My FPV Quad Builds for 2018

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Late last year, my favorite racing quad met its end. An inductor worked its way loose from my Shuriken X1’s flight controller. It could have been a minor repair, but the Shuriken X1 was a dead end for me. Its all-in-one mainboard could only be repaired or replaced with another identical unit.

I wanted to be able to try some modern hardware. I wanted an F4 flight controller with the Betaflight OSD. I wanted a VTX that could be controlled via that same OSD. I also wanted to build a setup that would let me try 5S and 6S batteries.

That didn’t have to happen all at once, though. I kept the Shuriken X1’s 2305 T-Motor F40ii motors, 30a BLHeli ESCs, and my Runcam Eagle 2 camera. I ordered a Holybro Kakute F4 AIO FC, Holybro AtlAtl VTX, and an OwlRC Dragon frame. All the new hardware could handle 6S batteries.

Video problems led to a whole new quad

I had extremely wonky video on my new build, and I just couldn’t clean it up. I added a 1000uf 25v capacitor. I swapped cameras. I swapped the camera back and forth between the 5-volt regulator and direct battery power.

Wonky VTX video:

Then I swapped out the ancient OneShot ESCs for a set of 35A Wraith32 ESCs. That didn’t help either, but at least I was ready for higher-voltage batteries. That’s when I ordered my first 5S battery!

The only thing left to replace was the motors. I wanted to upgrade to T-Motor F40 Pro V2 motors, but they weren’t available yet. I had to wait a while, but they were a fantastic upgrade over my old F40 motors. The stators are 20% taller, but the new motors don’t add any additional weight. The new motors generate 30% more power, and they seem to be more efficient!

VTX Video with new motors:

The new motors fixed my video problems. I still get a bit of noise at full throttle, but it isn’t a problem. At this point, though, I have a brand new quadcopter!

I had to build a second one

My new F40 Pro V2 quad is amazing. It has more power than I’ll ever need. I thought the same thing about my Shuriken X1. The new quad on 4S makes the X1 look tame. Strapping on a 5S battery turns things up to 11!

I had some minor problems with my build. Loose wires. Problematic VTX antenna placement. These things are easy to fix, but they take too much time and effort to repair in the field. Every time I had a minor problem, I’d have to switch over to my BFight 210.

T-Motor F40 Pro V2 Quad Waiting To Be Assembled

The BFight 210 is a fantastic little FPV racer. It flies smooth, and it is super efficient. Its light weigh makes it pretty quick, but compared to my new quad, it’s a snail.

I also keep hearing that the best way to improve is to fly the same quad every time. Every time I switch from the F40 quad to the BFight and back, I have to spend time adjusting.

Choosing motors for the second OwlRC Dragon quad

I was tempted to order another set of T-Motor F40 Pro motors, but that seemed so boring. They’re amazing motors, and they’re a known quantity, but I wanted to try something different. The new motors needed to be in the same class as the F40 Pro V2 motors.

I’ve had my eye on the ZMX FinX30 motors for quite a while. The FinX30 are 2207 2600KV motors, and they’re a couple grams lighter than my 2306 F40 Pro V2 motors. Miniquadtestbench.com says they generate a bit more thrust than the T-Motors.

The ZMX FinX30 are lighter, more powerful, and have a magical magnetic-field-manipulating bell. They’re also the same price as the T-Motor F40 Pro V2. How could I not give them a try?

The parts list for my 2018 quads

Here’s the parts lists. The total cost for each quadcopter was somewhere around $380.

  FinX30 Quad F40 Quad
Frame OwlRC Dragon DSX5
Motors ZMX FinX30
2207 2600 KV
T-Motor F40 Pro V2
2306 2600 KV
Props Racekraft 5051
ESCs 4x Wraith32 35A
FC Kakute F4 AIO v2 Kakute F4 AIO v1
VTX Holybro AtlAtl HV
Camera Runcam Eagle 2 Runcam Eagle 2 Pro
Antenna Generic cloverleaf TBS Triumph
Receiver FrSky R-XSR

Aside from the motors, the two builds are nearly identical.

UPDATE: Skip the Wraith32 ESCs. They fly great. They’re durable. I’ve been crashing them into stuff for three or four months now. I’ve only managed to knock an LED off of one so far.

I’ve built third quad this year. I wanted to try a top-mounted battery, so I’m trying the Hyperlite Flowride frame. I’m using almost all the same parts as the builds in this blog, except I’m using a Holybro Tekko32 4-in-1 ESC and a Runcam Micro Eagle.

The Tekko32 is fantastic. It is reasonably priced, flies great, and seems to be almost completely noise free. I wouldn’t buy the Wraith32 ESCs again. I’d go with a Tekko32 4-in-1 or even four Tekko32 ESCs.

F40 Pro V2 2600KV vs ZMX FinX30 2600KV

I am not a professional pilot. I’m lucky if I can call myself an amateur. If I couldn’t see which quad I was flying, I doubt I could tell you which motors I was flying. They’re both powerful and responsive. They both handle 5S really well—they barely get warm!

According to the blackbox logs, both motors have no trouble hitting 9G of acceleration on the Z axis during a punch out.

At first, I was running them with Racekraft 5046 props. They’re my favorite prop on the BFight 210 and the Shuriken X1. Then I watched Bob Roogi’s video on the ZMX FinX30 motors. He suggested that big, powerful motors like these really open up when you use aggressive props. They’re powerful enough that the efficiency difference isn’t as big when running aggressive props.

I was skeptical. The Racekraft 5051 felt great on my Shuriken X1, but they drained my battery so fast. Could the 5051 work well with these more powerful motors?

They’re fantastic. Just like on the Shuriken X1, the 5051 props make these quads feel so much more powerful. They have so much low-end power. It is so easy to catch yourself when you’re falling fast. It is almost like the air feels thicker.

Do you know what the best part is? They’re not destroying my batteries. I can still cruise around at 40 to 50 MPH for six or seven minutes. When I’m heavy on the throttle, I don’t feel like I’m getting shorter flight times than on the Racekraft 5046, either.

The Racekraft 5051 are even better with a 5S battery!

What’s all this talk about 5S batteries?!

I already wrote a lot of words about 5S batteries, so I’ll keep it short here. Building a 6S-capable quad was an excellent decision. It didn’t add much to the cost, and flying 5S on 2600KV motors is so much fun.

We used to think the Shuriken X1 sounded angry and loud. These days, I’ll be cruising around the park and decide to do a punch out or scream across the field. I’ll hear people say, “What the hell was that?!” and someone will usually reply, “That sounds like Pat again!” If you enjoy showing off every once in a while, you should be running 5S.

Stack of 5S LiPo Batteries

I’ve been flying my 5S batteries with the throttle limited to 80% on the Taranis. Even with the throttle limit, the quads still have significantly more punch at the top end than they do on 4S. However, the throttle range is more comparable to 4S. When I fly a 4S, I flip the switch to move the throttle limit to 100%. That way, both batteries feel about the same when I’m trying to hit gates or gaps.

A $23 5S LiPo performs better than a $40 4S. Even when I’m at the tail end of a 5S pack, and I sag down to 3.2 volts per cell when I punch the throttle, that is still 16 volts. My worst sag on 5S generates more thrust than any fresh, fully charged 4S LiPo. I don’t think I’ll be going back to 4S.

I’m finally carrying a GoPro Session 5

I’ve tried carrying action cameras several times, and I’ve always been disappointed. My most powerful quad was the Shuriken X1. Strapping a camera on its roof made it feel heavy. It didn’t accelerate well, and the weight distribution made it corner like a truck. Yuck.

My new quads are a bit lighter and 30% more powerful than my X1, and the GoPro Session 5 makes the quads almost 20% heavier. Those numbers seemed promising—it’d still be an upgrade even with the additional weight of a GoPro!

My new quads have the same problem as my Shuriken X1. The battery is mounted on the bottom and the GoPro is on the top. With this setup, doing a flip or a roll is a bit like spinning a dumbell—all the weight is on the outside edges.

My worries were unnecessary. The OwlRC Dragon quads feel great with a GoPro on top. I almost want to tell you that I can’t even tell that there’s a Session 5 on the roof, but that would be a slight exaggeration. It flips and rolls with plenty of authority—enough that I wouldn’t be able to tell you whether there’s a camera on top. The quads definitely feel heavier when I’m heavy on the throttle, and flight time is shorter by about a minute.

That’s on 4S. When I fly 5S with the 80% throttle limit, it feels amazing. If I had to guess, I would say that the quads have more punch on 5S with the throttle limit and a GoPro than they do with 4S and no GoPro.

The flight controller and VTX

The Holybro Shuriken X1 served me well, and I’ve beaten the crap out of it. Several of my friends own one as well, and they’ve had pretty good luck, too. Our success has encouraged me to keep my eye on products from Holybro.

Holybro’s Kakute F4 and AtlAtl HV VTX are used in Holybro’s Kopis 1. The Kopis 1 is the successor to the Shuriken X1. I’ve been drooling over the Kopis 1 ever since its release. It is a well made quad built using premium parts. It may be the successor to the Shuriken X1, but it doesn’t perform like one. I think of the Kopis 1 as a premium BFight 210. The Kopis has efficent motors, but they’re not all that powerful.

I’ve essentially built myself a much more powerful Kopis 1. I’m pleased about this.

I’m using the AIO version of the Kakute F4. That just means it has an integrated PDB. My first build has the original version of the Kakute. Version 2 started shipping shortly after I built the first quad. I have no problems with the original Kakute. Holybro moved the pins around on the second revision.

I like that the Kakute F4 has a soft-mounted gryo. That means I don’t have to soft mount the entire flight controller, and this layout seemed to work well in my Holybro Shuriken 180 Pro.

I’m excited about the Holybro AtlAtl VTX. Your channel and output power can be controlled by Betaflight using the Tramp protocol. It supports pit mode along with power outputs of 25 mw, 100 mw, 200 mw, 400 mw, and 600 mw. I usually fly at 100 mw.

The Kakute F4 V2 is the flight controller Joshua Bardwell used to test the Betaflight Kalman filters. I’m hoping I’ll also be able to run 32kHz/16kHz on my Kakute F4 flight controllers as well!

Wraith32 35A BLHeli_32 ESCs

I didn’t go out of my way to find the best BLHeli_32 ESC. I wanted something fast, and a four-pack of Wraith32 ESCs was available with 2-day shipping at Amazon for about $58. That’s less than $15 per ESC, and the reviews of the Wraith32 are all favorable. They’re even listed on Joshua Bardwell’s ultimate FPV shopping list.

They’re also 6S-capable, so I was sold. I have nothing to complain about. The Wraith32 work just fine. They have current sensors and telemetry, but I’m not using it. Each ESC has a bright light on top.

If you want to use Betaflight’s turtle mode, be sure to upgrade to BLHeli_32 version 32.3 or higher. Earlier versions don’t support dshot commands!

The OwlRC Dragon DSX-5 frame

Choosing a frame is hard. I like both the HyperLite FLOSS and HyperLite Flowride frames. They’re inexpensive, well made, and extremely light. Those narrow arms aren’t ideal for individual ESCs, though. The Flowride wasn’t available when I built these quads.

I also like the X-Hover Stingy and the Armattan Chameleon and Armattan Rooster. They’re all nearly three times as heavy and cost three times as much as the HyperLite FLOSS. They’re really sturdy frames, but I don’t want to pay that much for all that extra weight.

OwlRC Dragon frame with ZMX FinX30 Motors

Joshua Bardwell easily convinced me to try the OwlRC Dragon frame. It is half the price of the Stingy or Rooster. At about 90 grams, the Dragon falls somewhere in between the FLOSS and the Chameleon’s weight.

The Dragon isn’t a heavyweight, but it is quite sturdy. It has replaceable 5-mm-thick arms. Once you get everything bolted together, the Dragon is extremely rigid. I’ve been crashing it into tons of trees and grass. I even obliterated a Runcam Micro Sparrow when I flattened a graphite race gate at full throttle.

I can’t say that I’ve hit any concrete with the Dragon frames yet. That’s what it took to finally break an arm on my Shuriken X1 after eight months of crashes. The Shuriken X1 had 4-mm-thick arms, but they were wider. In fact, the arms on the X1 and the Dragon have the same cross sectional area, so I’m quite confident in the Dragon!

My friend Brian Beverage built his second FPV quadcopter using the OwlRC Dragon frame and a lot of parts similar to my own. In fact, he had his up and running with F40 Pro V2 motors while I was still running the F40ii motors.

Runcam Eagle 2 vs Eagle 2 Pro

I am a fan of the Runcam Eagle line of CMOS cameras. A lot of people dislike the pixelated look of the Eagle cameras, and most people seem to prefer cameras with a native 4:3 aspect ratio. I am not one of those people.

I started my FPV journey with 16:9 box goggles. Those goggles encouraged me to buy 16:9 cameras. All those 16:9 cameras led me towards the 16:9 Fat Shark Dominator V3 goggles. Now that I have a good set of 16:9 goggles, I want all my cameras to match.

I’m not excited about the sharp, pixelated video of the Eagle line of cameras, but I’ve gotten used to it. I feel that the problem of sharp edges is far outweighed by the Eagle’s phenomenal wide dynamic range. When you fly directly at the sun with a Runcam Eagle 2, you can easily see detail on the ground, and the sun is just a small, white disc.

I’ve had my Runcam Eagle 2 since July. It has been by far my favorite camera. I bought a Runcam Eagle 2 Pro for my other Dragon quad in December. It is a better camera than the original Eagle 2, but not by a huge margin.

I wouldn’t buy either one today. The Runcam just released the Micro Eagle. I won’t be buying any more full-size cameras. I’ve tried the Micro Sparrow in the hopes that it would perform well enough, but the Sparrow is now Eagle. The Micro Eagle is the heaviest and most expensive micro camera.

Conclusion

I couldn’t be happier with my new builds for 2018. They’re extremely durable, stupidly powerful, and a ton of fun to fly. I still feel compelled to upgrade these and build even faster quads, but I’m doing my best to avoid that temptation. I want to fly these until I crash enough that they start giving me trouble!

When I broke my BFight 210’s frame, I replaced it with a 6” FLOSS frame. After flying the ZMX FinX30 motors, I’m extremely tempted to put a set of FinX23 motors on the old BFight. They’re cheaper and lighter than the FinX30 motors, but they can generate more thrust than my old T-Motor F40ii motors. They look like an amazing, inexpensive, and tempting upgrade for the BFight 210!

Are you flying a similar build? Are you using the FinX30 or F40 Pro V2 motors? Are you also experimenting with 5S batteries? Please leave a comment and tell us about your experiences!

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