My Ultimate Quadcopter Build

I’ve been experimenting with recreational drones for 18 months now.  After a lot of late nights and iterations, I have a quadcopter that I’m very happy with.  It’s going to get amazing backcountry skiing video this season.

2014-09-26 18.42.31

Features:

  • 50-60mph forward flight
  • 5-6 mile control range
  • 1-2 mile line-of-sight video range
  • ~15 minute battery flight time

 

The Frame

I’m using a QAV400 frame from GetFPV, but with a special twist.  I installed longer motor arms from the QAV500 so I can use 10″ propellers (instead of the 8″ props that QAV400 arms are limited to).  Longer props give more power, efficiency, and stability.

 

The Electronics

Flight Controller - My copter is driven by the fantastic 3DRobotics Pixhawk.

Motors - I’m using T-Motor’s 1100kv.  These have been crazy powerful, and after months of hard flying they’re still running great.  I bought a set of SunnySky 1100kv motors to try when my T-Motors are toast.

ESCs - The Lumenier 30A ESCs from GetFPV have provided plenty of power and I’ve had no issues so far.

Camera Gimbal - GetFPV’s Plug-and-Play Gimbal was expensive, but it’s been completely worth it.  My videos went from very bumpy to very smooth in about 30 seconds of frame adjustment.

Camera - GoPro Hero 3 – I use the GoPro for both FPV (live video output) and for recording.  People used to warn against this, but after months of flying I’ve had no issues.

Live Video Transmitter - ImmersionRC’s 600mW 5.8GHz transmitter, with a 3D printed enclosure from the RCGroups FPV forum.  This gets me about 1km of range with SpiroNet Omni antennas on both receiver and transmitter.  Using a helical antenna on my goggles, I can get 3-4km.

Video Antennas - SpiroNet RHCP (right hand circular polarized) omni antennas

RC receiver - EZUHF’s 8-channel Lite receiver.  Though in the future I’ll use a 4 channel because you can squeeze 8 channels into one with PPM!