Hi there, it has been a while but I am back with a write up on my first real quadcopter. Hopefully it will give someone out there some help with the steep learning curve needed to get in the air.
First of all I am going to point out that I cheated a bit and bought a kit from hobbyking, which included some of the trickier bits to pick out. I also have ordered most of the other bits from hobbyking and will be referring to parts from there through this whole post (these are not affiliate links or anything like that). The kit is known as the "X230 Mini Quadcopter" and includes the following:
- The 4 Motors (2222 1800kv and all the bits needed to connect the props to them)
- 4 ESC's (12A)
- 2 5030X3 and 2 5030RX3 props (4 props each with 3 blades, 2 clockwise and 2 counterclockwise)
- The frame and all the bits and pieces to hold it together (lots of 5.6mm nylon spacers).
- Some sort of power distribution board
- A battery holder cable thing
That is a real help when trying to pick parts for the first build, It is however not enough to get in the air. I will say at this stage that if you are thinking of getting this kit as a first build, it would probably be worth spending a bit of extra time and picking the pieces yourself. It is proving to be difficult to find replacement parts for this build. Back on topic tho and here is a minimal list of things I added to get into the air.
- A small hex/allen key. Not sure of the size, will add it later but this is needed to use the screws provided with the kit.
- A flight control board, again I went the easy route and got a kk2.1. Honestly, for a first board it cant be faulted.
- A transmitter and receiver... and batteries for it - more on that later. I got a turnigy 9x and transmitter module, again no complaints here.
- Around 5 or 6 cables to connect the receiver to the computer (these worked for me). Some flight control boards or transmitters may come with these but don't count on it.
- Batteries. I got 3 "ZIPPY Compact 1500mAh 3S" ones. Honestly, I still have no idea how they perform or even how long they last but they seem grand and fit the supplied battery holder strap very snugly.
- Something to charge the batteries with, and probably something to power the charger with. Check the "Batteries and Charging" section for that.
- Some way of tightening the nuts that hold the props on. I just use a pair of pliers but if you don't have any 5.5mm spanners it might be a nice investment.
- A soldering iron, or a decent power distribution board. Again more on this later.
That, as far as I can remember is the minimum but if you continue reading, you will see that there are plenty of other things which can be useful. There may be little things, such as cable ties, which you already have and are not necessary but can make the build easier, more secure etc. I have not mentioned some of these things.
The kit came with a diagram showing how to assemble the frame, and it is quite straight forward. The trickiest bit is understanding the power distribution board which comes with the kit. I didn't even bother and replaced it with one I had ordered. Unfortunately the one I ordered had bullet connectors which were bigger than the ones of the esc's so some soldering was involved to reduce the size using the smaller connectors. Next time I am making an order from hobbyking I will be ordering this board. Which is both the correct size to sit in the frame and has the correct sized bullet connectors, removing any need to solder. You should probably buy one if you are going to get this kit.
Rather than using the supplied screws to mount the kk2.1 to the frame I used a single sticky pad. I have recently switched to using 4 which has improved stability greatly. It was silly only using one in the first place, as they come in packs of 10.
Apart from that, the rest of the frame fits well. Something else I have done is ordered another set of nylon spacers. This allowed me to make a sort of landing gear and lower the top plate for a lower center of gravity.
One thing I had been worried about, was powering the flight control board and the receiver. This turned out to be a non-issue. Somehow the esc's magically powered the board and the board magically powered the receiver. I had read something about cutting cables from some of the esc's but with this setup, that doesn't seem to be necessary.
Getting the receiver talking to the kk board requires knowing which channels relate to what on your receiver. For the Turnigy module I use the channels are below. Once connected, go to the receiver test on your kk board to check that everything is in order. I had to reverse a few of the channels, which you can quite easily do through the menu on the transmitter.
As far as connecting the esc's to the board goes, I cant really remember what I did!. Good news is that the kk2 board is quite robust and can deal with cables being plugged in all directions. Figguring out which esc goes into which set of pins was fun. After going into the settigns of the fc and setting it to "x" mode, you can "view motor layout" from the main menu. The numbers showing on the screen correlate to where you should plug the esc's in. For example number 1 (top left motor for me) means that the esc plugged into slot 1 (The top set of pins if looking at the board straight on) should be plugged into the top left motor. Before you plug the motors in tho you might want to calibrate the esc's. That is one bit that can be found pretty easily on google.
When the motors are all in, they need to be checked for direction. Again the "view motor layout" screen shows which direction they are meant to be spinning. Use a bit of coloured tape, or something similar to see which direction they are spinning and just swap any two of the three wires connecting the esc to the motor to change direction if needed.
Now it is just a case of putting the props on. Remembering after this stage the quad is truley dangerous! Even at this small size with very brittle props it is still dangerous. Make sure all nuts are tight with washers between the props and washers.
Take off time! Something that I had not read anywhere: keep the throttle at 0 but move it to the right to arm the quad. Have it at 0 and move left to disarm.
Dat Jello Tho
This quad is never going to be the most stable of video recording platforms. I am using the 808 #16 keychain camera on the top of the quad (well not anymore but still) and the video was very wobbly. Even with some foam for cushioning. Balancing the props, using small amounts of electrical tape and a cheap prop balancer from ebay has helped with this greatly! I am still working on improving this.
Batteries and Charging
I had no idea how little of an idea I have about batteries. So anyway, I am sitting with these 3 "ZIPPY" 3 cell 1500mAh batteries. Some points to consider:
- People charge their batteries at a rate correlating to the capacity of the battery. eg. for these 1500mAh batteries people recommend to charge at 1.5A max. For a 2000mAh one 2A would be recommended, 1200 = 1.2A etc.
- Using the balance option is slower but better for the batteries
- They should not be discharged below 3 volts per cell. So these 3S batteries should not drop below 9V.
- I got a massive lipo safe charging bag for this but have a sneaking suspicion that these batteries are small enough not to really need it. Still for a couple of quid its worth having.
For the charger I got a Turnigy Accucel-6, which doesn't come with a power supply. The power supply must have a 5.5mm jack and the voltage doesn't matter too much (something like anywhere between 12v to 18v). This is one of the few things I didn't get from HK, instead I got a cheappo one from ebay, which has managed not to explode yet, is thankfully silent and does the job. The charger came with a cable that fitted my batteries.
The charger then, I am not going to try and explain how to use it properly here, I still don't really know. What I do is: choose the lipo balance option, have it set to 1.5A max, plug both cables from the battery into it and hold the start button for a few seconds until it prompts to confirm. Nothing has exploded yet!
Something else worth mentioning; The controller seems to be eating the (8!) aa batteries I have put in it quite quickly. I have ordered a battery for the transmitter but it has not arrived yet. It seem to be charged differently and needs to be placed into the transmitter the correct way. I will update this when I get it, figure it out and undoubtedly destroy my transmitter!
I wish you all the best. Be safe, Have fun.