Lets start by sharing the experience of why we chose to build a kit quadcopter over an RTR and the designing, specifying, researching and shopping for the ideal quadcopter amidst a myriad of questions regarding the process of getting one in the air safely. Safety is a concern and we wanted to be as sure as possible that we’d covered as much as we could to get it right the first time.
For my birthday we bought a Yuneec Q500 G to mount the GoPro and get some aerials and it’s awesome for what it’s designed to do, but a fun flyer it is not and it’s about the furthest thing from a racing quadcopter you can find. It’s also a RTR with proprietary transmitter and I have no need to look inside, it does a perfect job at aerial videography. It is however dumbed down and there’s little to learn about how they work unless you start digging under the hood and that’s not what it’s for.
So we decided we’d build one using Hobbyking, we chatted for days over what it was we wanted that would help Luke learn about the various systems involved in stabilisation parameters, balancing the build, video streaming and how the electronics and systems tie in together, so it’s a learning experience as well… For both of us!
With so many people singing the praise of Hobbyking, there’s little they had to offer for on road nitro racing that would make the grade, but when it came to quadcopters, it was more an emporium of goodies, some good, a lot that didn’t catch my eye too and some that made me dwell over what could be and what was out of reach for now.
We chose to build an agile but large quad with +500mm diameter, Luke didn’t want to go too big and I wanted it as big as we could go on 3s, nearer to 12v, power all the lights off the main power bus and supply the radio equipment and flight control off ESC 1 as recommended. The power distribution was also something we wanted, it was essential in the build and we also wanted the booms clear to make room for bigger motors and larger props, we chose to use larger props with less pitch to begin with, mimicking the Yuneec Q500 and we have full sets of smaller aggressive pitched props we’ll keep for a later date.
Choosing a flight controller was a little hit and miss but we chose the KK2,1.5HC (Hard Case) as it had side mounted pins and a cover. Most the other flight controllers are bare bones and put into the too hard basket, others didn’t have good reviews and in hindsight I would have chosen the Naze 32 as it’s compatible with the Google app CleanFlight and also supports SRXL on a Spektrum. Speaking of which, Luke got to choose the TX unit and chose the Spektrum DX9 BLACK Edition and I threw in a AR7700 RX thats supports PPM for the flight controller, more on that later.
The Hobbyking site was very helpful in putting together the components, we chose a frame, then it put a list of motors, speed controllers and other accessories you may also want. You can imagine Luke and I sifting through specifications on amp draw, thrust, weight and other configuration options to choose from. Regularly Googling our way through RC Groups and working out our needs we thought around the 10,000 rpm range would be a good smooth flyer. From memory you need twice the thrust of the weight of the quadcopter, racing quads go to 12:1 thrust per weight, we didn’t need those RPMs.
The frame we chose was the Talon 550 V2, it had alloy motor mounts, bulkheads and carbon fiber top and bottom plate with what looked like a tiny body. This suited our large prop idea but also posed the problem of where to mount ESCs without it looking like a red and black hairy flying spider. So I found a pair of cheap retractable legs, 450 spec, but had a battery tray and I could use the light aluminium mounting to give me a place to support the ESC. A few more accessories like Servo connecting pins, wire, heat-shrink etc etc and here’s the list.
1x #9171000022/38588 Turnigy Talon Quadcopter (V2.0) Carbon Fiber Frame 550mm
4x #NTM2826-1000/29824 NTM Prop Drive 28-26 1000KV / 235W
4x #NTM28-ACC/17446 NTM 28 Series Accessory Pack
4x #TR_P25A/32064 TURNIGY Plush 25amp Speed Controller
1x #TR_PC/36518 TURNIGY BESC Programming Card
1x #SHT008/32146 NTM Prop Drive 2826 Series Replacement Shaft (Spare)
4x #9171000057/35723 NTM 28 Carbon Fibre Motor Mount (NOT REQUIRED)
1x #9387000061-0/68695 HK Pilot Power VI Module, Distribution Board And Dual UBEC ALL-In-One (120A and 10s)
1x #9171000297-0/54413 KK2.0/ Naze 32 Super Bright Status and Alarm LED
3x #AM-1021Ax10/43462 JST-SH Servo Plug Set (Futaba) Gold Plated (10pairs/set)
1x #9171000612-0/79754 Wire Mesh Guard Black 6mm (1m)
1x #9171000268/58103 HobbyKing KK2.1HC Multi-Rotor Hard Case Flight Control Board With Remote Programmer
1x #9329000106/55844 Hobbyking™ Propeller 8×4.5 Red (CW) (4pcs)
1x #9329000107/62761 Hobbyking™ Propeller 8×4.5 Yellow (CCW) (4pcs)
1x #9329000172/55389 Hobbyking™ Thin Style Propeller 10×5 Black (CW) (2pcs)
2x #9329000171/48572 HobbyKing™ Thin Style Propeller 10×5 Black (CCW) (2pcs)
1x #107000343-0/65568 Quanum 450 Class Retract System With Quick Release Rail
Hobbyking delivers on time!
We purchased all the items from the Australian warehouse, it was a breeze to sign up, process the order, pay using Paypal and before we knew it, our order was packed and shipped with tracking numbers, a couple of days later, no stress, no fuss…
What’s in the box?
Wow, they got it out the door so fast the sticky tape didn’t even get a chance to adhere to the box and I had it open. Everything was packed and wrapped individually in bubble wrap and air bags filled the remaining space. It was comforting and exciting at the same time, we were venturing into uncharted territories and from our previous experience in the air, we had a lot of trepidation to overcome.
Years ago we built a delta wing and (DAD LOST IT!) I have no idea where it went, whether someone took it or it’s still in the cactus bushes at Shorncliffe, it was a horrible feeling as it’s just disappeared!
In no time we’d commandeered the dinner table, mum had the look and started a few sentences with “You’d better do as I…”, but she knows she’s outnumbered and she loves us, so after sorting out and checking the bits and pieces, we gathered tools, documentation and a friends Hobbyking soldering station, we would have bought one, but it’s in an international warehouse and you can’t mix orders, our Goot wasn’t going to be hot enough for that many speedy wires.
Everything was there, we didn’t buy batteries or connectors as Luke would get that from work, we were happy with the quality, we weren’t expecting literature or quality manuals and this wasn’t our first rodeo building budget RC models.
We had purchased a few redundant components, the carbon motor mounts were unnecessary as the motors mounted directly onto the frame, it didn’t bother me too much as I’d find a use for them someday. We also stocked up in the servo connectors and Luke said they are really nice to crimp, having a high success rate with them makes it a whole lot easier and I even managed to make a lead, it usually goes pair shaped very quickly when I do it. The JST connectors were a little tight for the Spektrum RX, I think it’s more a Spektrum RX thing than a Hobbyking.
Things I should have bought as well.
- USBasp 6 pin adapter for Firware upgrades – To update KK board it’s not available atm in Australia.
- Another Battery strap
- Another LED light for rear
- Hex screws for motors.
- Spare top plate.
I’ll try and cover why over the rest of the build. At this point everything seemed to be going as planned and it was time to have a look at the Talon V2 Frame kit.
The TALON 550 V2 is a budget spec alloy and CF construction. It’s simple, symmetrical and has everything you need to get started. The construction is so easy, the isn’t a manual, just an exploded view and even that didn’t use up an entire single A4 sheet. Yes it’s a simple build in terms of frame.
The finish isn’t too bad, nothing special and nothing wrong other that the bottom plate being offset to 45 degrees in a X configuration. So I planned to use the bottom plate on top and the top plate under. Alloys were anodised and while not race spec Alu, I didnt strip any screws either, more than happy with that.
A thing of beauty.
HK Pilot Power VI Module, Distribution Board And Dual UBEC ALL-In-One (120A and 10s)
While the flight controller might be the most essential component of the build, my favourite is the power distribution board. It made the whole process a lot easier providing 8 points of contact (two sides) and the option to use 5V and 12V feeds if needed for other gear. The board has very usable layout, it also comes with a break out cable and underneath are the 5v and 12v. Might be an issue if things are tight under the board.
Motors and ESCs
Playing it safe, we went along with Hobbyking’s suggestion and chose NTM Prop Drive 28-26 1000KV / 235W, we thought 10-11k max rpm would serve us well. With more research, perhaps it’s not as efficient for our needs but they work and relatively quiet and smooth. I did have to remove the slop by pinching down in the shaft as the bearings are a little sloppy, to be expected for around $15 a piece!
We opted for the TURNIGY Plush 25amp Speed Controller, again nothing special but not so shabby either. I’d planned to unpack them and didn’t know if I’d be in for any surprises. The ESC programmer was a good purchase too, relieving the stress of using interfaces and PC and it’s dead easy to use.
The sad news is it flew away, so there’s no point continuing the build thread if it’s no longer with us. After two comms failures and some hard landings, the Talon 550 was chopped the 450 and then around 350 and then on a good afternoon of flying it once again seemed to have a comms failure and took to the breeze and flew beautifully into the distance.
I’ve added the rest of the pictures and we’ve changed our strategy and will hopefully have more success with a more robust chassis and reliable electronics.
That’s flight for ya!!!