I have always been fascinated by all kinds of RC toys. Cars, planes, boats.. I played with them all when I was a kid. It's been a few years since I played with some RC toys but when I came accros this YouTube video of the so called "FPV drones" I was sold immediately. In the video you can see top pilot Charpu flying his QAV250 drone in an unfinished/abandoned building.
An FPV (First Person View) drone is a regular drone but as you might suspect with a camera mounted on the drone. You wear video goggles that realtime show the video footage of the camera on top of the drone. It's like you are flying.
It might have been a bit of an impulsive decision, but I wanted to this as well and started doing some research, watch videos about the topic, gathered a list of components I needed and eventually ordered them as well. It's not a cheap hobby but it looks really awesome and it's something that I have been looking for a while for now.
Parts & cost
Let's talk a bit more in detail about the parts that are needed to build an FPV drone and what they cost. There are many parts and brands in this world. You have premium brands like Lumenier, but you can also buy parts from eBay for a fraction of the price. For my first drone I decided to buy most of the stuff of eBay since it's sometimes 50% (or more) cheaper than other regular brands.
For example, the price of 1 Lumenier motor is more expensive than 4 regular Chinese motors from eBay that have the same specs. So this will save me intially some money, later when I get more experienced / learn more about the hobby I might upgrade those parts to some premium parts.
Obviously I will need 4 motors for this mini quad. I decided to go for the Dragonfly MC1806 2300KV. I bought them on eBay for $11.99 a piece and they ship for free. That's a total of $47.96 for the 4 motors.
Electronic Speed Controllers
Each motor is powered and controlled through an Electronic Speed Controller (aka ESC). Those little things will power the motors and make them rotate at a certain speed. I didn't look around much for those and just bought the first item that popped up on eBay with the correct firmware and specs. I bought 4x a 12A SimonK ESC for 24.99$ (in total, for all 4 of them) with free shipping.
The Flight Controller is the nerve system of the drone. They control many things like basic stabilization, GPS enabled autopilots and much more. There are many options to choose from here and since I'm new to this hobby and now sure what to pick I went for an AfroFlight Naze32 Acro FunFly which I saw recommended on a forum. I also bought this on eBay for $28.04 with free shipping.
The frame, the video goggles & the video goggles antennas I bought on GetFVP. The frame I ordered is the QAV250 Mini FPV Quadcopter - Carbon Fiber Edition from Lumenier on GetFPV. It's a frame of $149.99, which is not very cheap, but apparently one of the best when building a QAV250. It's very strong and lightweight.
For the video goggles I went for the Fat Shark Teleporter V3 Video Goggles w/ PilotHD V2. Those are not the best of the best but more than good enough for starting pilots, or so I read at least. They cost about $199.99 which is up till now my most expensive part. As I said above I also bought those on GetFPV.
In a few YouTube videos I saw people highly recommended the ImmersionRC 5.8 GHz SpiroNET Antenna Set for the video goggles. Those costed $39.95 and also come from GetFPV. I ordered the frame, video goggles and video antennas all at once at GetFPV but after I 5 days it's still saying "Processing Order". The total shipping cost was $27.00 for all 3 items.
A few smaller things I bought as well, both on eBay are some spare screws and propellers. For the propellers I bought a set of 8 pairs of 5030 blades for $12.68. I chose 5030 blades because they are easier to learn flying with than the bigger 5040 blades. Because their pitch angle is lower the drone does not respond as fast as with 5040 blades when giving (too much) throttle. And then I also bought these spare screws and parts for $8.98, just in case of a crash or if I might lose something.
My first components already came in via mail today. I ordered 3x a Turnigy Nano-Tech 1300mAh 3S 11.1V 25-50C Lipo Battery Pack on eBay for $15.99 a piece with a total shipping cost of $20. So that's a total spent of ~$70 on batteries.
Since the drones really suck energy and you can fly only about 5 - 6 minutes with a fully charged battery I decided to buy 3 at once. When flying a drone like this it consumes about 15 - 20 amps constantly with peaks up to 50 amps. And that's a lot. As a reference, when watching videos on your iPhone 6, the iPhone consumes about 0.18 amps.
And this is what the battery actually looks like. They were actually a lot smaller than I expected them to be. The drone will be a bit smaller than I expected it to be as well most likely, but that's ok, I don't like big clumsy drones anyway.
And then one of the last things I bought is a professional multi charger / discharger. I bought it on eBay for $42.99 and I can use it to both (dis)charge my drone batteries as well as for my video goggles its batteries.
Remote controller / receiver
One thing I'm not sure about is what remote controller / receiver I should get. I already looked at a few but the prices are ranging from $50 up to $500. I read some can display the battery level, but how is that useful when flying with FPV goggles? If there's anyone with experience / some advice, please go ahead, let hear from you in the comments ?!
A small overview of what I spent until now on this project:
- Motors: $48
- ESCs: $25
- Flight controller: $28
- Frame: $159 ($27 shipping / 3 = $9)
- Video goggles: $209 ($27 shipping / 3 = $9)
- Video goggle antennas: $49 ($27 shipping / 3 = $9)
- Misc: $23
- Batteries: $70
- Charger: $43
Anyway, I'll keep you posted when new parts start to come in and as I start building the drone!