-axis plastic brushless gimbal

is a great entry-level brushless quadcopter gimbal. It was designed for the Gopro Hero 3 / iLookseries of action cams. The gimbal supports pan and tilt control from your transmitter with a software upgrade, hooking it up to an FPV goggle’s sensor is possible too. It’s recommended for beginners and is priced very competitively.

The Walkera plastic gimbal weighs 136 grams, you can drive it directly from your 3S Lipo battery.

The Walkera G-3D 3 Axis Brushless Gimbal

is another great brushless gimbal from Walkera. Compared to Walkera’s 2-axis plastic gimbal it offers more stability as it can compensate for the quadcopter’s yaw movement too. The Walkera G-3D is compatible with the Gopro 3 and iLook action cameras, and can tilt and roll based on input from the receiver. It works directly from a 3S Lipo, all you have to do is power it up. Weight is 188 grams, and transmitter control is supported too.

The DJI Zenmuse H4-3D Gimbal for Phantom 2

is a high-performance 3 axis gimbal designed for the DJI Phantom 2 and the GoPro Hero4 Blackaction cam.

This gimbal is only compatible with the Hero4 Black, and will become imbalanced with other cameras, so use it only with a Hero4 without filters.

While the gimbal was designed for the Phantom 2 it’s usable with other quadcopters too, if you get the gimbal control unit for it. The gimbal weighs 167 grams, and theGoPro is 87 grams, you will need a 350 size or larger quad to lift it.You can use your 3S Lipo as power source for the GCU, the GCU supports tilt angle control from the transmitter.

Choose this if you are looking for a professional solution.

The Tarot T4-3D

is another great brushless gimbal. It supports Hero 3, 3+ and Hero 4 action cams and has a both an FPV mode for simply smoothing out the video, and another mode to tilt and roll it from your transmitter. This is a good alternative to the DJI Zenmuse.The gimbal weighs 178 grams, and you can simply hook it up to your drone’s battery.

Building your own gimbal

is possible too. There are quite a few gimbal controllers, gimbal motors and frames on the market today, so you can just build your own if you enjoy putting things together. There are even gimbal controllers which support automatic PID tuning, for example the BaseCam SimpleBGC controller, so you’ll only have to do the building and the balancing. Other systems you may want to checkout are the EvvGC and the Virtual Robotix gimbal. You can also get gimbal motors and controllers on Amazon too.

Have fun flying 🙂

What camera to get for your quadcopter?

Selecting a camera for your quadcopter

can seem to be hard,as there are so many choices. Fortunately once you work out what you’d like to use your camera for it will be easy to choose.

The three most common reasons to add a camera to a quadcopter drone are:

  • To use the camera for FPVflying.
  • To create a cool video of your flight, or use the camera for good quality aerial photography.
  • Or to create really high quality aerial photos and videos.

While these categories may not seem that much different at first, each category has different needs, so they are best served by different cameras.

There are a few counterfeit cameras on the market today – to save yourself from the trouble just choose Paypal at checkout as Paypal has great buyer protection, or buy from a reputable online store, for example Amazon.

Cameras for FPV flying

If you plan to use the camera for FPV flying, you will need a camera that is small and light and has low latency. FPV cameras are designed with specially these in mind.

When you are looking for an FPV camera, the most important attributes to check are:

Is the camera PAL or NTSC?

PAL has a bit better resolution,while NTSC has a bit better frame rate. In the end what really counts is the compatibility with your existing gear.

CCD vs CMOS?

The difference between CCD and CMOS sensors is decreasing year-after-year,still they are not the same. CCD has better low-light performance, and usually worse strong-light performance (for example turning towards the Sun will result in a whiteout). If you plan to fly a lot in strong light CMOS will be better for you.

CCD cameras have no jello, so their output will simply look better. Excessive jello can be a sign of vibration, and it’s a good idea anyway to balance your props, as it will slow down the aging of your bearings too.

The TVL number

simply shows the camera’s horizontal resolution, you can get cameras with up to 1000 TVL today. There is not much point of getting a higher TVL camera, as PAL or NTSC restricts you to less than 600 lines of horizontal resolution anyway. Instead of relying on the TVL number to gauge the image quality head over to Youtube and check a few videos of the camera you are interested in.

IR blocking coating

is usually applied to all cameras which make them usable for daytime flying. For night flying get a camera without the IR coating, they are great 🙂

FPV transmitters use analog signals.

While the perfectionist in you may want to use digital signals, analog is better as it’s more fault tolerant. If your digital signal gets distorted for example due to flying behind a large tree trunk you will only see the blank screen.

With an analog signal you will only see some distortion on the screen and it will quickly get back to normal.

The camera’s field-of-view angle

is important when FPVracing. For FPV race you’ll want to get a camera with high FOV so you can see more of your environment.Otherwise just choose a camera with a FOV that you are comfortable with.

Of course it’s not only the camera that makes the picture perfect, the transmitter, receiver and the FPV goggle are important too.

Suggested FPV camera: The Eachine 1000TVL MINI FPV Camera

. This Eachine unit has a CCD sensor, so you will get no jello. The camera has IR coating so it’s ideal for daylight flying. It also has a locking focus ring, so once set up it will not slip and lose focus. The latency is ~40ms, the weight is 10.4 grams; you will need to get a transmitter, antenna and connect a 5 volt power source to get it up and running.

Suggested FPV camera: The Eachine 700TVL FPV Camera with transmitter

. This camera has a lower TVL rating and a CMOS sensor, so it’s expected to have a bit lower latency than the1000TVL Eachine camera. Strong light performance will be better too, however you can expect a bit of jello with this one. The weight of the camera with the transmitter is 15.2 grams.

Suggested FPV camera: The Crazepony FPV Micro AIO Camera

. This camera was especially designed for tiny quadcopters like the Blade Inductrix, has an integrated transmitter and weighs only 3.6grams. Choose this one if you want the lowest weight solution – the heavier cameras will have a bit better image quality.

Click here to check the prices of other CCD FPV cameras on Amazon, and hereto check other CMOS FPV cameras.

Cameras for flight recording and aerial videos

While FPV flying needs a simple solution to keep it reliable, action cams do not need to be that simple, choosing one is easy too.

A good action cam for flight recording should be light weight, should have a decent battery life, and should be able to take the beating survive the crashes.

Just as with FPV cameras the image quality and the field of view are important when choosing a camera for aerial photography.

When researching the camera probably the most useful thing you can do is to head over to Youtube, and check if you like the footage made with that camera.

Action cams are great both for aerial photography and for recording your high-speed flights.

Suggested: the Gopro Hero4 Silver

The Hero4 Silver weighs 83 grams without the case, and can take videos for1 hour and 50 minutes with one charge. As Gopro uses CMOS sensors, you’ll want to get a vibration dampening mount (like this one), or even better, a complete gimbal to improve the image quality. The Hero4 supports most of the popular video formats including 2704 x 1520 videos at 30 fps, or 1920 x 1080 pixel videos at 60 fps.

Suggested: the Mobius Action Camera

. The Mobius is a light-weight action cam that supports 1920 x 1080 pixel 30 fps videos. The Mobius has an 1 hour 20 minute battery life and weighs only 39 grams which makes it an ideal, lower cost choice for quadrotors.

Suggested: the Mate 808 Keychain Camera

. Keychain cameras are small and light-weight “spy” cameras, which make them ideal for quadcopters too. This cameras can record 1920 x 1080 videos for up to an hour.

Choose this camera if you need to save weight on your quad, the larger one shave better image quality.

High-end cameras for movie-quality aerial shots

Quadcopter drones are especially suitable for high-quality aerial shots and films, as they cost way less than using a helicopter to get up in the air.

With gimbal stabilization you can get as good quality as you’d expect from a blockbuster movie.

These cameras weigh a lot, so you will need a heavy lifting quadcopter for this job. It’s a good idea to get a high-end quadcopter, as there’s no point in getting a low-end $400 quad to save money, then lose $1000 by crashing it with the expensive camera on.For example, the DJI S1000is an octocopter that’s up to the job. (You can check the price on Amazon.)

To quickly find a high end camera for your quad it’s the easiest to headover to Amazon and do a few searches for “dji zenmuse camera-manufacturer”. Replace camera-manufacturer with the name of the camera manufacturers you are interested in, for example “DJI Zenmuse Canon”. This way you’ll easily find cameras which are supported by DJI’s Zenmuse gimbal.

Suggested: the Panasonic GH4

, a professional camera from Panasonic. TheGH4 can shoot 4K 4096 x 2160 pixel cinema quality video using it’s 17megapixel MOS sensor. The GH4 has a more than two hours of battery life and weighs around 820 grams depending on the lens used. DJI’s Zenmuse Z15 line of gimbals support the GH4.

You can check theZ15’s and the GH4’s price on Amazon, or check the camera specs on the Panasonic website.

The videos shot with the GH4 are simply stunning, just take a look at this one:

Suggested: the Sony a7S

, one of Sony’s professional offerings. The a7S can record 1080p (1920 x 1080) videos at up to 50 fps, has about an hour of battery life, and weighs a bit less than 500 grams – the low weight in itself is a huge plus. You can check the detailed specs here and the price here.The DJI Zenmuse gimbal supports the Sony a7S, you can get it on Amazon for example.

This video was shot using the Sony a7S and a quadcopter drone:


You can read even more on FPV gear selection in our What quadcopter for FPV?article.

Have fun flying 🙂

What motor to choose for your quadcopter?

Choosing a quadcopter motor is tricky.

The real problem with choosing a quadcopter motor is that there are just too many variables:

  • you can choose a motor, which will affect both the quadcopter’s weight and the maximum thrust, so you may have to repeat the selection process
  • you can choose a frame plus battery, but then it’s hard to find a motor which can lift it
  • the propeller you choose will affect the maximum thrust, and the power requirements too (which in turn affects the motor, battery and ESCselection)

For mini and nano quadcopters which measure less than 180 millimeters diagonally the usual choice is a brushed coreless motor.Quads larger than size 250 use brushless outrunners – these are the real deal, as these motors have more power and better longevity than the smaller brushed motors.

A 4240 sized motor with the numbers visible.

Manufacturers usually mark these motors with four numbers, for example”2210″. The 22 means the stator’s diameter, while the 10 means the stator’s height. These numbers are not that important, as they do not describe the motor’s performance, just help you get a ballpark figure.

Quadcopter motors have three important parameters.

The most important parameter is probably the KV value – the KV value helps you find the motor’s RPM for a given voltage. All you have to do is multiply the the KV value with the motor’s input voltage, the result will be the RPM. This is important because a lower KV motor will suit larger quadcopters better, while a higher KV motor is better for smaller quads.

The next value that’s important is the efficiency.

Just avoid motors with low efficiency numbers, as these will turn your precious battery charge into heat, instead of driving the props. So go for a motor with as high efficiency as possible to get most out of your quadcopter. Efficiency numbers over 90% are common nowadays. This means that for every watt pumped into the motor, 90% of it will go towards rotating the propeller, and 10%will be turned into heat.

The third most important parameter of the motor is the maximum Ampsit accepts.

The maximum Amps the motor can handle depends on it’s wiring, while the maximum Amps you need depends mainly on the thrust you need, and the propeller’s efficiency. You will have to choose your ESC depending on the Amps you need too, however this is easy – just go for anESC which can supply 2x the Amps you’d need at full thrust to make sure it won’t burn out.

Three-bladed Gemfan 5030 props are used on 220 size fpv racers.
A good motor is nothing without an appropriately sized prop.

For your quadcopter to fly well, you will need an appropriately sized prop.Propellers have two parameters, the diameter and the pitch. The diameter is the prop’s diameter, while the pitch describes the tilt of the blades. For example a prop with a pitch of 4 is tilted such that the blade would be 4inches high if it reached around the center hub.

There are two ways manufacturers mark their props. A prop with a 5 inch diameter and a 3 inch pitch could be marked either as an 5030 or an 5x3prop.

If you’d like to maximize flight time, go for the largest prop you can fit on the frame. If you’d prefer to have an agile quad, select a prop that’s just one size smaller. For example if you have aZMR250 frame, an 5030 prop could be the best choice, while a 6040 prop would probably still fit.

When sizing your motors and propellers, go for a combination which would provide you with 2 time the thrust

of your quadcopter’s weight. This ensures that your quad will be able to keep balance, fight the wind and fly the way you want it to.

The method

At this point you have probably chosen what you want to build you just do not know what motor would fit the best, that’s why you are here 🙂 To start, you should find out the usual weight of the your model – for exampleZMR250 based quadcopters usually weigh around 500 to 600 grams. A quick google search will help with this one.

Next you should find out what is the largest propeller you can fit

on that model. Larger props are usually better from efficiency point of view. If you like DIY solutions, here you can get creative – reorganizing the frame can help you fit a larger prop. For example on a standard ZMR250 quad you can fit props up to 6 inches in size, while the 5030 prop is the one that’s usually used.

Once you have these details ready, head over to ecalc.ch.

The free version is a bit restricted, so you may consider signing up – if you build a quad you will spend an order of magnitude more on broken parts anyway.Open the xcoptercalc atecalc.ch, and fill in what you already have. You can get our annotated screenshot here. It’s a good idea to set the weight near the higher end of what you expect, never the lower end – it’s hard to build a light quadcopter, and it’s likely you will overshoot. Do not be afraid to choose an unrealistic setup at first – the idea here is to have something to start out, and improve gradually. After entering the weight, choose a 3Sbattery, let’s say an 3000mAh one, and an oversized ESC, let’s say a 90 Amps one.

Next, bluff your way through the selection process.

Select a motor manufacturer you know, next select a motor size you think could work. For this example I selected a DualSky ECO 2208C motor and an APCElectric 6040 propeller. Now this is not realistic, but we have a winner here – this thing would fly if we could reduce it’s weight. Ecalc is kind to us, and shows the errors in red right bellow the table.

If the bluff is viable, refine it.

In this example we got lucky, and all we need is to reduce the weight a bit.Replacing the 90A ESC with a 20A one does the trick in this case.

Do not stop here!

It’s important to collect multiple configurations that could work – it canv ery well happen that the 4th one will be the best. Try out bit smaller props, different motors and a 4S battery instead a 3S one and write down the details of each that’s likely to work.

If you found one you like you may want to ask others about it too, for example Reddit’s multicopter forum or RcGroups.

Here are a few example setups

for different quad sizes. These are known to work, still it’s a great idea to double check the components.

220x sized motors with ~2300 KV are great for 220 size quads.
Size 220

Motor: Lumenier RX2206-11 2350Kv Motor
ESC: Lumenier F390 30A BLHeli ESC OPTO (2-4s)
Propellers: Lumenier 5x4x3 – 3 Blade Propeller
Battery: 1300mAh 4S

Size 220 #2

Motor: KingKong 2205
ESC: RacerStar RS20A V2
Propellers: DAL 5040 tri-blade
Battery: generic 1300mAh 4S

250 size quads need a bit larger motor with a bit lower KV.

 

Size 250

Motor: DYS MR2306 2100KV
ESC: DYS XM20A or DYS XM30A
Propellers: Kingkong 6040
Battery: Generic 4S or 3S

Size 250 #2

Motor: DYS BE1806-2300kv
ESC: Afro 12AMP BEC Ultralite
Propellers: DAL bullnose 6045 props
Battery: 3S

A 2830 motor is a heavy lifter, use it only for overweight 350 quads.

 

Size 350

Motor: D2830-11 1000kv
ESC: Afro ESC 30Amp
Propellers: Hobbyking Slowfly Propeller 10×4.5
Battery: generic 3S 4000mAh

Size 450

– this one is available as a set from Amazon.
Motor: XXD A2212 1000KV
ESC: generic 30A
Propellers: generic 1045
Battery: 3S

900-100KV motors are great for size 450 quads.

 

Size 450 #2

Motor: Hobbypower 2212 920KV
ESC: HP Simonk 30A
The ESC and the motor are available as a kit from Amazon.
Propellers: Gemfan 1045
Battery: generic 5000mAh 4S

If you’d like to build your own quad, our How to build a quadcopter? article can be a good starting point. To make even more components at home, What is a DIYquadcopter?can give you great ideas. Oscar Liang has a great article on quadcopter motors too.

Have fun flying!

What is a quadcopter?

Quadcopters are four-rotored flying machines

, they are lifted by four propellers: two spinning clockwise, and two spinning counter-clockwise. As such quadcopters are “rotorcrafts”, and belong to the same family as helicopters do. While helicopters work by changing the pitch of their rotors to control the aircraft, quadcopters usually work changing the RPM of their propellers. The quadcopter’s spread is closely related to the advent of high performance microcontrollers, which are used as the flight controller, the brain of the quadcopter. These tiny computers have the computing power required to balance the quadcopters. Quadcopters are mechanically simple (you do not need pushrods, servos or any kind of complex mechanical devices to make them work), and flight controllers are readily available, making quadcopters easy to build.

Quadcopters have a long history

, they were built from the beginning of the 1900s, with various levels of success. Just as with any new technology, the level of refinement increased gradually. The first quadcopter, the Breguet-Richet Gyroplane built in 1907, could barely fly. 50 years later the Convertawings Model A Quadrotor could already fly fairly well in 1956. However it was just around 2005 that the first electronic quadcopters appeared. Since 2005 the number of quadcopters and manufacturers have grown exponentially, today you can get quadcopters in all shapes and sizes, from palm-sized quadcopters with built-in camera to the huge Kopterworx HammerK8.

As quadcopters are simple, reliable and easy to build you can will surely meet them in new roles the following years.

Two props spin clockwise, and two counter-clockwise.
How do quadcopters work?

Quadcopters use a gyroscope to work out their own tilt angle, and then speed up or slow down their propellers to compensate and keep themselves stable.

The quadcopter’s propellers spin independently using 4 motors, 2 in clockwise, and two in counter-clockwise direction. Would the quadcopter tilt left, it can speed up it’s left side propellers to compensate. Tilting forwards, backwards, and right are taken care of the same way.

In forward flight the rear props speed up, the front props slowdown.
To move forward

the quadrotor will slow down it’s propellers in the front slightly, and speed up the ones in the back. This way it will tilt forward,the props will start pushing the air down and towards the back, which will make the quadcopter fly forward.

To turn left, the quad speeds up it’s props turning right.
To turn left

(counter-clockwise), the quadcopter will speed up the propellers turning right (clockwise), and slow down the props turning left (counter-clockwise). This way the faster turning props will get more resistance from the air, and the quadcopter will start turning counter-clockwise. Turning right is achieved in a similar fashion, by speeding up the counter-clockwise turning props,and slowing down the clockwise turning props.

To ascend, the quadcopter will simply speed up all it’s propellers.
To ascend and descend

the quadcopter will simply speed or slow down all of its propellers.

These are the basic movements a quadcopter is capable to. Fortunately you do not have to take care of the propellers speeds yourself, the flight controller does it all for you based on the stick inputs from the transmitter.

Quadcopters can be equipped with even more advanced electronics, to create a more versatile flying machine. For example by adding a high performance flight controller and a GPS you can program it to follow a pre-determined flight plan.

What are quadcopters good for?

Quadcopters and drones are great for recreation, both flying and building them are lot of fun. Just watching how it reacts to your inputs is a great way to let go after a long day. Some quadcopters support first person view flying too – their on board camera transmits the video signal to the pilot’s goggle which can be even more engaging.

Besides flying for fun, quadcopters are great for aerial photography, for example DJI’s Phantom line of quadcopters are professional video recording machines.

Quadcopters are also used by the law enforcement and the military as a surveillance tool: they can fly fast to the desired location and take  a photo or video of the bad guys without endangering the pilot’s life.

Drones make good use in the agriculture too, where they can survey the crops or spray pesticides.

Though not yet used for this, drone will probably be used as last-mile delivery agents too.

Finally, quadcopters make great research platform too, scientists and engineers use them to study autonomous and cooperative behavior, object avoidance, and many other subjects.

Overall

quadcopters are very cool, and you can get lots of fun and enjoyment out of them. If you find them interesting you may want to check out a few of our reviews too.

How to build a quadcopter?

Building a quadcopter at home is not as hard as you’d think. However it takes a lot of time and effort, soldering skills, and patience, patience,patience.

Building your quadcopter is not something you have to do: there are a lot of high quality quadcopters on the market today, and you can easily buy one that will suit your needs, skill level, and budget. Building is a great option if you love putting things together, and you will learn a lot doing it all yourself.

The quadcopter’s parts need to be in balance

, so if it’s your first build, the best is to go with a proven design. This will save you lot of hassle, as the motors, ESCs, batteries and propellers will all be properly matched together. If you fail to match these items, your quadcopter will likely have lower than expected performance, or could totally fail too.
For example a too large motor without the proper battery and ESC will weigh just too much to fly well, and will likely overload your ESC.
On the other hand, and undersized motor will not have enough power to lift your quadcopter, and will likely overheat too. If you’d still like to go with your own part list, eCalc.ch has very detailed quadcopter calculator which can help a lot.

The quadcopter parts list

The ZMR250 is a proven air frame, a lot of kits use this one. It’s the easiest to order one such kit online, for example this one from Amazon. The upside is that you will not have to go through selecting all the right parts:

  • The ZMR250 carbon frame kit,
  • 4x MT2204 2300KV Brushless motors,
  • 4x 12A SimonK ESCs (more info on these ESCs here),
  • 4x 5030 (clockwise) 2-blade Propellers (2 spare),
  • 4x 5030 (counter-clockwise) 2-blade Propellers (2 spare),
  • CC3D Flight Controller in protecting case
  • and the power distribution board.

Still missing and you will surely need:

  • An appropriately sized battery, something around 1300-1600 mAh, 3S (=three LiPo cells in series), fo rexample this one.
  • a 2.4 Ghz receiver and transmitter, for example this combo from Flysky,
  • 4xAA batteries for the transmitter,
  • soldering iron and solder,
  • and finally a balancing charger for the Lipo battery, for example a SKYRC iMAX charger.
Let’s build our DIY quadcopter!

The ZMR250 frame parts laid out.
The motor screws should not be too large.

The first step is to mount the motors on the arms. To do this simply screw the the bottom of the motors onto the arms. The arms are symmetric, so you can’t go wrong with this step. Take care to align the wires from the motor with the arms, so they are protected in case of a crash. To achieve a good fit, tighten the screws only once they are all in. The screws should not be too long, as that will ruin the motor’s wiring.

Motor – ESC detail.
The next step is to connect the motors and the ESCs

For the best connection you may want to solder the motor’s wires onto the ESCs. It’s a good idea to solder them such that they have the best chance to turn in the right direction. To achieve this, solder two motors with the wires straight to the ESC, and two motors with crossed wires. Make sure the wires are not too short, or you’ll have a hard time reaching the power distribution board. Once finished, cover the ESCs with heat shrink tube or simple tape for insulation – shorts can cause fire and you could lose your quadcopter to it. It’s best to make sure they can’t happen.
Choose the simple solution here, and fix the ESCs onto the arms with additional tape.

After the ESCs are in place, screw the arms between the baseplates.

The arms should line up to give the quadcopter the “H” outline. Note the motor’s rotating directions when placing the arms with the quad looking away from you – they should be CW (straight wiring) front left – CCW (crossed wiring) front right – CW (straight wiring)rear right – CCW(crossed wiring) rear left.

By this time the quadcopter should be shaping up pretty well, so it’s time to move onto the other electronics.

The arms mounted between the two baseplates. PDB is on the top.
This is how you wire up the PDB. The CC3D flight controller accepts anything between 5-15 volts.
Soldering the ESCs onto the power distribution board is straightforward.

Just make sure you do not mix up the poles, solder the black wires to the negative pads, and the red wires to the positive pads. Once done you can move on to soldering the battery connector, again red to the positive and black to the negative pads. Once ready you can screw the standoffs onto the baseplate, then the power distribution board onto the standoffs. Use another pair of standoffs to fix the flight controller onto the power distribution board.
The flight controller will get it’s power from one of the ESCs via the wires between the ESC and the flight controller, so there’s nothing to solder here.
The receiver will get it’s power from the triple-wire connector from the flight controller – again it’s something you do not have to care about.

CC3D flight controller – FSiA6receiver wiring.
Connecting the flight controller and the receiver.

After connecting the power wires, you can start connecting the data wires too. First up is the connection between the flight controller and the receiver: plug the connector into the flight controller, next plug the individual plugs into the receiver. White is the throttle, blue is the roll,yellow is the pitch, and brown is the flight mode.

The CC3D’s ports.

Next connect the ESCs to the flight controller.
With the quad looking away from you, the front left ESC is #1 (CW), front right#2(CCW),rear right #3(CW), and finally rear left #4(CCW). When plugging in the ESCs,the yellow wire (the signal) should connect to the innermost pin, and the brown wire to the outermost pin. If your flight controller is ready use more spacers and screw it onto the top of the PDB.

Having put almost everything together it’s time for a quick test.

Charge the battery and connect it to the quadcopter, and power up your transmitter. Using a smoke protector is a great idea – it can save you a lot of hassle. You will have to bind the transmitter and the receiver – just see this short video, it’s less than 2 minutes. After binding is complete you should check that the quadcopter works as expected. Do not put the props on yet -they could cause trouble.

  • if you throttle up, all the motors should start spinning
  • they all spin in the appropriate direction
  • if you push the “tilt forward” stick forward (right stick in mode 2,left stick in mode 1) the rear motors should start spinning faster.
  • if you push the yaw stick left (left stick), the CW direction motors should speed up (front left and rear right) while the CCW direction motors should slow down (front right and rear left)

If there’s anything amiss you will have to debug it with clean flight. There are quite a few guides on it, this one on youtube is really good; if you prefer reading check this guide.

Everything looks good? It’s time to install the props!

Clockwise prop cross section.
To install the props on your quadcopter

When installing the props make sure you put the clockwise props on the clockwise motors, and the counter-clockwise props on the counter-clockwise motors. To identify the propellers, look at them with the blade pointing towards you. The cross section of the counter-clockwise props is the mirror image of the clockwise props. Tighten the props with the nuts.

The large standoff with the screw visible.
Getting ready for the first flight

To get ready for the first flight, use the large screws with the long metal standoffs to install the top plate. Finally mount the battery on the top – velcro and zip ties work wonders here 🙂

The top plate on the standoffs.
Now your quadcopter is ready for flying.

Quadcopters are dangerous, so before trying your quadcopter out make sure that

  • your are out in the open, away from anything you could hurt – people,cars, animals, windows
  • increase the throttle only gradually, never push it up to the maximum
  • take your time to expand the flight envelope
  • if in doubt slowly throttle down
  • the quadcopter propellers can cause serious injury so do not flyclose to humans or animals (I actually cut my mattress with a spinning prop.)
  • make sure it’s actually legal to fly in your area.
  • if you are in the US and your quad weighs more than 0.55 pounds (250grams), you’ll have to register it with the FAA. Your ZMR250 will probably weigh around the double.
Happy flying!
3-2-1 and we have a liftoff!

What is a quadcopter flight controller?

The quadcopter flight controller is the brain of the quadcopter. The flight controller includes a processor, an array of sensors (a 3 axis gyroscope, a3 axis accelerometer and optionally a barometer, a magnetometer and a GPS), and takes the input from the receiver.

Using this input, the code running on the flight controller’s CPU works out how you want it to fly, and combines it with the sensor readings to calculate which rotors it should speed up and which rotors it should slowdown.

This way the flight controller translates your instructions into motor speed. Without a flight controller you’d have to drive the props directly from the receiver, so you’d have to assign a motor to a channel and use the sticks accordingly. For example the horizontal movements of the left stick could drive your front left motor, the vertical movements the front right, and so on.

While this could work with a large quadcopter for a short time, the first gust would blow you away because you just could not react fast enough. And besides it would not be much fun flying this way.

So the flight controller is there to help you, and it does this all hundreds or thousands time a second to keep your quad balanced.

Flight controllers consist of a software and a hardware part.

The hardware and software are only lousily coupled – you can run different flight controller software on the same hardware. For best results it’s good to match the two together.

The same hardware-software combination can support different kind of flying machines. Quadcopters, hexa- and octo-copters are usually supported, some flight controllers support tricopters and airplanes too.

The flight controller software comes with a computer based GUI tool too, which can help setting up and testing your quadcopter.

To choose a flight controller

you’ll have to decide how you’d like to fly. Flight controllers are specialized, and a flight controller tailored for autonomous GPS based flying would not perform well for FPVracing. The basic choices here are generic and FPV flying, aerial photography and finally autonomous, GPSbased flying.

For flight controller software

the most important is to get one that has all the features you need, and has a large enough community.

A controller software which only a few people use will not be well tested, and it will be hard to find solutions to your problems.

For simply flying around Cleanflight is probably the best choice today.

For flight controller hardware

choose one that’s wel lsupported by the software of your choice.

Besides this the two most important things to look out for in FC hardware are the processor and the gyro model, and the manufacturer’s rating. Flightcontrollers are complex and it’s easy to mess them up, so double check the number of FCs sold by the manufacturer, and the rating they got from the buyers.

In general the flight controller’s processor should have a high performance floating point unit, which is used for the in-flight calculations. If the floating point unit is slow or missing, a less precise integer based method will be used, which will result in a slightly worse flight performance. In the future more and more flight controller software will expect a high performance FPU.

Practically every flight controller on the market today uses STMicroelectronics’ STM32 CPUs, the F1-F4 versions. The F4 is the newest and fastest, so go for this one if possible, otherwise choose an F3 based flight controllers. While the F1 based controllers are real ubiquitous workhorses, there isn’t much point in buying one nowadays.

The flight controllers gyro should be resilient both to electrical and mechanical noise,otherwise the quad will show hard-to-pin-down instabilities. TheMPU6500 is known to have issues, the MPU6050 seems to be OK.

Flight controllers for generic and FPV flying

The most popular flight controller software for this category are Cleanflight (a fork of Baseflight), Betaflight (a fork of Cleanflight for code cleanup), Raceflight (a fork of Cleanflight for better racing), and Librepilot (a fork of Openpilot due to internal issues). As Cleanflight is the most popular of the four, it is the safest choice.

For generic and FPV flying a wide range of hardware is available, forexample:

The Seriously Pro SPRacingF3, which is an STM32F3 based flight controller board. It supports the trio of Cleanflight, Betaflight and Raceflight. Buying this board will help support the development of Cleanflight. As the development of this board is closely tied to Cleanflight, this is the bes tcombination. The SPRacingF3 is available on Amazon and other online stores.

The Taulabs Sparky is another STM32F3 CPU based flight controller board which supports Cleanflight, Betaflight, Raceflight andTaulabs’ own flight controller software. This is a good choice too.

The X-Racer F303 is another good choice for Cleanflight, a sit’s one of the most popular boards for quads based on Oscar Liang’s survey. The X-Racer sports an STM32F3series CPU, and supports Betaflight besides Cleanflight.Various versions of the X-Racer F303 are available online – go for the highest version number with the best reviews.

The Taulabs Sparky2 is an upgrade of the Sparky. TheSparky2 is a high-performance STM32F4 CPU based flight controller board,which supports Taulabs’ own software. As Betaflight and Raceflight support is underway it’s safer to revisit this board later. You can easily get the Sparky2online.

LibrePilot Revo also known as the OpenPilot Revolution is anew STM32F4 based board for LibrePilot. This is the best choice for LibrePilot. You can get a lot of versions from major online stores – make sure you double check the rating.

The OpenPilot CC3D is a very popular flight controller,based on the STM32F1 CPU series. This is a not a new model, but due to it’s sheer popularity it’s definitely worth mentioning. The CC3D supports Cleanflight, Librepilot, Betaflight and Raceflight. Choose this one if you want to go with a 110% proven, low-priced board.

The Naze32 is another old-school workhorse, based on theSTM32F1 series. This FC board supports the Cleanflight, Betaflight and Raceflight. The best Naze32 board to date is the Naze32 rev5, the rev6 is currently missing pass through mode for ESC configuration. You can get both the rev5 and the rev6 online.

Flight controllers for aerial photography

For aerial photography the best flight controllers are probably built by DJI. These flight controllers run DJI’s own software and have all you need to build a professional video or photography platform.

The DJI Naza M-Lite is the smallest of the two flight controllers. The highlight for aerial photography is the support for gimbal stablization – one less problem you have to solve with your quad. The Naza M-Lite also supports return to home on lost connection, has intelligent orientation support (this is a a GPS enhanced headlessmode). Besides quadcopters the Naza M-Lite also supports hexacopters.Choose this, except if you want to get the best of the best. You can get various versions of the Naza M-Lite online, including this great 450 size kit.

The DJI Naza M V2 supports everything the Naza M-Lite does,end even more: it comes with a free iPad-based ground station software,and supports octocopters too. A smartphone based assistant software can help with changing the settings out in the field via Bluetooth. With hexa- and octocopters the Naza can keep flying even if one of the motors have stopped- this can help to save the photography equipment and the quad itself. Just as the Naza M-Lite, the Naza M V2 is available on Amazon too.

Flight controllers autonomous flying

For autonomous GPS based flying, the two most popular flight controller software are Paparazzi and Ardupilot. Choose the Paparazzi if you want the largest possible feature set, even at the expense of a bit lacking GUI. Go with the Ardupilot if you’d prefer a bit more polished product.

The two best flight controller boards for autonomous flying

are probably the fully-featured Pixhawk for the Ardupilot, and the tiny but still powerful Elle0 for the Paparazzi.

The Pixhawk and it’s derivates are the best choice for the Ardupilot. These are high performance flight controllers, which sport a really wide range of hardware, including multiple gyros, magnetometers, accelerometers, and a barometer. There is a wide choice of attachable hardware too, including multiple GPS and GLONASS receivers, cameras etc… The Pixhawk is available from a wide range of online retailers, including Amazon.

The Elle0autopilot is an STM32F4 based board for Paparazzi. The Elle0 is equipped with a 3 axis gyro, accelerometer and magnetometer. It has a barometer too for altitude readings. The sensors are connected via a low-latency SPI bus, so performance should be better thanI2C using boards. The Elle0 is tiny, measuring only 30.5 x 30.5 millimeters,so it’s suitable for 250 and smaller sized drones too. The Elle0 is available in 1bitsquared’s online store.

For more information on flight controllers for GPS based flying check ou tthe flight controllers section in our “What is a GPS quadcopter?” article.

The quadcopter flight controller is the brain of the quadcopter. The flight controller includes a processor, an array of sensors (a 3 axis gyroscope, a3 axis accelerometer and optionally a barometer, a magnetometer and a GPS), and takes the input from the receiver.

Using this input, the code running on the flight controller’s CPU works out how you want it to fly, and combines it with the sensor readings to calculate which rotors it should speed up and which rotors it should slowdown.

This way the flight controller translates your instructions into motor speed. Without a flight controller you’d have to drive the props directly from the receiver, so you’d have to assign a motor to a channel and use the sticks accordingly. For example the horizontal movements of the left stick could drive your front left motor, the vertical movements the front right, and so on.

While this could work with a large quadcopter for a short time, the first gust would blow you away because you just could not react fast enough. And besides it would not be much fun flying this way.

So the flight controller is there to help you, and it does this all hundreds or thousands time a second to keep your quad balanced.

Flight controllers consist of a software and a hardware part.

The hardware and software are only lousily coupled – you can run different flight controller software on the same hardware. For best results it’s good to match the two together.

The same hardware-software combination can support different kind of flying machines. Quadcopters, hexa- and octo-copters are usually supported, some flight controllers support tricopters and airplanes too.

The flight controller software comes with a computer based GUI tool too, which can help setting up and testing your quadcopter.

To choose a flight controller

you’ll have to decide how you’d like to fly. Flight controllers are specialized, and a flight controller tailored for autonomous GPS based flying would not perform well for FPV racing. The basic choices here are generic and FPV flying, aerial photography and finally autonomous, GPSbased flying.

For flight controller software

the most important is to get one that has all the features you need, and has a large enough community.

A controller software which only a few people use will not be well tested, and it will be hard to find solutions to your problems.

For simply flying around Cleanflight is probably the best choice today.

For flight controller hardware

choose one that’s well supported by the software of your choice.

Besides this the two most important things to look out for in FC hardware are the processor and the gyro model, and the manufacturer’s rating. Flight controllers are complex and it’s easy to mess them up, so double check the number of FCs sold by the manufacturer, and the rating they got from the buyers.

In general the flight controller’s processor should have a high performance floating point unit, which is used for the in-flight calculations. If the floating point unit is slow or missing, a less precise integer based method will be used, which will result in a slightly worse flight performance. In the future more and more flight controller software will expect a high performance FPU.

Practically every flight controller on the market today uses STMicroelectronics’ STM32 CPUs, the F1-F4 versions. The F4 is the newest and fastest, so go for this one if possible, otherwise choose an F3 based flight controllers. While the F1 based controllers are real ubiquitous workhorses, there isn’t much point in buying one nowadays.

The flight controllers gyro should be resilient both to electrical and mechanical noise,otherwise the quad will show hard-to-pin-down instabilities. TheMPU6500 is known to have issues, the MPU6050 seems to be OK.

Flight controllers for generic and FPV flying

The most popular flight controller software for this category are Cleanflight (a fork of Baseflight), Betaflight (a fork of Cleanflight for code cleanup), Raceflight (a fork of Cleanflight for better racing), and Librepilot (a fork of Openpilot due to internal issues). As Cleanflight is the most popular of the four, it is the safest choice.

For generic and FPV flying a wide range of hardware is available, for example:

The Seriously Pro SPRacingF3, which is an STM32F3 based flight controller board. It supports the trio of Cleanflight, Betaflight and Raceflight.Buying this board will help support the development of Cleanflight. As the development of this board is closely tied to Cleanflight, this is the best combination. The SPRacingF3 is available on Amazon and other online stores.

The Taulabs Sparky is another STM32F3 CPU based flight controller board which supports Cleanflight, Betaflight, Raceflight andTaulabs’ own flight controller software. This is a good choice too.

The X-Racer F303 is another good choice for Cleanflight, as it’s one of the most popular boards for quads based on Oscar Liang’s survey. The X-Racer sports an STM32F3series CPU, and supports Betaflight besides Cleanflight.Various versions of the X-Racer F303 are available online – go for the highest version number with the best reviews.

The Taulabs Sparky2 is an upgrade of the Sparky. TheSparky2 is a high-performance STM32F4 CPU based flight controller board,which supports Taulabs’ own software. As Betaflight and Raceflight support is underway it’s safer to revisit this board later. You can easily get the Sparky2online.

LibrePilot Revo also known as the OpenPilot Revolution is anew STM32F4 based board for LibrePilot. This is the best choice for LibrePilot. You can get a lot of versions from major online stores – make sure you double check the rating.

The OpenPilot CC3D is a very popular flight controller,based on the STM32F1 CPU series. This is a not a new model, but due to it’s sheer popularity it’s definitely worth mentioning. The CC3D supports Cleanflight, Librepilot, Betaflight and Raceflight. Choose this one if you want to go with a 110% proven, low-priced board.

The Naze32 is another old-school workhorse, based on theSTM32F1 series. This FC board supports the Cleanflight, Betaflight and Raceflight. The best Naze32 board to date is the Naze32 rev5, the rev6 is currently missing pass through mode for ESC configuration. You can get both the rev5 and the rev6 online.

Flight controllers for aerial photography

For aerial photography the best flight controllers are probably built by DJI. These flight controllers run DJI’s own software and have all you need to build a professional video or photography platform.

The DJI Naza M-Lite is the smallest of the two flight controllers. The highlight for aerial photography is the support for gimbal stablization – one less problem you have to solve with your quad. The Naza M-Lite also supports return to home on lost connection, has intelligent orientation support (this is a a GPS enhanced headless mode). Besides quadcopters the Naza M-Lite also supports hexacopters.Choose this, except if you want to get the best of the best. You can get various versions of the Naza M-Lite online, including this great 450 size kit.

The DJI Naza M V2 supports everything the Naza M-Lite does,end even more: it comes with a free iPad-based ground station software,and supports octocopters too. A smartphone based assistant software can help with changing the settings out in the field via Bluetooth. With hexa- and octocopters the Naza can keep flying even if one of the motors have stopped- this can help to save the photography equipment and the quad itself. Just as the Naza M-Lite, the Naza M V2 is available on Amazon too.

Flight controllers autonomous flying

For autonomous GPS based flying, the two most popular flight controller software are Paparazzi and Ardupilot. Choose the Paparazzi if you want the largest possible feature set, even at the expense of a bit lacking GUI. Go with the Ardupilot if you’d prefer a bit more polished product.

The two best flight controller boards for autonomous flying

are probably the fully-featured Pixhawk for the Ardupilot, and the tiny but still powerful Elle0 for the Paparazzi.

The Pixhawk and it’s derivates are the best choice for the Ardupilot. These are high performance flight controllers, which sport a really wide range of hardware, including multiple gyros, magnetometers, accelerometers,and a barometer. There is a wide choice of attachable hardware too,including multiple GPS and GLONASS receivers, cameras etc… The Pixhawk isavailable from a wide range of online retailers, including Amazon.

The Elle0autopilot is an STM32F4 based board for Paparazzi. The Elle0 is equipped with a 3 axis gyro, accelerometer and magnetometer. It has a barometer too for altitude readings. The sensors are connected via a low-latency SPI bus, so performance should be better thanI2C using boards. The Elle0 is tiny, measuring only 30.5 x 30.5 millimeters,so it’s suitable for 250 and smaller sized drones too. The Elle0 is available in 1bitsquared’s online store.

For more information on flight controllers for GPS based flying check out the flight controllers section in our “What is a GPS quadcopter?” article.

Have fun flying!

What is a GPS quadcopter?

What is a GPS?

The GPS system uses GPS satellites, a GPS receiver and software to calculate it’s own position – the latitude, longitude and elevation with 6 to 4 meter precision. Besides the GPS system which was originally created by the US Department of Defense, modern GPS receivers can use the Russian GLONASS system too. In the future the number of global positioning systems will extend even further, and the receivers will probably support the European Galileo, and later the Chinese BeiDou-2 and maybe the Indian IRNSS system too.

What is a GPS quadcopter?

A GPS quadcopter is a quadrotor which has an integrated GPS receiver. With a GPS receiver onboard the quadrotor will know where it is, which makes advanced behavior possible. If quadrotor gets equipped with a GPS and a good flight controller, it will be able to fly to preset locations, follow a flight plan, visit waypoints or return home automatically.

In general these functions are useful for surveying crops and buildings, by flying over them and taking photos automatically or recording other kind of data.

Quadcopters with a GPS will be very useful as automated parcel delivery agents too, as they could handle the “last mile” part of the delivery without needing human control.

Law enforcement and the military benefits from GPS enabled quadcopters too,as they can be used for gathering intelligence, surveillance, and will be able to fly to the requested location automatically, without putting the pilot in danger.

Why have a GPS in your quadcopter?

If you buy or build a quadcopter with a GPS, it will be able to autonomously fly back to it’s takeoff location for landing, automatic “follow me” mod becomes possible too.

A quad with a GPS can send it’s current location back to you regularly,which can help you find it would it get lost.

Besides these simple uses cases you could use it to regularly tour your property to secure it for example. This”scanning” mode is available in the Paparazzi autopilot, but emulating it using waypoints is easy too.

Quadcopters usually use one of ublox’s GPS modules.

A quad with GPS will still need calibration.

A GPS enabled quadcopter will still need the same calibration as a quad without a GPS: the magnetometer, accelerometer and the gyro is not replaced by the GPS. So do not get one just to get rid of the magnetometer dance 🙂

Ready-to-fly quadcopters with GPS

You can simply buy or, if you are a bit more adventurous, build your own GPS enabled quadcopter. GPS functionality is available in these popular ready to fly quads:

The Cheerson CX-20

supports GPS position hold, GPS based return-home functionality and automatic landing. The CX-20 is fairly clever,as it will return to you and land if the transmitter signal is lost – all this is possible due to it’s integrated GPS. The CX-20 is available on Amazon too.The CX-20 is among the cheapest GPS quads you can get. The CX-20 comes in multiple flavors, the Open Source edition is based on ArduPilot. As such it’s compatible with the Mission Planner software, which makes features such as flight planning possible. Click here for the CX-20’s official page.

The Cheerson CX-22

is the larger brother of the CheersonCX-20. In short it has the same GPS features as the CX-20: GPS based position hold, GPS based return home and landing. Compared to the CX-20 the CX-22 has a gimbal and a built-in camera, it’s capable of FPV and the transmitter works at 5.8 Ghz. The CX-22 supports flight planning out of the box, so you will not have to fish for open source versions, which is a plus compared to the CX-20.Still it’s not as professional as could it be – the flight planner software is available here as a simple download. Click here for the CX-22’s official page.

The DJI Phantom 2

is a professional GPS quadcopter from DJI. The main GPS based features are position hold, automatic return-home and landing. Flight planning is supported too, using DJI’s own iPad app. Beware though, it is not included in the Phantom 2’s price. Click here to visit the official Phantom 2 page. The Phantom 2 is available from Amazon for example. The Phantom 2 is running out of stock, so get it while you can.

The DJI Phantom 3

is the bigger brother of the Phantom 2,it has upgraded electronics, longer flight time, and longer range too. As there are a lot of differences between the Phantom 2 and the Phantom 3, they need different ground station software too. For the Phantom 3 you have to use the DJI GO app for flight planning. The app supports waypoint planning so you can command your drone to fly to a location you choose without having to control it using the sticks. The DJI Forum has more information on using waypoints. The DJI GO app is available for free both from the App Store and from Google play An alternative flight planner for the Phantom 3 is available here. The DJI Phantom 3 itself is available from various stores,for example Amazon has them too.

The DJI Phantom 4 and the Inspire 1 are supported by the DJI GO app too, sofrom point of view of GPS support they are the same.

The Yuneec Typhoon H

is a professional hexacopter for aerial photography and video recording by Yuneec. Out of the two most popular Yuneec multicopters, the Typhoon H and the Thyphoon Q500, the TyphoonH has much better GPS based features: it supports waypoint based flying, GPSbased return home and follow me, and GPS based “circle around a location”(the Q500 lacks waypoint support). Both multicopters have their own controllers which act as their ground stations too – you’ll only need this single device both for stick based and waypoint based flying. Both the Typhoon Hand the Typhoon Q500 are available from Amazon and other vendors.

You can get more information on these multicopters on Yuneec’s Typhoon Q500 and Typhoon H pages.

Conclusions

If you need waypoint planning just go with the Phantom 2 or the Phantom 3,you’ll get much more bang for your buck this way. If ou need the follow me/circle location feature then go with the Typhoon Q500. If you need both the waypoint planning and the follow me feature, get the Typhoon H.

Quadcopter flight controllers with GPS support

Besides ready-to-fly quadcopters, home-built quads can have GPS functionality too, as lot of flight controller hardware and software supports GPS in some form. This way you can build your own quad at home (read more on this here and here), add a capable flight controller, and start waypoint-based flying.

For a flight controller board to support GPS it has to be able to connect to a GPS,must have enough RAM to hold the code for the GPS support,and a high performance CPU to run that code. For example the CC3D flight controller does not support a GPS as it’s just not powerful enough.

These systems usually use one of u-blox’s GPS modules.

The Ardupilot Copter

(also know as APM:Copter) supports GPS based flight planning, and has a nice looking mission planner too. The mission planner supports waypoint based flying,circling a location and it has follow me mode and automatic landing too. Even advanced modes like scanning an area in a grid pattern are supported.

The ArduPilot runs on a very wide range of flight controller boards (click here for the full list). For best results use a Pixhawk flight controller board, for example the Pixhawk Mini. Other flight controllers which support a GPS out of the box are the EMLID Navio2 and the Snapdragon flight kit.

To start GPS-based flying even faster, it’s possible to run the ArduPilot on the Parrot Bebop 2 Drone. The Bebop 2 is available inonline stores too. Another possibility is to get the Open Source edition of the Cheerson CX-20..

LibrePilot

(homepage) supports GPS too,as long as it runs on the OpenPilot Revolution or the OpenPilot Revolution Nano hardware.

The LibrePilot Ground Station supports waypoint based flying, GPS based position hold and circle, and lot of other modes including automatic takeoff and landing. Still,the ArduPilot is more advanced than the LibrePilot.

The Paparazzi UAV

(homepage) is yet another autopilot software with GPS based navigation features.Paparazzi has more features than many commercial offerings, for example it supports waypoint based flying, circles, ovals, eights – read the full list for more information. A simple flight plan editor is available too, but in the end you’ll probably have to resort to editing the XML flight plan file manually. You can verify the flight plan with Paparazzi’s built-in simulator.

The Paparazzi flight controller software runs on a wide range of hardware,including the Apogee, Elle and Krooz line of boards.The Elle and Lisa lines are available at 1bitsquared.

Paparazzi also runs on AR Drone 2 and Bebopor Bebop 2 quadcopters -for quick results get a Bebop quad, check out the free Paparazzi course, and start your GPSbased flights.

Conclusions

If you need a good-looking ground station solution, select the ArduPilot. If you want the largest feature set even if the GUI is lacking, go with the Paparazzi.

To learn about general purpose flight controllers, check our What is a quadcopter flight controller? article.

How to fly your quad like a pro?

Flying a quadrotor is not that hard, as the heavy lifting is done by the flight controller. Still it takes some time, effort, crashes and bent props to become a pro pilot.

To start out your best bet is to get a high quality toy quadcopter, for example the Syma X5C and a few spare props. You could start with a professional quad too, still, crashing a Syma X5C is way cheaper (check the price) than crashing a Walkera Rodeo.The Hubsan H107L and H107C are good choices too.

Ordering a large number of replacement props (say 3 sets) up front is a great idea too, as they do not cost much, and you will not stay grounded while the props arrive.

Buying a flight simulator software you can use for training is a great idea too, for example the Great Planes RealFlight supports multirotor simulation. You will still need a transmitter with a trainer port for it – the Flysky FS-i6 is an overall well-rounded transmitter and should just work.

Got the quad? Got the props? Let’s start!

The stick functions.
Step 1 – transmitter controls

Whichever quad you got, your transmitter will have two sticks, one on the left and one on the right. Most of the transmitters are Mode 2, which means that the throttle and yaw is on the left stick, while the pitch and roll is on the right. As this is the most common setup, we’ll use it here too.Initially you will only use the throttle, that is pushing the left stick up and down. Using the other movements can wait.

Before flying your quadcopter, the first step is to bind it with the transmitter. It’s usually achieved by turning on the quad first, next the transmitter, then pushing the left stick up to the top and down to the bottom again. You will not need this procedure if they are already bound.Would the props start spinning, throttle down immediately.

Pushing the left stick to the left or right controls the yaw, the rotation of the quadcopter. Later you will use this to fly circles for example.

The right stick controls the pitch and roll of the quadcopter. If you push the right stick forward, the quad will bend forward and start flying forward. Pushing the right stick backwards, left or right will make the quad bend and fly backwards, left or right. We will get back to these in a few minutes.

Clean fields are great for flying, just stay clear of the trees.
Step 2 – flight environment

Choosing the appropriate environment for your flights will take some time,but it can save a lot of hassle later on. For safety keep clear of things you could hurt, including people, property, animals, cars, and yourself. Also keep clear of things that could hurt your quad, for example trees and power lines.

For best results fly only above soft, even surfaces, fields or a areas designated for R/C flying are the best. Avoid bodies of water as the quads are not water proof.

To improve the quads longevity do not fly above sand – the sand could get into the bearings and wreck them.

Start flying only in calm weather, as fighting the wind is surely not something you’ll want to start with.

Finally keep away from bushed fields, finding a quad in the bush is not fun.Also keep clear of hawks and other kind of birds of prey, as they love to attack quadcopters.

But enough of the rules, let’s start the preflight checkup!

Step 3 – preflight checkup

Before your first flight, double check the battery levels on your quadcopter and transmitter. Check that the propellers are fixed in place and show no damage. Damaged props will cause vibrations, which in turn will cause premature failure of the motor bearings, and the flight controller will have to cope with the additional noise too.

Check the quad for lose arms and wires too, to avoid mid-air shorts or vibrations.

In case of a crash or emergency throttle down immediately – this will save the props, motors and the ESCs.

All looking good? Let’s start flying!

Slowly push the left stick upwards to start ascending.
Exercise 1 – gentle liftoff and landing

Place your quad on an even surface far from anything it could hurt, power it up, and get back to keep some distance. You may have to bind the quad and your transmitter by powering up the quad first, next the transmitter, and pushing the left stick up to the top, then down again.

Once you are ready gently raise the throttle. Patience is the key here – you should see the props spinning up faster and faster, and the quad will slowly rise from the ground. Start slowly lowering the throttle once the quad is up in the air in a few centimeters, that’s all we want now.

Would your quad start drifting or turning do not panic, just throttle down slowly. These issues can be fixed either using the trim button or by recalibrating the gyros.

Repeat this a few times until you feel confident you can get up the air and land safely too.

Exercise 2 – hovering

This exercise will need more room than the previous one. Use the previous exercise to get up in the air with your quad. Once up the air keep raising the throttle gently, until the quad starts ascending. Once the quad is a meter from the ground start lowering the throttle until its tops ascending. Try to keep this height for a minute or so. The key is to gently raise and lower the throttle to keep the altitude. Would your quad start drifting, just follow it around for now.

Repeat this exercise a few times, until you get familiar with hovering and keeping the altitude of your quadcopter.

Exercise 3 – small movements

This exercise builds on Exercise 2, and will need just a bit more room. The objective of the exercise is to get a bit more comfortable with the sticks before moving on to flying more actively.

Start this exercise by lifting off to hover from the ground. Next very gently push the right stick forward so that the quad starts flying forward slowly. Then center the stick again, and repeat by moving the stick gently backwards, then gently left and right. The quad will fly a bit back,then left and right.

In the second part of this exercise we’ll focus on using the yaw on the left stick.Very gently move the left stick to the left and watch the quadcopter startturning left. Center the stick again, so that the turning stops. Next movethe left stick gently to the right, and watch the quad turn right. Center the stick again to stop the turning. Try to isolate the left-right movement of the stick from the up-down movement, so that the quadcopter’s altitude does not change while it’s turning.

The key for this exercise is to move the sticks only very slowly, and not letting the quad to speed up. Try to keep the altitude constant during the exercise.

You will have to move the right stick in a cross pattern for square flying.
Exercise 4 – square and circle flying with the right stick only

Get into stable hover as you did in the second exercise. You will need larger room, as you’ll start flying for real!

For square flying,move the right stick gently forward, and let the quad fly forward about a meter. Let the right stick center, then move it to the left to fly left 1 meter, then let it center again. Next move it backwards to fly back one meter, and let it center. Finally move it to right to fly right one mete rand let it center again.

Congratulations, your square is finished!

You will have to move the right stick in a circle pattern for circle flying.
To fly in a circle with your quad

, all you have to do is move the right stick gently forward until the quad starts flying forward, then move it around slowly in a circular fashion and watch the quad fly a circle. Let the stick center to stop the quad. The circle you just flow is simply a rounded version of the rectangle you flew before.

As your quad gains speed it will loose altitude, so you will have to compensate by giving it more throttle. Just take your time to get comfortable with this.

Exercise 5 – circle flying using yaw

When flying a circle using the yaw, the quad will rotate to face you for some time. In this phase the right stick may not behave as you’d like it to- as the quad is facing you instead of away from you, the right stick’s behavior will get mirrored. So would you push the right stick left, the quad will start flying towards the right. Some quads support headless mode to counteract this behavior.But enough of the talk let’s start!

To fly in a circle, first get into hover as you did in the previous exercises. Next push the right stick gently forward, and let the quad start flying forward slowly. Next move the left stick slowly leftwards, and the quad will start circling slowly. To keep things simple, let the quad go a full circle before landing. If you do not have enough space for this, let the right stick center and move the left stick towards the middle to stop the movement before landing.

Syma X5C gyroreset combination from the quad’s documentation.
Trimming and gyro recalibration

Quadcopter’s internal gyro can get messed up during a crash – the quadcopter will start drifting if you try to fly it. If you experience this, you will have to reset the gyros. You will find the exact reset sequence in your quadcopter’s documentation, these are the required steps common to all quads:

  • Place the quad on an even surface.
  • Bind it with the transmitter by turning on the quad first, next the transmitter, then move the left stick up and down.

The next part depends on the quad, but usually involves moving both sticks to one of the corners and wait for the quad’s LEDs to flash. In case of the Syma X5C:

  • Move both sticks to the bottom right corner and wait for the LEDs to flash.

After the reset the quad should not drift anymore.

The trim buttons.
Another solution to the drift problem

is to use the transmitters trim buttons,which are usually right next to the sticks. You can use buttons to counteract the drift and rotation you see on your quad. First you’ll have to find which trim button to use.

  • If the quad is drifting forward or backward, you will have to push the button right of the right stick backwards or forwards a few times to counteract the drift.
  • If the quad is drifting left or right, you will have to push the button bellow the right stick right or left a few times to counteract the drift.
  • If your quad is rotating left or right, you will have to push the button below the left stick right or left a few times to counteract the rotation.
Conclusion

Flying a quadcopter is not that hard, just take your time and do not rush it. If you are unsure of yourself, try a simulator first, or check our review section for one of those indestructible toy quads. There are quite a few flying lessons on Youtube too, this is one is basic, and really easy to understand.

Have fun flying 🙂

What quadcopter for beginners?

Quadrotors are getting better year after year, buying one suitable for a beginner is very easy. The best beginner quads have the following attributes:

A quadcopter drone suitable for beginners should be light

, as light quadcopters can’t do that much damage, and do not get damaged that easy either. Large quads like the DJI Phantom can cause all sorts of damage if they fall: they can crush windshields, cause injury to people, the rotating blades cuts through the flesh, and the quad itself will surely fall into pieces.

Contrast this with a small quad like the Cheerson CX-10, the worst that can happen is that you’ll have to replace it’s props, which cost just a few dollars. This kind of safety is even more important if you buy the quad as a present for your son or daughter.

Having said that bit larger size toy quads can be good too, as their slight sluggishness make them easier to control.

The best beginner quads are sturdy, and have a huge choice of parts available.

If one thing is sure you’ll experience many times as a beginner pilots are crashes. The more beating the quad can take, and the easier it is to get parts for the better.

The quadrotor should come with spare propellers and a prop guard out of the box.

Propellers count as consumables when you are starting out. The guard will help you consume less 🙂

Quads with multiple modes make great trainers

, these quadcopters have beginner/intermediate/advanced modes. In beginner mode the quad is the least sensitive, so controlling it is easier as fine stick movements are not required.

The top starter quads do not cost much.

It’s a great idea to think of these as throw away toys – spending a lot on a beginner quad is not that fortunate as you’ll crash it many times anyway. The lower the price,the lower the loss can be.

The quad should come with a transmitter.

Some toy quadrotors are controlled using a Wifi-capable smartphone. While these might look great at first, it will only make it harder to graduate to a normal transmitter later on. If you are looking for a quadcopter for a child, there are quads with small-sized transmitters which will fit their hands better.

Get a quad with replaceable battery.

Toy quads tend to have along charge time, so it’s a great idea to get a quad with replaceable battery and a few spare batteries to have more fun.

Consider getting a quad with a camera.

While a camera is anything but necessary for a beginner quad, it can be a lot more fun. Just imagine a video of the quad chasing the neighbor’s cat 🙂

Some toy quads have Wifi based live, first-person-view video output – you could get these, but Wifi based video links are not useful for flying, as they have a high latency.

Consider using a simulator.

Besides getting a cheap and sturdy toy quad you can improve your skills a lot by using a simulator, for example this quadcopter simulator. A simulator never breaks down, will not need battery charging and prop replacement, so you can fly as much as you want to.

Avoid quadcopters with a brushless motor.

While brushless motors are the real deal, they are not for beginners. Just leave them fo rlater when your flying skills have improved. None of the quads in this article have brushless motors, so they are safe.

To learn more about flying a quad, check our “How to fly a quadcopter?” article!

Toy quads usually have a 14 year minimum suggested age. These quads have small parts, so keep them out of the reach of toddlers.

Quadcopters for beginners

Holy Stone HS170
The Holy Stone HS170 before liftoff.
The Holy Stone HS170

is classic we reviewed earlier. The palm-sized HS170 has a 6 to 8 minute flight time after a 80 minute charge time, so getting a spare battery is a good idea. The transmitter is a bit smaller than that of the Syma X5C, so this could make a better gift for children. The transmitter has beginner,intermediate and advanced modes which makes it ideal for learning to fly.Propeller guard and replacement propellers are included in the box. TheHS170 supports headless mode which makes it easy to recover would you loose the orientation.

The Holy Stone HS170 is our suggested quad for starting out.

Features:
  • Prop guards in the box.
  • Replacement props in the box.
  • Easy to replace battery.
  • Beginner, intermediate and advanced modes.
  • Full-size transmitter.
  • Mid-size transmitter.
  • Small-size transmitter.
The Syma X5C

is another classic, we have reviewed it earlier here. The X5Cis suitable for indoor and outdoor flying too, has a 7 minute flight time and a 100 minute charge time. Replacement parts are available too. This is a large-sized toy quad with a full-size transmitter, so it’s best suited for adult hands.

This quad comes with a camera.

Features:
  • Prop guards in the box.
  • Replacement props in the box.
  • Easy to replace battery.
  • Beginner and advanced modes.
  • Full-size transmitter.
  • Mid-size transmitter.
  • Small-size transmitter.
The Syma X11

is a palm-sized, low-cost quadcopter which comes with prop guards out of the box. The transmitter is not full-sized, soit will fit small hands well. The X11 comes with prop guards out of the box, so this will survive crashes. The flight time 6 to 8 minutes, the charge time is 50 minutes. As a little extra, this quad comes with a camera.Choose this quad if you’d like a mini-size, low-cost quad.You can read the full review here.

Features:
  • Prop guards in the box.
  • Replacement props in the box.
  • Easy to replace battery.
  • Beginner and advanced modes.
  • Full-size transmitter.
  • Mid-size transmitter.
  • Small-size transmitter.
The Cheerson CX-10

is a nano-sized quadcopter, great for indoor flying. The CX-10 comes with a small-sized transmitter, which makes it ideal for children. Just as the other quads above, the CX-10 has prop guards so crashes will not wreck the blades. The flight time is 4 to 8 minutes after 40 minutes of charging. A downside of the CX-10 is the built-in battery: you won’t be able to replace it with a fully charged one for continuous flying. The CX-10 has beginner, intermediate and advanced modes so it’s great for beginners. Click here for the full review.

Choose this quad if you’d like to start flying with a really tiny drone.

Features:
  • Prop guards in the box.
  • Replacement props in the box.
  • Easy to replace battery.
  • Beginner, intermediate and advanced modes.
  • Full-size transmitter.
  • Mid-size transmitter.
  • Small-size transmitter.
The Eachine E10C

is another nano-sized quadcopter mainly for indoor flights. Just as the CX-10 this quad comes with a small-sized transmitter. This quadrotor comes without prop guards,however a crash set is available on Amazon. The battery was not designed tobe replaced, so a bit of tinkering is needed. The quad can fly for 5 to 6minutes after 30-40 minutes of charging and supports beginner, intermediate and advanced modes. Click here to read the full review of the Eachine E10C.

This tiny drone is a good alternative to the Eachine E10C

Features:
  • Prop guards in the box.
  • Replacement props in the box.
  • Easy to replace battery.
  • Beginner, intermediate and advanced modes.
  • Full-size transmitter.
  • Mid-size transmitter.
  • Small-size transmitter.

Most toy quads are great for beginners, check our review section for more!

Have fun flying 🙂

What quadcopter to buy for FPV?

Background & Getting Started

FPV racing quadcopters are high-performance quadrotors with FPV camera and transmitter added. This gives you the impression of being part of the action, instead of relying on the outside view.

The FPV camera’s output is received by the receiver, so you can view it either using a goggle or a screen. FPV flying is fun, and racing even more so!

To get started with FPV flying

first you’ll have to get good at non-FPV flying. If you have never flown before, your best bet is to get a high quality toy quadcopter – these are cheap, so you will not mind crashing them. The Hubsan X4 line is great to start out flying.

Next, once you have advanced a bit, it’s time to switch to a simple FPV quad. The main thing to look out for is to avoid Wifi based FPV like th eplague – Wifi based FPV lags so much that your quad will have already crashed by the time you just see the tree coming 🙂 The Hubsan X4 H502S is a good choice for example as it has an 5.8 Ghz FPVsystem. Quadcopters with brushless motors are way more powerful than toy quads, so take it slow.

FPV quadcopter safety

Quadcopters can be a lot more dangerous than they seem to be at first,however keeping safe is simple, you only have to follow a few rules:

  • Never fly near or above objects you could hurt, avoid people in particular. A 250 size quad can easily weigh 400 grams, so can do a lot of damage.
  • Stay clear of the prop of a live quadcopter. Props can cut through flesh very effectively, leaving a bloody mess behind. After landing disconnect the batteries ASAP for safety.
  • Always turn on your FPV receiver and goggle before the camera and transmitter, and check that the channel is not in use.
  • Never fly under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
Lipo fires can be spectacular.

Lipo batteries deserve their own section as they can go up in smoke or fire if things go wrong:

  • Never short circuit a Lipo. Once it’s shorted you should expect it to puff up and go up in flames any time.
  • Never charge a Lipo unattended.
  • Always inspect your battery after a crash. If it got hit heavily,punctured or was shorted you can expect it to go up in flames.
  • Keep your valuables safe: store your Lipo batteries away from anything flammable. Low quality batteries even catch fire spontaneously.

Let’s get started for real!

Once you are past the beginner level and ready to advance to proper FPVquads, you’ll have to decide if you want to build or buy your FPV quadrotor.

If you enjoy building things

, and have basic soldering skills building your own should not be hard. To wet your appetite, check our articles on quad building, motor selection and getting creative. Making an FPV quadcopter is pretty much the question of adding FPV gear to a fast quad – check out our FPV gear section.

Ready to fly quads are the best to get fast up in the air.

These quads come pre-assembled, most of the time all you have todo is buy the batteries for the transmitter, and the Lipo for the quaditself – due to safety sometimes these are sold separately.

The Walkera Rodeo before flying.
The Walkera Rodeo 150

is a small 150 sized FPV quadcopter,which flies well right out of the box. The Rodeo is priced very competitively and can take a beating, so it’s ideal for beginners. The box contains everything for flying, except for the transmitter’s batteries(8 x AA) andthe integrated FPV goggle + receiver. TheRodeo’s visibility is extremely good, the 6 to 8 minute flight time isrespectable too. The flight controller is CleanFlight, which is very well supported.The only downside of this machine is that it’s a bit over-integrated so fixing it is harder than other quads.

The Makerfire Racer220

is a 220 size drone from Makerfire. To start you’ll need the batteries for the transmitter (4 xAA). For FPV you’ll need an FPV receiver, goggles, antenna and FPV battery – check our FPV gear section. The quad is put together well, with high quality props. Unfortunately there are no replacement props in the package,however these are easy to get though.Both the 8 to 12 minute flight time and the 500 meter range are respectable.The flight controller is Naze32, so you can use it with CleanFlight, BetaFlight or RaceFlight.

The Akaso F250A looks exceptionally clean.
The Akaso F250A

is package that’s perfect for beginners.The package includes everything you’d need for FPV flying, even a 4.3 inch LCD screen – all you need is 4xAA batteries for the transmitter. The battery life is 10 minutes, which is really good too. The cons of this setup are the low “C” rating ofthe battery, and the slightly aged CC3D flight controller. Still the comfort of getting everything in a single packages probably beats these really minor issues.

The Eachine EB185 right after unboxing.
The Eachine EB185

is a futuristic-looking 185 size FPV quadcopter from Eachine. To start flying you’ll need 4 x AA required batteries for the transmitter,and FPV goggles, receiver, antenna and FPV battery. You can find the detailson these in our FPV gear section.Both the receiver and the transmitter are good quality rebranded FlySky FS-i6s. The flight time is 8 to 10 minutes and the package includes an OSD display too, which is a nice plus. The flight controller is Naze32 Rev6, so you can run Cleanflight, Betaflight or Raceflight on it.

The ARRIS X-Speed 250B

is a large, 250 size quad with aZMR250-like frame. The quad is well built, and comes with everything you’d need to start flying, except for the 8 x AA batteries for the transmitter and the receiver-side FPV gear – check our section on these parts. The quad comes with the advanced SPRacingF3 flight controller, so you can use the usual suspects (Cleanflight, Betaflight,Raceflight) with it. The SPRacingF3 is fast, so expect smooth, 7 to 10minute long flights.

LHI 220 FPV illustration.
The LHI 220 before adding the battery and the props.
LHI size 220 Race Copter

is LHI’s quad for the FPV racing drone market. The quad’s flight is very stable and compliant, so expect to spend long time flying 🙂 The range is 400 to 500 meters, and the quadcopter uses standard parts (no over-integrated electronics here), so it’s easy to repair would it break. The suggested display got great reviews too. The SPRacing F3 flight controller is compatible with Cleanflight, Betaflight and Raceflight, so overall this quad makes a great choice. To start flying all you need are the8xAA batteries for the transmitter and the suggested display. The display integrates the FPV receiver,display, antenna and battery into a single package so you do not have to fiddle with parts selection.

In the long run it’s the best to get a quad which has only standardparts

– so while the Walkera Rodeo 150 looks cool, the LHI size 220 quad is more practical as it’s easier to repair. These pre-built quadrotors are great to get into FPV and take part in a few races. However you should not expect these quads to win races, as it takes a bit more learning and trial-and-error to build a race winning quad.

You can easily add FPV gear to most 220 and larger quads to build an FPV quad.

High performance racing quads are custom built, still you can add FPV gear to almost any large-enough quad to have some fun in the air.

The basic components you need to add FPV to a quad are an FPV camera, FPV transmitter plus antenna, FPV receiver plus antenna, FPV screen/goggles and a Lipo battery for the screen.

The most common transmitters and receivers use the 5.8 GHz frequency, so while other frequencies are available, it’s the easiest to stick to this one. The US has almost no restriction on the transmitter power, up to 1 Watt transmitter power can be legal (click here and here to learn more). Other countries have different regulations -for example in the UK the maximum allowed transmitter power is 25 mW (click the “What frequencies are available ?” link at the bottom of the article).

The most popular goggle-receiver combination is probably Fat Shark’s Dominator

line of FPV goggles combined with their own receiver. These will still need and antenna and battery. The Dominator comes with all the goodies you can imagine,it has a large 800×480 pixel resolution and anti-fog fan.

To keep your budget lower, Fatshark’s Teleporter

is a nice integrated solution, complete with goggles, receiver, antenna and battery. The Teleporter has a 320×240 pixel resolution.

Eachine has a nice all-in-one solution too, however you’ll probably want to replace it’s antenna with a higher performing one.

If you have a large distance between you eyes (called interpupillary distance), the Fatshark Attitude could be your best friend, as these can be customized.

Choosing a camera and a transmitter

is even easier than choosing the goggles. Eachine’s 700TVL is a great choice if 200mW of transmitter power is legal in your area. This camera + transmitter combo can cover ~1.5kilometers of distance. For a high power all-in-one solution check out the Boscam TR1 – this one requires minimal setup only as the transmitter is integrated into the housing. For a low power all-in-one solution which is compatible with the UK regulation check the Arris EF-01.

The coolest way to socialize.
Get social!

Once you got started with FPV, you’ll probably want to find local groups or clubs. This is a great way to socialize, meet like-minded people, race and improve your FPV skills.

Learning is the fastest if you can learn from others – it’s almost like getting a ready-made solution instead of struggling with trial and error on your own. Search for novice-firendly folks and avoid the know-it-alls – there are plenty of clubs out there so there’s no point in getting stuck in a bad one.

Learning FPV flying takes time, so set your goals low at first, and improve gradually. This way you will not get discouraged and will improve slowly but surely.

DroneLife has a nice state-by-state list of clubs and organizations here, Meetup.com lists meetups both for plain fpv and racing.

If you can’t find groups nearby don’t despair, regular RC Clubs will probably have a few FPV pilots too. You can find these on R/C Airplane World and connect2clubs.

Racing classes

were created for a fair racing environment. These classes depend on the organizer only, for example RacingFPV’s classes are different than MultiGP’s classes. As the quads are tuned heavily to their class, you’ll either need multiple quads or just stick to one organizer. Class stability is crucial too, if the organizer rearranges the classes often, that’s pretty much a no-go. MultiGP’s classes changed once since 2015 while RacingFPV’s classes did not change. RCGroups has an a bit dated but still very interesting discussion on classes.

FPV events

are organized year-round, check the World Drone Racing Championships calendar, MultiGP calendar, or the FPVRacingEvents calendar for more information.As FPV racing is getting even more mainstream, the race organizers will sure keep you busy 🙂

Have fun flying 🙂