What is the best quadcopter?

To put simply, quadcopters are four-rotored helicopters. These marvelous flying machines have become very popular lately – they are funto fly, great for aerial photography, and easy to assemble too. Of course there are a lot more details you may want to know about quadcopters – in this case you may want to check our “What is a quadcopter?”article to get some background information.

To decide what’s the best quadcopter for you

, first you have to answer these questions honestly:

What is your skill level?

Depending on your skill level and what you are good at, different kind of quadcopters can be good for you. If you are just starting out, and not even sure if you will like this hobby,you will want to buy a quadcopter that is simple to fly and does not cost much, like a Hubsan X4. If you have already owned quite a few quadcopters, you will probably want to level up, for example get a DJI Phantom 2 for better aerial photography, or buy an FPV racer quad for mind-numbingly fast action.

What is your budget?

As with a lot of other things in life,drones which are too cheap are probably junk, and drones which cost a lot are probably overpriced, so you will want to go for the mid range. Still,the mid range is very broad, too, you can get good toy quadcopters from around $30, while professional machines can cost up to $1000.

What are your objectives?

Why do you want to buy a quadcopter? Depending on your objectives, different kind of quadcopters can be a good fit for you. If you are into aerial photography, you will probably want to “graduate” to the DJI Phantom line. If you love racing, you will want to start with a simple FPV quadcopter (just skip the ones with WiFi),and work your way up from there. If you just want to have a bit of fun,without too many strings attached, a toy quadcopters will be a good choice.If you are a builder, building your own quadcopters could be very satisfying.

How much time do you have?

This question is overlooked by many – learning to fly a quadcopter takes time and effort. If you are very busy, ready-to-fly (RTF) toy quadcopters would be the best for you. Then again if you have lot of spare time, building your own quadcopters is absolutely doable and lots of fun.

Next, you should work out what kind of flight time, range,agility and camera quality you expect from your quadcopter.

Quadcopters are not made equal, they come in all shapes and sizes.

While small toy quadcopters will only fly for 4 to 6 minutes, flight time and the enjoyment grows as you go for larger and larger quadcopters -the top of the line DJI Phantom 4 can fly for up to 28 minutes. You do not have to pay up though to fly for long times – most quadcopters support replacing the batteries in the field, so you can start out with multiple fully charged batteries, and use them up one-by-one. This the best way to get long flight time in an affordable manner.

Just as the drone’s flight time, range usually depends on the sizetoo.

Nano quadcopters will have a range of around 30 meters – just enough to fly through your garden. These tiny machines do not have the space and battery power necessary for high performance receivers. Larger quadcopters are less constrained, the Syma X8Chas a range up to 250 meters, and still does not cost much. Top of the line quadrotors can have a range of a few kilometers. Large range is good to have as a safety net too: most drones which use the 2.4 Ghz transmission technology will simply shut down and crash once they fly out of range. So in general, the larger the range, the better.

Agility

is fortunately not that size dependent, the Eachine E10C is fairly agile for a toy quadcopter, while the larger Syma quadcopters can be a bit sluggish. It’s entirely up to you to decide – some people prefer gentle flying, while others love the high-speed action. If agility is very important to you, you will want to graduate to high performance FPV or acrobatic quadcopters. Quadcopters are specialized, so what works well for aerial photography(which requires stability and gentle flying) is unlikely to work as an acrobatic quadcopter.

The quadcopter’s camera quality

varies a lot between the manufacturers – in general the cheaper the model, the worse the camera. The megapixel rating in itself does not say much – some manufacturers even seem to interpolate pixels to “bake” the resolution. So you should always check the reviews of the quadcopter and keep a sharp eye on both the sample images and the claimed resolution. High end models usually have a great camera, or you can attach a GoPro – there’s no way to go wrong with those ones! For a reasonably priced quadcopter with GoPro support you may want to check out the Ionic Stratus. For first person view flying always look for quadcopters with a proper FPV camera – WiFi based cameras lag way too much to be usable. Still, they can be great for aerial photography.


Selecting the quadcopter that suits you the best

With this background in mind you can start to look for the quadcopter that best suits you. We have compiled a short list of 15 quadcopters – some of them are toys, some of them are the real serious stuff. Most of them are good, but there are some you should avoid – we have included these too so you’ll know what to look out for.

#1 Blade Nano Qx

The Blade Nano Qx is a tiny, 16 gram quadcopter which is a blast to fly.It’s best for indoor flying, but will fly outdoors too if there’s no strong wind. The flight time is a very respectable 7 minutes, the battery is easy to replace, the range is ~20 meters – this little quad has everything you need for a few quick flights. A wide range of upgrades are available too.Read our full review.

#2 Eachine E10C

The Eachine E10C is another tiny contender. It weighs 15 grams, has an onboard camera, and flies fast too. What more could you want ? πŸ™‚ The E10C’s flight time is 6 minutes, however the battery is hard to replace.Choose this one if you’d like a nano drone with a basic camera, but long flights are not so important for you. A wide range of replacement parts are available for this tiny drone, and it’s priced competitively too. The range is 20 to 30 meters, which is almost too much for such a tiny drone. Check the full review.

#3 The Hubsan H107L

The Hubsan H107L is a member of the famous Hubsan X4 series.It weighs 30 grams, so it’s better suited for outdoor flying than the previous two tiny drones. It has a removable battery which, coupled with the9 minute flight time, makes it really compelling for those of you who’d like longer outdoor flights. The H107L is the basic version, the H107C has a camera too. Both have a wide range of upgrade and replacement parts available would you be into tinkering. The transmitter’s range is around 30 meters, which is standard in this class.Β Read the long review.

#4 The Dromida Ominus FPV
The Dromida Ominus FPV looks great in black and yellow.

The Dromida Ominus FPV is a first-person-view camera drone from Dromida.With a 12 minute flight time, 50 meter range and a strong body it’s a real outdoor champion. The FPV functionality is WiFi based, so expect the video to lag – it’s really just a toy FPV solution. Still, with it’s unique look and durability it’sΒ  choice if you want to fly outdoors, and see the world through the quadcopter’s eye. Replacement parts are available, so you are covered would you crash it πŸ™‚ Our review of the non-FPV version is here. For more information on the FPV version you may want to visit the manufacturer’s site, check Youtube, or read the reviews on Amazon.

#5 The UDI U818A

The UDI U818A is a 110 gram, very well built quadcopter equipped with a basic camera. Flight time is around 8 minutes, it’s battery is replaceable out in the field. It supports the so-called headless mode, and has a simple fly back home functionality too. These features combined with it’s gentle manners and the 30 meter range makes it one of those very beginner friendly quadcopters. For more information you may want to check out the full review.

#6 The Syma X5C

The Syma X5C is a professional-looking quadcopter with a basic camera. It weighs around 100 grams, and is best suited for outdoor flight on calm days. With a 7 minute average flight time and nice manners it’s ideal if you are looking for a smooth flying, great looking drone. Syma has a lot of experience with quadcopters, so it’s safe to choose one of their drones. The range is 50 meters, which is really good in this category.For the full review please click here.

#7 The Syma X8C

The Syma X8C is the X5C’s bigger brother. As big brothers go, it does everything a bit better: while it keeps the same professional looks, it’s range is 250 meters, and can fly for up to 12minutes on a single charge. With it’s 600 gram weight in can only fly in large open spaces. The X8C is ideal if you’d like to start with a large quad- due to the size and power these quads are more stable than the smaller ones. The X8C must be registered with the FAA.You can check the full review here.

#8 The DJI Phantom 3 Standard
The DJI Phantom 3 is watching you.

The DJI Phantom 3 Standard is an entirely new category – a professional quadcopterfor aerial photography. Complete with GPS and a 12 megapixel camera, 500meter range and a 25 minute flight time it’s not a toy. It’s perfectly balanced, the on board electronics makes flying a breeze. Besides recording video and taking photos onto the on board storage, it supports streaming the live data to a smartphone too. The 12 megapixel camera is stabilized so none of your photos will come out blurry from this machine. Choose this one if you are a professional photographer, or if you’d like to start an aerial photography business.
The Verge has a detailed review of the DJI Phantom 3 Standard.

#9 The Hubsan FPV
The Hubsan X4 FPV before liftoff.

The Hubsan X4 H107D is a small FPV quadcopter from Hubsan. It has a 100meter range, proper 5.8 Ghz FPV so it will not lag like the WiFi based FPVs.The battery life is low, clocking in a 6 minutes, however the battery is replaceable on the field, and the part availability is great. Together with the really low price this quadcopter is a must-buy!
To learn more about the Hubsan FPV, check the review on New Atlas and tom’s guide.

#10 The GoPro Karma
The GoPro Karma with the transmitter.

The GoPro Karma is GoPro’s entry into the drone market. The Karma is a professional quadcopter designed for aerial photography and video recording. With a foldable design, GoPro camera support, up to 20 minutes of battery life and up to 3 kilometers of range the Karma is professional solution to those looking for a flying action-cam. The DJI Mavic is a direct competitor of the Karma – on the long term this should reduce the price of both products.
Tech radar features a detailed review of the GoPro Karma.

#11 The DJI Mavic
The DJI Mavic in the air.

The DJI Mavic is a foldable quadcopter from DJI. It features an up to 7kilometer range, and 27 minute flight time. Compared to the GoPro Karma it’s less modular as the camera is fixed. With the Karma you can choose between different GoPro models as a camera. The DJI Mavic is designed from the ground up as an intelligent quadcopter, it features ultrasonic sensors and multiple cameras for better orientation, and can identify and follow people and other subjects too. Choose this one if you want the best of the best for aerial photography,while keeping the price reasonable.
Cinema5D has all the details on the tech inside the DJI Mavic.

#12 3D Robotics Solo – questionable
The 3D Robotics Solo in the air.

The 3D Robotics Solo is a semi-autonomous quadcopter from 3D Robotics,designed for GoPro cameras. Compared to other quadcopters, the Solo’s main focus is autonomous behavior – for example you can program it to take shots of a specific location, and it will do it’s job as expected. The Solo has a ~20minute flight time, and a ~ 800 meter range. Powered by a pixhawk flight controller it’s probably one of the most advanced drones on the market today. It’s not without limitations though, so if you are new to quadcopters the Solo’s autonomous features will not fix your flying issues. The 3DR Solo uses WiFi for control, which is a definite disadvantage.
Videomaker has a detailed look at the 3DR Solo. The Solo spec sheet is very impressive, a must read.

#13 The DJI Phantom 4 – questionable
The DJI Phantom 4 sitting on it’s box.

The DJI Phantom 4 is the big brother of the Phantom 3, with even more features. The 12 megapixel camera has the same resolution as on the Phantom3, however the video resolution was improved and the Phantom 4 can record 4Kvideo at 30 FPS. The GPS system got expanded with Glonass navigation. The Phantom 4 has object avoidance too, so crashing it is even harder. The range was improved to 3 kilometers from 500 meters on the Phantom 3.Choose this one if you are a professional photographer, or if you’d like to start an aerial photography business and you need the high resolution video – otherwise just go with the Phantom 3, you’ll get more bang for your buck with that one.
Wired has a an in-depth review of the Phantom 4.It’s also interesting to see what the buyers say on this high end drone.

#14 The Parrot Bebop 2 – avoid it
The Parrot Bebop 2.

The Parrot Bebop 2 is a controversial video drone from Parrot: it looks so good on paper – it has WiFi based remote control, 500 meter range, 20+minutes flight time and a stabilized 14 megapixel camera. In reality WiFis not reliable enough for this kind of usage, so expect connectivity problems. The Bebop 2 lacks removable storage for the videos and the camera can’t tilt which makes it unsuitable for serious photography. All in all the Bebop 2 is an expensive toy – choose this one only if you like to buy great looking but overpriced objects. CNET has a long run-down on the Bebop 2 here – it’s worth a read.

#15 The Parrot Ar.Drone 2.0 – avoid it
The Parrot AR.DRONE 2.0 without the guards.

The Parrot Ar.Drone 2.0 is a smaller sibling of the Parrot Bebop. It has a GPS and magnetometer, and together with a ~15 minute long flight time it does not look bad on paper. Compared to the Bebop the crash guards are a big plus -they will save you much trouble would you crash your drone. Then again it’s a Wifi based toy, so do not expect large range or trouble-free flying from it, so it’s not recommended.
Click for a short review on CNET, or read how to hack the range of the AR.DRONE 2.0. (They use proper RC gear, forget the WiFi.)


Are you interested in quadcopter reviews? Check out our review section.

Eachine H8C Review

The Eachine H8C is a good-looking mini-quadcopter with a built-in camera,with 6 axis stabilization, headless mode and one-key return support,complete with landing skids and prop guards.

The H8C will do flips on button-press, and the camera’s functions are available on the transmitter, which is rare in this category.

The H8C’s range is around 100 meters which is big for the size of the quadcopter. The quad does not have a height limit, so it will fly just as high too. Very bright LED lights help with the orientation.

With the geared drive and the 6 axis stabilization system the H8C is agentle, stable quadcopter, suitable for beginners.

The H8C comes with 2 replacement propellers, and a wide variety of parts areavailable, includingprops,battery + charger,prop guards,motors and gear shaft.which make it one of the best supported mini quadrotors on the market.

The H8C is very light, weighing only 41 grams. This, together with theΒ  not-so-strong geared setup means that it will not be able to lift anything substantial. On the upside, such light quadcopters do not need to be registered.

The H8C supports both indoor and outdoor flying, and will take mild gusts easily. Stronger winds will blow it away.

The H8C uses the 2.4 Ghz radio technology, so it will simply shut down if it flies out of range. However the 100 meter range is more than enough, as you would lose sight of it before it goes out of range anyway.

Headless mode and one-key return is supported. In headless mode the H8C will interpret the transmitter’s left-right-forwards-backwards signals with respect to it’s takeoff direction, not it’s actual direction – which comes handy if you lost the orientation.

The suggested age is 12 years and up.

The H8C’s size is 18 cm x 18 cm, the package size is 25 cm x 18 cm x 5.5 cm,package weight is 360 grams.

The package include the everything necessary for flying, except for the 4xAAbatteries for the transmitter, and the SD Card for the camera.

The H8C has three speed modes, which can be toggled using the left shoulder button of the transmitter. The three modes make it suitable for beginner,intermediate and advanced pilots.

The H8C uses 6mm x 15mm coreless motors which drive the propellers through a reduction gear. The H8C is a bit noisier than the average quadcopter due to the gears, however a bit of lube can work wonders.

The battery of the H8C

is a single cell, 3.7 volt, 250mAhLiPo battery. The H8C can fly 4 to 6 minutes after a 45 minute charging period.

The H8C has low voltage cutoff, and it’s bright LEDs will start flashing before the battery runs out. Land as soon as possible when you see this.

The battery is fixed inside the quadcopter, and charging is done through the USB charger which connects to the quad. Any kind of USB socket is good for charging, including the iPhone wall adapter.

To charge the battery just connect the quadcopter to the charger, and the charger to a USB port.

The battery is easily reachable, as it sits right bellow the top of the canopy. The battery is fixed in place using a double sided tape, and connects to the PCB using a JST connector. This also means that other JST based chargers work with the H8C too.

The H8C’s transmitter

is large and game-controller like,and fits the hands nicely. The sticks are about 10 centimeters apart, so it does not feel cramped.

The quadcopter’s every function is available on the transmitter, including taking photos, and starting/stopping the video recording.

The transmitter uses the 2.4 Ghz technology, which is interference free.This means that you will be able to fly with others together.
The H8C and the transmitter bind automatically, all you have to do is turn both of them on.

While the H8C can’t bind to every 2.4 Ghz transmitter, it is compatible with the Bayang quadcopters’ transmitters, and the Walkera Devo transmitters too, using the deviationtx firmware.

The transmitter is fixed in mode 2, the throttle is on the left stick.

The range is 100 meters, which is exceptionally large for a mini quad.

The camera in the H8C

is fixed in place, and is a bit bellow the expectations for such a quadcopter.

The camera’s resolution is 2 megapixels, it records videos and photos onto the MicroSD card which has to be plugged into the quadcopter, so it’s not an FPV solution where you can view the live feed. The MicroSD card and the reader is not included in the package, however MicroSD cards with a reader are really cheap nowadays.

The camera is angled downwards, so you have to fly high to take reasonable photos or videos.

The H8C will detect the inserted MicroSD card, and it’s green LED will turn solid. Without the MicroSD card a green and red led will flash.To take a photo, press shortly on the top of the left plus-shaped button.The H8C will acknowledge the command by shortly flashing it’s red LED.
To start or stop the video, press the same button for 3 seconds. The red LED will keep flashing while the camera is recording.

Always stop recording before powering off the H8C, or the video files could get corrupted.
The videos are saved in AVI format, and are viewable with pretty much any player. To view the videos and the photos remove the MicroSD card from the quadcopter, and connect the card to your computer using a card reader.

Overall

the Eachine H8C is a great quad, particularly suitable for beginner pilots. With the bright LED lights night flying is great too.
Fun:β˜…β˜…β˜…β˜…β˜…
Value:β˜…β˜…β˜…β˜…β˜†
Looks:β˜…β˜…β˜…β˜…β˜…

Resources:

If you liked the H8C, you will like the Holy Stone F180C and the bit bigger Syma X5C too.
RCGroups has a longer and a shorter thread on the H8C.

Udi U818A Review

The UDI U818A is a high-quality quadcopter made in Germany. It has all you can expect from in a beginner’s quadcopter, and even more:it’s gyro-stabilized, has a built-in camera, and can even do flips on demand. The quad comes with prop guards, so it’s better protected than your average drone. Due to it’s gyros stability is great, so you will not have to keep adjusting it. There is even a HDversion available.

With so much electronics on board, the flight is perfect. You can easily fly this copter outdoors small wind and it won’t get carried away. Indoor flight is a possibility too.

The range of the UDI U818A is around 30 meters, and can fly just as high. The flight time is between 6 to 9 minutes, and the charge time is between 1 to 2 hours.

Spare parts are available, for example hereΒ and here. The wide range of parts makes the UDI U818A one of the easiest to repair quads out there.

The U818A is 13.4 x 13.0 x 2.2 inches, and weighs around 4.2 ounces. With this size it can lift small objects, toy soldiers or a 808 keychain camera (however it has it’s own camera, but more on that later)

The suggested age is 14 years and up.

The quadrotor has headless mode, which means it will fly by taking you as the center of orientation instead of itself. For example, in normal mode if you turn left,and then forward the quadrotor will fly left. In headless mode it will fly forward.

Return home is supported too, but it does not seem to work for everyone.Despite being an advanced model, this quadcopter does not support beginner mode, or gyro sensitivity setting.

If you’d like to take the U818A with you on a trip it’s good to know that the shipping size is 546 x 368 x 95mm, and the weight is around 2lbs.

The UDI U818A has some nice LED lights, which make it a night flight champion.

The quad is fairly quiet too, which makes it ideal for quiet spots.

Due to it’s low weight FAA registration is not required.

The camera

has a 640×480 pixel resolution, and can both take photos and make videos (without audio) too. The Tx has two buttons for this function:one button for the video and one for the photos.

To view the videos just plug the camera into your computer’s USB port. There is no possibility to view the live feed from the quad.

The image and video quality is not stellar, but pretty good for the price.

The upside of this simple system is that you will not need a smart phone,or wifi to use the video function.

The card in the camera is an 1GB MicroSD card, you may want to get a bigger one if it gets filled up too fast.

The battery

is a 3.7V 500mAh one. the flight time is between 6 and 9 minutes, charge time between 1and 2 hours. To fly more it’s a great idea to get replacement batteries and maybe a charger for example here. The battery uses the standard JST plug. Other, JST compatible chargers should work with this battery too. Charging is simple: just plug in the charger, then the battery into the charger, and wait for the led to turn green.

During hard maneuvering the battery can get very hot which reduces it’s lifespan, so fly gently to get more out of this quad.

If you are good with electronics,larger batteries are available too, which have the possibility of doubling the flight time.

The transmitter

is a standard 2.4Ghz Tx, so you will not get any interference, multiple quads can fly together. Due to being a standard transmitter, other 2.4Ghz transmitters work with it too, possibly raising the range of the quad. The transmitter does not have a video output,as it’s not an FPV quadcopter. The Tx supports both mode 1 and mode 2flying, so you should be OK no-matter which you prefer.

Binding

is easy, just follow these steps:

  • Turn off both the Tx and the quad.
  • Turn on the Tx, and push the throttle to the top (max) and then to the bottom.
  • Put the quad on a flat surface and turn it on. 3 seconds later you will hear the tone indicating the successful binding, and the quad’s LEDs will turn on.
  • Next move the right stick to the bottom right corner. The quad’s LEDwill blink indicating the recalibration. When the LED is solid again your quad is ready.
Overall

6 stars out of 5 if that would be possible.
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Value:β˜…β˜…β˜…β˜…β˜…


Dronebly has a great review of the UDI U818A too. The Syma X5C and X5SC are in the same class, so worth a read too. The Holy Stone U818A is a rebranded UDI U818A,so you can’t go wrong with that one neither.

Hubsan X4 H107C Review

The Hubsan X4 H107C is a great looking quadcopter, perfect for beginners who would like to enter this hobby. The quad is of really high quality, it was clearly built with great attention to detail. It has all the features you could expect in this price category, including video-recording ability, and it will even do flips for you. The quad is stabilized by a 6axis gyro system, so the flight is stable. It has both beginner and advanced modes. Return home, headless mode, and automatic landing is not yet supported. Gyro sensitivity setting is supported however. The quad also has LED lights, which makes orientation easy.

The quadcomes with replacement props and prop guards. The guards extend the quad’s life time, so it’s a great idea to install them, even though it reduces the flight time a little bit. With the prop guards in place the quad is extremely durable, nevertheless it’s a great idea to fly only above soft surfaces.

As usual trimming is possible on the transmitter.

There is a huge selection of parts available, for example batteries,props and prop guards, and even complete replacement kits..

Despite it’s small size the quad is fairly strong, so it can lift small objects, for example additional cameras or lights. Flight time is a respectable 7 minutes with a 40 minute charge time.

While it performs the best indoors, outdoor flight is a possibility too.Just avoid heavy winds.

Range is up to 100 meters (~300 feet), and the quad can fly just as high too. The winds up there can be strong, so be careful.

Suggested age is above 14 years.

The quad weighs around 50 grams with the battery, and is about 8cm x 8cm x 2.5cmin size with the props. The motor is brushed, and it has no GPS, however this is thedefault in this size and price category. The package weight is 1.2 pounds.

Quads this small do not need to be registered, which is a plus – you can start flying ASAP.

The camera

on the quad is 720p, the camera records onto a MicroSD card. Video recording has to be started on the quad before the flight,there is no switch on the Tx for this function. The camera is a fixed forward-looking one, the lens is compatible with the 808 keychain cameras -good to know would it get damaged. The video is non-FPV so you can only view it after landing.

Stopping the video must be done on the quad too. Remember to stop the video before turning of the quad, otherwise the file could get damaged.

To view the videos you will have to remove the Micro SD card and use a card reader, or you mobile phone.

The quad records audio too, however it is too quiet to be usable.

Recording can become blurry sometimes. To fix this you will have to break the lens free by rotating it, and do multiple recordings in new positions. Select the position where the video is sharp and re-glue the lens.

The battery

is a 380mAh LiPo one, with possibility to upgrade to500mAh. Flight time is 7 minutes, charge time is 40 minutes, which is fairly fast. As the battery is lithium based the usual caveats apply: do not short circuit, push it into fire, or into water as it may catch fire.Replacement batteriesΒ are available, so you won’t have to wait 40 minutes between the flights. The battery connector is standard JST connector so a really wide range is available.

The charger

is USB based, so you will need an USB socket to charg your batteries. Replacement chargers are available, for example this one supports charging four batteries together. Great for flying with friends, or simply to charge all your batteries at once.

Once the charging is complete, the USB charger’s LED will simply go off.

The transmitter

uses the 2.4 Ghz technology which is immune to interference, so you can fly more than one X4s and other quads together.Mode 1 and mode 2 flying are both supported, so you surely won’t feel lost with this quad. The range is up to 100 meters.

Binding the quad to another Tx is a possibility too, so if you have your favorite Tx you will be able to use it.

Being a non-FPV quadcopter the Tx does not have a video screen or a phone holder.

Trims are available so you can fine-tune your quad’s flight.

Overall

it’s a great little quad, and a looker too.
Fun:β˜…β˜…β˜…β˜…β˜…
Value:β˜…β˜…β˜…β˜…β˜…
Looks:β˜…β˜…β˜…β˜…β˜…


The H107C has a camera-less smaller brother, the H107L. If you like the looks of theH107C you will surely love the Holy Stone F1810C too!

Holy Stone HS170 Predator Review

The Holy Stone HS170 is another great looking,well built quadcopter from Holy Stone. The HS170 has a 6 axis stabilization system,which grants it a really smooth flight. The HS170 is rugged, it has tiny legs for landing, and prop guards out of the box which make it survive most of the crashes.

The HS170’s flight time is 6 to 8 minute, it’s range is 30 to 50 meters.Once out of range it will simply drop out of the sky, so take care when pushing it’s limits.

The HS170 has advanced electronics, besides the 6 axis stabilization it can do flips on button press, and has headless mode too (in headless mode the front-back-left-right will be interpreted with respect to the take off direction, which makes piloting the quadcopter easy). Automatic landing or lift off is not supported.
The mini-drone has one-key return which can help you bring it back if you lost orientation.
Being the cheap quadcopter it is, the HS170 does not have a GPS. It has fast-acting coreless brushed motors. The motors drive the propellers directly, so flies quietly and is very nimble.

The mini-drone supports both indoor and outdoor flight, and has beginner, intermediate and advanced modes too.

A wide range of parts are available for the HS170, for example replacement motors, replacement propellers, batteries and so on.

The HS170 is fairly small so it can’t lift anything substantial. It’s only 13×13 cm and weight is bellow the FAA registration limit. Even though it’s small it can cope with winds fairly well.

The suggested age group for the HS170 is 14 years and up.

The package includes everything for flying, except for the 6xAA batteries for the transmitter. The quad is ready-to-fly, you will not have to put it together yourself.

The shipping weight is 400 grams.

The HS170 does not have a camera

, so it does not need an SD Card, or smartphone app (even though the Holy Stone website says so).

The battery

of the Holy Stone HS170 is a single-cell 3.7volt LiPo battery, with 350mAh capacity.
With this battery the mini-drone can fly for 6 to 8 minutes after a 60 to 80 minute long charge period.

The HS170 has low voltage cutoff with blinking. When the battery is getting low during the flight, the quadcopter’s LEDs will start blinking and it will reduce the motor performance. If you experience this, land as soon as possible to avoid a crash.

The factory charger uses an USB socket. To charge the battery first connect the battery to the charger, next the charger to the USB socket.

The quadrotor’s motors have a tendency to overheat, so let it rest 10 minutes between the flights.

Replacement batteries and chargers are available – buying more batteries is a simple way to get longer flights.

The transmitter

of the HS170 is a simple unit, a bit toy like, however it’s more than up to the task. It fits large hands nicely too.

It uses the 2.4 Ghz spread-spectrum technology, which means it’s immune to interference, so you can fly together with others.

Binding

the quadcopter and the transmitter is simple. First turn them both off, set the throttle to the minimum, and place the quadcopter on an even surface.
Next turn on the quadcopter, then the transmitter, and push the throttle up to the maximum, then down to the minimum again.

The transmitter is mode 2, with the throttle on the left stick.

To toggle between beginner, intermediate and advanced modes, all you have to do is depress the left stick towards the body on the transmitter. The transmitter will beep accordingly. One beep is beginner mode, two beeps are for intermediate, and three beeps for advanced mode.

The upper throttle trim button turns the LEDs on and off (great way to save a bit of battery), while long pressing the lower throttle trim button activates the one-key return function.

Depressing the right stick starts the flip mode.

To recalibrate the gyros, first depress the throttle stick until you hear beeps. Next move both sticks to the bottom left corner, and wait for the blinking on the quadcopter to stop.

The range of the HS170 is up to 50 meters, which is pretty nice for such a small quadcopter.

Overall

the HS170 is a great mini-drone to get started with. It looks good, flies well and will take crashes like a champ.
Fun:β˜…β˜…β˜…β˜…β˜…
Value:β˜…β˜…β˜…β˜…β˜…
Looks:β˜…β˜…β˜…β˜…β˜…

Resources:

If you liked this quadcopter, you will surely love the Hubsan X4 H107Ltoo. For a similar sized quadcopter with a camera, check the Holy Stone F180C.
The HS170’s reviews on Amazon are very helpful too.

Akaso K88 Review

The Akaso K88 is a sturdy, good looking quadcopter from Akaso, featuring a HD camera, one button flip, very bright LED lights, and a strong styrofoam protecting frame, making it one of those indestructible quadcopters.

Just as other quadcopter in this category the K88 has 6 axis gyro stabilization (3 axis for accelerometers and 3 axis for gyroscopes) and flies very smoothly, it will keep it’s position fairly well without drifting.

The control range for the Akaso K88 is 50 to 100 meters depending on the environment, and it can fly just as high too. However once out of range this will drop out of the sky, so fly above soft surfaces as much as possible.

The K88 is suitable for both indoor and outdoor flight, however due to it’s size it really shines outdoors. It will take light gusts easily, however moderate to stronger winds can carry it away.

The transmitter has high and low modes too, which make the mini-drone suitable for beginner and advanced pilots, and make indoor-outdoor switching easier.

While the quadrotor is well built, and comes with replacement props out of the box, parts are generally a bit hard to find, so in this respect it’s a bit lacking compared to Syma’s offerings for example.

Still, batteries and replacement charger are easy to find and it’s even available as a bundle.

The box contains everything you need for flying, except for the 3xAAbatteries for the transmitter. (Older versions of the Akaso K88 with the all-black transmitter needed 6xAA.)

The K88 weighs around 105 grams, and is 33 cm X 33 cm in size – so while it can lift small objects, lifting a GoPro is out of question. On the upside,drones this light do not have to be registered with the FAA.

As with other quadrotors, the K88 is suitable for ages 14 and up. Younger children could play with it too, however it’s dangerous for toddlers as it contains small parts, so keep it out of their reach.

The Akaso K88 does not have headless mode or one key return, so it’s not as advanced as it could be.

The mini-drone’s propellers are gear-driven, still it flies very quietly.The motor is the fast-accelerating brushed coreless type.

The package weight is about 460 grams, the package size is about 34 cm X 34cm X 14 cm.

This is probably the best-lit mini-drone you can find, as it has a LED stripe along it’s edge. Night flying is great, it shines like a shooting star up in the sky.

The camera

of the Akaso K88 is a 1.3 megapixel unit, it can take photos at an 1280×1024 pixel resolution, and record videos at640x480, 30 frames per second. The video is average quality; the camera records audio too, however it’s not really usable due to the propeller noise.

As the K88 is not an FPV quadcopter so no smartphone is needed for the video functionality. The videos get recorded to the 4Gb MicroSD card which comes in the package. The format is simple .AVI, which makes it viewable with any video player application. The package includes an USB card reader too, which is a nice addition.

The camera can be tilted by about 30 degrees, so you can point it in the direction you wish. The camera is not removable.

All the camera’s functions are on the transmitter, so unlike simple drones,(e.g. the Hubsan H107C), you can take pictures, start and stop the recording from the transmitter – a nice little feature.

It’s important to stop the recording before powering off the quadcopter,otherwise the video files will get damaged. If you still experience video issues, make sure the card fits the camera nicely, and reformat it as fat32.

The battery

of the K88 is a fairly high capacity, 850mAh3.7volt LiPo battery. The battery gives the quadcopter a 6 to 8 minute flight time, after 1.5 to 2 hours of charge time. The flight time can be increased by turning the LEDs off.

The charger of the quadrotor is a simple USB based charger, it’s compatible with any USB socket, including the iPhone charger too.

Charging is simple: disconnect and remove the battery from the quadcopter,and connect it to the charger. Next connect the charger to an USB port and wait for the LED to turn off.

As the charge time is really long, the best way to get more fun out you quadcopter is to buy more batteries – USB power banks won’t really work as you’d have to wait too long for the battery to charge.

The K88’s batteries use a standard JST plug, so it’s easy to find compatible batteries. In theory any single-cell 3.7 LiPo battery which fits the quadcopter should work – just make sure you do not over heat the motors with the extended usage.

The transmitter

of the K88 is a full-sized unit, so it’s perfect both for smaller and large hands. As the mini-drone uses the interference-free 2.4Ghz technology, you will be able to fly together with others. All you have to do is bind the quadcopters to their transmitters one-by-one.

There are two versions of this transmitter, an older, full-black one which requires 6xAA batteries, and a newer red and black one which only needs 3xAAbatteries.

The control range is between 50 and 100 meters depending on the environment,and the quadrotor will drop out of the sky if you fly out of range, so take care.

The transmitter has an LCD screen with all the information you’d need: it displays the transmitter battery status, trim settings, and low-intermediate-high modes as 0,50 and 100%.

The transmitter has buttons for taking photos and starting/stopping videos on the top right side, a button for easy mode on the top left side.

It also has two shoulder buttons, the right shoulder button toggles flip mode, the left shoulder button cycles through the low-intermediate-high modes.

The transmitter is mode 2, with the throttle on the left stick.

To bind the quadcopter and the transmitter, turn both of and set throttle to the minimum. Next turn both on, and push the throttle up to the maximum and down to the minimum again.

Overall

while the Akaso K88′ support is a bit lacking and has a long charge time, overall it is a nice little quadcopter, with exceptionally strong LED lights and very strong frame.
Fun:β˜…β˜…β˜…β˜…β˜†
Value:β˜…β˜…β˜…β˜…β˜†
Looks:β˜…β˜…β˜…β˜…β˜…

Resources

Dragon Blogger reviewed the older version a few months ago. Even though things have changed, it is still relevant. If you liked the Akaso K88 you will surely love the UDI U818A and the Holy Stone U818A too.

How much do drones cost?

Drones can cost anything between $30 for tiny toy drones to $1000 for professional quadcopters for aerial photography. As with any other product, the sky is the limit for the prices – some professional quadcopter kits can go up to $8000.

In order to get the best bang for your buck it’s a great idea to steer clear of the very low priced items – quad copters have to pack a great deal of electronics, so everything under $30 should be a suspicious, even if it’s just a tiny toy drone.

Just as you should avoid under priced items you should avoid overpriced ones too. Above a certain point you will not get more value for more money – there’s just so much a quad can do, even if it’s a professional video drone.

Quadcopters are advancing very fast so what is $2000 today will probably cost less than $1000 next year anyway.

To get the price right think through why do you want a quad.

Quads come in many different categories and they are priced accordingly. The most popular quadrotor categories are

  • Toy quads for simply flying around for fun. Some of these include a camera too so you can snap photos or make a video.
  • Home built quads for more aggressive flying – these usually cost more than the toy quadcopters,but fly a lot better too. Adding a Gopro is possible with these too.
  • FPV racing quads for immersive, real-time video are home built quads with real time video hardware. These flying machines are a lot of fun, but cost more than simple home built drones due to the extra components.
  • Professional video drones for aerial photography and video: for professionals to create high quality videos and photos. These quads usually have a gimbal to attach the equipment, and some come with their own camera too.

Toy quadcopters usually cost between $30 and $100.

These quads are great for having a bit of fun, but they are not high performance racing quads, neither professional solutions for aerial photography. A few toy quads you may want to consider for a bit of flying around:

The Eachine E10C

is a tiny, 6cm x 6cm drone weighing only 15grams. It’s great to have a bit of fun inside, but flies well outsides on calm days too. With the integrated camera you can even take photos or shoot a video of the flight. The flight time is 5-6 minutes. For more details check our review of the Eachine E10C or head over to Amazon to check the price.

The Hubsan H107L

is a bit larger than the E10C, so it flies better outdoors. The 13cm x 13cm size improves the visibility too. Flight time is 9 minutes and the battery is easily removable so you can fly longer between the charges. More details are available in our review of theH107L, price and shipping information is available on Amazon.

The Syma X5C

is an even larger quad, with a 31.5×31.5 cm size and size 102 gram weight it really shines outdoor, the 6 to 9 minute flight time is very respectable too. For more details on the quad and it’s integrated camera check our review, or head over to Amazon to check the price.

There are many more great quadcopters in the toy category, if you’d like to learn about them check out our review section. These quads usually do not require FAA registration, as they fall bellow the250 gram limit.

Home buildable quads for even more fun: $100 to $400.

These quadcopters are either home builtΒ or bought as ready-to-fly quadcopters. This category features high performance batteries and high-torque motors so they fly extremely well.

The Walkera Runner.
The Walkera Runner

is a well-rounded and fast quad, great for having fun out in open spaces. Depending on exactly which version you build or buy this quadcopter could have a 10 to 15 minutes flight time and a kilometer of range – however this can vary wildly.Click here to check the price of a prebuilt Walker a runner, complete with transmitter, battery and charger (you can expect a 12 to 14 minute flight time and a 75+ meter range with this kit).

The LHI 250 size kit

is a great way to start building quads on your own. This is the kit we used in our How to build a quadcopter?article – a bare-bones set ideal if you already have a transmitter and battery, or you want to select your own. Click to check the price.

FPV quads for immersive flying: $500 to $800.

These quadcopters are basically the same as the home built category,however adding an FPV camera and buying an FPV goggle will raise the price considerably. Still, the experience you get is extreme: just as if you flew your own airplane at high speeds, enjoying the turns and banks while your feet stay safely planted on the ground.

The ARRIS X-Speed 250B FPV

is a ready-to-fly 250 size FPV racing quad, great for fast runs. As such this quad is suitable for advanced pilots. Check the price of the quad, the battery and the FPV Goggle.

Adding the complete Fatshark FPV gear

is another way to get an FPV quad. The FPV gear is not tied to the quadrotor or the transmitter, so you can mix and match these as you want to. The Fatshark Dominator is one of the best FPV gears you can get. You can check the price of the goggles + receiver and the camera + transmitter online.

Quadrotors for professional video: between $300 and $1000.

These quads are for professional use, and feature long flight times, a stabilized gimbal, and a high performance camera too. If you’d like a ready-made solution which shoots great videos, these are the ones you should check. These quads usually include a GPS, so GPS based flying becomes possible too.

The DJI Phantom 3 Standard

is an overall great quad for aerial photography. It has a 12 megapixel stabilized camera, so the photos and videos it takes are really smooth. The Phantom 3 has a 25 minute flight time and a 500 meter range – both are huge compared to the toy quad’s usual performance. The Verge has a detailed review of the Phantom 3, while Amazon has the up-to-date prices of various Phantom 3 versions.

The DJI Phantom 4

is the advanced version of the Phantom 3 -ideal if you’d like to get the best of the best. The main extras are 4Kvideo shooting at 30 FPS, Glonass navigation support, and an upgraded, 3kilometer range. How much more do these goodies cost? Check it on Amazon!

The DJI Mavic Pro

is yet another professional quad from DJI.Compared to the Phantom 4 it supports autonomous behavior and has an even longer range clocking in at 7 kilometers. The downside is that it’s camera(a high quality unit much like the one on the Phantom 4) can’t be replaced by a different model. Cinema5D has a review of the DJI Mavic Pro, while Amazon has the current price.

These professional quadcopters tend to be large, so double check the weight and register if the weight is more than 250 grams.

Have fun flying! πŸ™‚

Ionic Stratus Review

The Ionic Stratus is a professional looking quadcopter designed especially to carry a GoPro Hero 3 and 4. It’s supports everything you can expect from a quadcopter in this category: it has headless mode, on key return, it can do flips and rolls on button press. The Ionic Stratus is huge, it measures around 0.5 meters X 0.5 meters with the prop guards on.

The box contains everything needed for flying, except for the 3xAA batteries for the transmitter (and the GoPro).

The Ionic Stratus comes with landing gear and prop guards so it’s fairly well protected. It can easily withstand small crashes and hard landings.

The quadrotor is 6 axis stabilized, and it flies very smoothly. The range is around 150 meters, and it can fly just as high too. As usual with quadcopters using the 2.4 Ghz transmitter technology it just shuts down once it goes out of range, so be careful with it.

Spare batteries are available on Amazon, while other parts are available from rc helicopter parts. Here you will find anything you could need, from motor covers to batteries, legs and propellers.

The Stratus is strong, it can easily lift the 70-85 grams of a GoPro Hero.

Being a large quadcopter it really shines when it flies outdoors. Indoor flight is a possibility too, but it needs space. When starting out with this quadcopter make sure to fly without a GoPro first, so you can get used to the controls.

The Ionic Stratus tolerates winds pretty well, and will fly in winds up to30 km/h (20 mph). However fighting the wind requires more power to the motors, so flight times will be shorter.

Suggested age group is 14 years and up.

The transmitter has low/intermediate/high modes so it’s suitable both for beginner and advanced pilots. It also has a knob to set the throttle limit,which can be used to limit the maximum throttle between 50% and 100%.

The Stratus has headless mode which comes very handy if you lose the orientation. It basically switches the quadrotor to an absolute coordinate system, so it will fly back to you if you use the backstick, fly away from you for forward. Left and right are interpreted in a similar manner.

One key return is supported in headless mode – the quadcopter will simply fly back towards you.

Flight time is excellent, up to 12 – 15 minutes, after charging for 1 to 2hours.

The package size is 53 x 38 x 18 centimeters, the shipping weight is 3.8pounds, so it ships in a fairly large box.

The motors are brushed, and they drive the propellers through a gear, still the Ionic Stratus is fairly quiet.

The Ionic Stratus has very bright LED lights which make orientation easier, and are great for night flying too.

As the Stratus was designed for aerial photography it does not fly very fast, however it can fly up to 16 km/h.

The Ionic Stratus comes without a camera

, however it does have a vibration damper to mount your GoPro. The mount is static, so you will not be able to tilt or rotate it. The GoPro fits only without it’s housing (or you will have to modify your drone).

The Curved + Flat Adhesive Mounts work well with this quadcopter too,and can result in better video quality than the original mount.

Video quality is as good as you can expect from a GoPro, and sound will get recorded too, but you should expect some wind – and propeller noise in it.

While it works for many, it’s a great idea not to use the WiFi on the GoPro – it could interfere with the transmitter’s signals, and could cause the Stratus to crash or get lost.

While the Stratus only supports the GoPro officially, you could mount any appropriately sized camera on it with some work. Just make sure the camera and the assembly, does not weigh more than 85 grams, you can fix it in place securely, and that the legs are not in the picture.

The Ionic Stratus’s battery

is a 1200mAh, 2 cell, 7.4 VoltLiPo battery, which gives the Stratus a 12 to 15 minutes long flight time after a 1 to 2 hour long charge time. Official replacement batteries are available.

The Stratus has a limited low voltage cutoff, it’s motors will start to slowdown once the battery is running out. So if you notice that your Stratus is slowing or starts the descend you should land as soon as possible.

The charger turns green once it’s charged. The adapter is AC based, a wall socket is needed to charge the ionic stratus.

The battery uses a JST plug to connect to the quadrotor, and a generic 2S balancing plug to connect to the charger. This means that other batteries and chargers with the same spec should work too.

The transmitter

uses the 2.4Ghz technology, which is interference free, so you will be able to fly with others together.

The transmitter is full-sized, so it best fits adult hands. It also has anLCD which displays all the basic information: trim settings, mode 1 / mode2, beginner, intermediate or advanced mode, and the transmitter’s battery status.

The quadrotor could be susceptible to interference from the GoPro’s WiFi, so for best results disable it, or at least take care when using it.

The Stratus’ LEDs can be turned on and off using the top left button of the transmitter. It’s useful to get slightly longer flight times.

The transmitter supports both mode 1 and mode 2, which is selectable using the switches left of the left stick and right of the right stick.
Move both of the up for mode 1 flying (throttle on the right stick), or move both of them down for mode 2 (throttle on the left).
Never move them in the opposite direction.

Binding the Stratus and the transmitter is simple, all you have to do is turn on the quadcopter first, then with the throttle set to the minimum turn on the transmitter. Next push the throttle up to the maximum, then down to the minimum again. The quadcopter and the transmitter are now bound.

The range of the transmitter is a decent 150 meters.

Overall

the Ionic Stratus is a great quadcopter for aerial photography, it’s lift capacity is excellent in it’s price range.
Fun:β˜…β˜…β˜…β˜…β˜†
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Resources:

Rc helicopterparts has all the parts you could need for the IonicStratus. The reviews on Amazon are very helpful too. You might be interested in the Syma X5C and X8C too.

Hubsan X4 H107L

The Hubsan X4 H107L is a well-built, high quality quad,suitable for the “advanced beginner”. It’s really tiny, weighing a bit less than 30 grams without the battery. Being so small it is best suited for indoor flying, however it performs great outsides too on calm days. Compared to the H107C it’s better built, so it can take even more abuse. The quad comes with prop guards in the box, so you can protect it even more.The box comes with everything you need to start flying, except for the batteries (4xAA required). The props are tighter fitting than on the X4 H107C, which protects the motors better. Please note that the prop removal tool might not be included in the package.

The flight is a bit hyperactive, so you will have to adjust it to stay planted. The upside is that the quad is a lot of fun to fly, and reacts well to your inputs.The range is around 30 meters, and it can fly just as high too. The quad has tiny, soft legs so landing will be really smooth. Despite it’s small size it can lift around 3 grams.

Being a popular quad, a wide range of replacement parts are available, for example on this set.

The quad has bright leds, which make it suitable for night flying. Even better, the LEDs will start flashing when the battery is running out of juice, so you will know when to land.

The quad has multiple modes for beginners and experts. In expert mode you can turn of flips which is a big plus – flips can be triggered accidentally,and they could result in a crash, but not in anti-flip mode! Gyro sensitivity setting is supported too, which makes the quad capable of a really wide range of behaviors, from tame to wild.

The quad is fast, so look out where you fly it! Starting out with tiny stick movements is a great idea.

Suggested age is 14years + . The quad has tiny parts, so make sure to keep it out of the reach of small children.

The quad uses brushed motors which will get used up with hard flying. Fortunately replacement motors are available from multiple sources.

Headless mode is not supported by this quad; to use headless mode the UDI U818A can be a better choice. Being a low-priced model it does not have a GPS, so return home isn’t supported either – but at least you do not have to pay the premium for the more complicated electronics.

The quad is 130mm x 130mm in size, so it’s fairly small, and thus quiet too.Shipping weight is 1.1 pound, the box size is around 3.5 x 7.1 x 14 inches.

Quads this small do not need to be registered which makes your life easier.

Video output

is not supported by this quad; for a related product with video support you may want to check out our H107C review.

If you are adventurous, the quad might be able to lift an 808 keychain camera – you will have to mod them just a little bit to reduce their weight.

The battery

is a 3.7V 240mAh lithium polymer battery.Expected flight time is around 9 minutes, with a charge time of 40 minutes.Replacement and upgrade batteries are available so you will not have to wait that 40 minutes out, with charger and without charger too. The battery has a JST connector, so you can use any compatible charger – just make sure it has overcharge protection. The factory charger can charge only one battery at a time so getting a replacement charger is a good idea. Using the factory charger is really easy: just plug it into an USB port, plug in the battery, and wait for the red LED to turn off.

The quad is fairly intelligent, and it’s LEDs will start flashing when the battery is getting low – so make sure land ASAP to avoid damage to the quad and the battery.

The transmitter

is a standard 2.4 Ghz one so you will not get any interference – you can fly as many quads together as you (and your friends) would like to. If you already have a transmitter you can get a variant of this quad without a Tx, for example here.

The transmitter supports both mode 1 and mode 2, and it’s fairly easy to change the mode.

To activate mode 1:
  • Turn off the transmitter.
  • Move the left stick to the upper left position and the right stick to the upper right position and keep them there.
  • Turn on the transmitter.
  • Move the sticks around twice to calibrate the transmitter.
  • Hold down the trim button bellow the right stick until the LED blinks red.
  • Turn off the transmitter again. It will be in mode 1 next time you turn it on.
Activating mode 2 is almost the same:
  • Turn off the transmitter.
  • Move the both sticks to the upper left position and keep them there.This is the only different step.
  • Turn on the transmitter.
  • Move the sticks around twice to calibrate the transmitter.
  • Hold down the trim button bellow the right stick until the LED blinks red.
  • Turn off the transmitter again. It will be in mode 1 next time you turn it on.
Pairing

the transmitter and the quad is simple: just place the quad on a flat surface, turn it on, then turn the Tx on with the throttle pushed down. The transmitter LED will turn green when the binding is finished, and the quad’s LEDs will turn solid.

The stock transmitter’s range is 30 – 40 meters, getting another Tx may extend your range.

Overall

it’s a great looking quad for the advanced beginner.
Fun:β˜…β˜…β˜…β˜…β˜…
Value:β˜…β˜…β˜…β˜…β˜…
Looks:β˜…β˜…β˜…β˜…β˜…


The H107C is the H107L’s larger brother with a camera on board.For even more information on the H107L the RCGroups threadΒ is a great source.

What is a DIY quadcopter?

What is a DIY quadcopter?

A DIY quadcopter is a quad you build at home, using readily available and/or home-made components. The upside of building a DIY quad is that you will feel it’s really yours, you get all the recognition for it. The downside is that it takes time, effort, and has a chance of failure too. Building a quadcopter is something you have to learn, start small, and work your way up to larger and more complex projects.

To build a DIY quadcopter you will need basic electronic and soldering skills. If you do not have these you can either take your time and develop these skills, or just buy a ready made quadcopter – in this case we have quite a few reviews you may want to check πŸ™‚

If you think you have all the required skill you may want to read our “How to build a quadcopter?” article. There’s more than one way to skin a cat – read on to learn a few more.

There are differences between DIY and DIY quadcopters

,depending on how much you want to do yourself.

QAV 250 ARF kit parts laid out.
The “easiest” is to get an ARF kit

and put it together yourself. Putting together an almost-ready-to-fly kit still requires considerable skills,as you will have solder, screw and possibly glue it together yourself. Usingan ARF kit is a great idea to get started, as this requires the least amount of work, and you’ll get well balanced components for your quadcopter. Skip FPV or camera if you are just starting out.

ARF kits are available from quite a few vendors, for example Amazon sells a lot of different ARF kits. Make sure you double check the ratings, as some kits can contain low quality parts.

The next step could be to choose the parts yourself.

Only choose the parts yourself if you are already familiar with sizing the quadrotor’s parts. Even though there is some wiggle room, in the end the parts have to be in balance. For example choosing a too large battery could result in a lower flight time, as the larger battery’s added weight counteracts the added capacity.

If you choose the parts yourself the safest is to start from a prove design, and exchange the motors, propellers, ESC and flight controller to a higher quality version. Building a small (size 250) quad is probably better than building a larger one, as the smaller quads are more fun to fly. Choose a large quad if you’d like to lift something heavy.

To validate you parts, check the quadcopter Calculator over at ecalc.ch.

Next you could build a DIY FPV quadcopter, or one with a camera

if that’s what interests you. Do this only if you already have some flying skills – crashing with a camera on will probably cost you more than crashing a simple quadcopter. You can add the FPV gear later to your existing quad too, as you can easily get the goggles and receiver and the camera set online.Adding FPV to an existing quad will reduce the flight time, so you might need more batteries too.

John Leach’s aluminum framed quadcopter.
Building even more parts at home – the frame

The frame is probably the part you have the best chance to build at home.First you should choose your building material.

To build your own frame you should choose to make it out of a material you are already familiar with. The most common materials for building a quadframe are carbon fiber, aluminum, wood, and plastic. You could even choose to build a frame out of Lego pieces. Just please do not choose a dead cat, that’s gross. The frame has to be both light and strong.My favorite designs:

A repurposed CD-ROM motor.
Wind your own motor

Winding your own quadcopter motor is something that’s possible to doat home – even there is not much point. Still, if you wind your own you have complete control over your motor’s behavior: you can wind it to make a fast or slow motor, you can use high quality ball bearing to improve it’s lifetime or thicker wires to make it work with higher current. Wattflyer.com has a detailed PDF on building your own motor out of a CD-ROM drive motor. Larger motor shave the same structure, so you can learn a lot from this PDF. Fly Electric has even more DIY motor information.

The BlueESC.
Build your own ESC

Designing and building an ESC at home is again something that’s doable, though it’sa lot harder than just winding your own motor. You will need deep electronics knowledge, control theory,PCB manufacturing, soldering and programming skills to build your own.Fortunately there are quite a few designs and articles circulating on building an ESC, for example the VESC project, the BlueESC, or theOpen-BLDC. To design and build your own ESC, the best idea would be to check out the existing designs and get involved in the community to learn more about the subject. In the end it’s probably a lot easier just to buy a SimonK ESC – you’ll get up in the air faster, and getting are placement will be easier too would something go wrong.

The CC3D flight controller – schematics are available online.
Make your own flight controller

Designing and building your own flight controller is even harder than building your own ESC – the complexity of the algorithms used, the number of inputs and outputs are a lot higher. Still, for hobbyists with the appropriate education it’s not out of reach, as the most successful flight controllers all started as an open source project. Flight controllers consist of two loosely coupled parts, the software and the hardware. For example both LibrePilotand Cleanflight can run on the commercially available CC3D flight controllers. The CC3D’s schematics are open source too, and are available for download.

Conclusion

Making a DIY quadcopter can be a lot of fun, it’s great to see a project coming along, and getting up in the air. Depending on your interests and skill level you can choose to put an ARF kit together, or go hardcore and build your own frame and wind your own motors too. Choose wisely and start small, take your time to build up the skills necessary for larger projects.

Have fun building!