OK I’m Addicted, This Is awesome
So you started small and played with the sim for a bit and now your ready to build your own custom machine that can do 0-100 in no time flat. If you met one of the Table 5 pilots flying then you likely saw a 5 or a 6 inch freestyle drone. For the purpose of this explanation we will be helping you select parts for a high performance 6 inch free style build. As you progress as a pilot you may choose to build a smaller 3 inch or even a long range 7 or 8 inch but a 6 inch is a pretty nice blend of power, speed and efficiency and it will inform the parts we recommend.
If you want to fly FPV the best way to get into the hobby is to buy all the parts listed below and build the drone yourself, Building a drone yourself is an opportunity to really get to know the parts, understand how and why each part is included in your build and it will prep you to build any number of drones in the future and repair the ones you have.
*EDIT 9-01-2018* The hobby of FPV drone building and flying is shifting in a new direction. Pilots are finding that higher voltage power sources like 5s and 6s batteries have a posotive impact on flight time as well as the control throughout the pack. Check out the battery safety page to learn about batteries, safety, cell count and voltage.
TABLE 5 – 6 INCH FREESTYLE DRONE PARTS LIST :
The best frames we have found for our “fast freestyle” flight style are produced by PiroDrone under the Hyperlite name. The “Floss 3”, “Flowride”,”Flowstyle”, and “Glide” are available at the links below. If you want the lightest option( for the most speed ) we recommend the Floss 3 coming in 50 grams under many of the other popular freestyle frames this is a great option if you are already confident in your assembly and soldering skills. If you dont mind a bit of extra weight the Glide is an excellent option that gives you a bit of extra build room at the price of about 30 extra grams.
Because FPV drone motors spin extremely fast so quality manufacturing techniques and balancing are a must. As with all things there are levels of reliability and attention to detail that make motors more or less expensive. The Table 5 team flys primarily 3 brands of motors, EMAX, Xing and Hyperlite motors. EMAX motors were at one point the creme de le creme, the “red bottoms” were the defacto standard for racing drones as they rose in popularity but they have fallen by the wayside as other titans emerged. The original emax red bottoms are still great motors if you are looking for something smooth and reliable and you are not concerned with the weight or power output of your build. The Xing ECO motors are much more recent and they come in with a price tag thats as enticing as their thrust figures. The trade-off is that they typically come with less robust bearings and the quality control leaves a bit to be desired. Finally there are the hyperlite motors imported by PiroflipRC, being a premiere supplier in the US, hyperlite motors have been mounted on the fastest racing drones in races around the country. If you have a bit more to spend then hyperlite 2207 or 2208.5 motors are currently some of the most powerful options on the market. Quality control is excellent and durability is also excellent without many of the typical trade offs like excessive weight.
There are 2 options under each power option. The 6s power options require the use of high voltage 6S batteries. While 6S batteries tend to be more expensive and also tend to be heavier they offer extended flight time and better flight characteristics.
6S ( 25.2V Power )
Hyperlite 2208.5 1722
Hyperlite 2207 1722
Budget motors ( Budget motors are less expensive and made with less exotic materials, steel instead of titanium but when you are learning to fly budget motors are much cheaper to replace when you crash )
4s ( 16.4V Power )
Hyperlite 2205 2522kv
Hyperlite 2307 2522kv
ELECTRONIC SPEED CONTROLLERS ( ESCs)
For 6 inch racing and freestyle drones we recommend selecting an ESC that is capable of handling a minimum of 30amps of continuous current per channel. The Table 5 team is always testing new and upgrades ESCS and we have found that Speedix, Hobbywing and Aikon make some excellent ESCs. If you choose to go with a 4 in 1 option and save some weight the Aikon ESC paired with the PiroDroneF4OSD FC makes a great combination for 6 inch freestyle builds.
If you are looking for insane speeds PiroflipRC also imports their own brand of ESCs labeled the PYRO32. With excellent performance and a focus on maximum power handling this is a great racing ESC.
PYRO32 4 in 1 ESC
Akion 4 in 1 3-6S 35 amp 32bit ESC
This is arguably the most important part of any build. For the purpose of this tutorial we will recommend a single flight controller from PiroflipRC, the PyrodroneF4-OSD ( F4 being the processor on the flight controller) is a very functional flight controller with a good blend of features. The PirodroneF4-OSD allows for connections with most 4 in 1 ESCs, can handle battery voltage input, includes OSD features that work with the betaflight OSD and is organized in a way that leaves one side of the board clear for mounting other hardware.
FLIGHT CONTROL FIRMWARE
BETAFLIGHT – RACEFLIGHT – CLEANFLIGHT _ OH MY
You can think of flight controller firmware in a similar way to thinking about an opperating system on your computer. If your goal is to surf the internet you can use computers with Windows 7, 8 or 10 or if you buy different hardware you could use Apple OSX or if you have a chromebook you could use ChromeOS. All of those options work with the hardware you have to help you acheive the goal of getting you online. Most flight controllers come preinstalled with Betaflight firmware but some flight controllers come with their own dedicated hardware light raceflight or butterflight.
This firmware also dictates which software package you use to configure the flight controller. For the purpose of this walkthrough we will assume that you will purchase a flight controller that comes preinstalled with betaflight firmware. The betaflight configurator is relatively easy to navigate and we will have setup tutorials for betaflight version [3.3x]
As you advance as a pilot you may find the urge to try different flight controller firmwars or even different flight controller hardware, If you start with the recommended hardware you will be able to easily swap between Raceflight, Betaflight and even butterflight hardware.
We recommend micro form factor cameras from runcam as the best option available. Runcam Micro Swift 3 cameras have very high light sensitivity so they fly great even into the late evening, they handle the transition from shade into bright sun pretty well, they handle a wide range of input voltages from 5v all the way up to 40v and they happen to weight in as some of the lightest cameras available. For all intents and purposes the runcam micro swift 3 is the best all around camera on the market. If you intend to use your build in a different way the Table 5 team would be glad to help you select a camera to fit your particular use case.
RUNCAM MICRO SWIFT 3
VIDEO TRANSMITTER – VTX
The best VTX we have found is an VTX made by Team Black Sheep. They produce very accuratevideo transmitters and they allow Pilots to safely plug in their craft while others are flying and has great performance in the 25/200/500/800mw range. Also Icluded in this product range is a VTX from RUSH, they make a great alternative to the TBS products that is relatively clean on startup but costs considerably less.
If you intend to fly with others its probably worth noting that it is common courtesy to announce “plugging in” and wait for other piltos to acknowledge that you are about to power up a device that may cause some radio interference with other pilots. Table 5 always calls “PLUGGING IN”! no matter how well designed and installed a VTX is just to be safe.
Choose 1 VTX
Once you have your Motors, ESCs, and Flight Controller installed you will need a way to send and receive your every wish. The RECEIVER is bound to your Radio Transmitter and makes a reliable connection to your drone. There are multiple receivers that we have used over the years and we have found the most reliable unit is the FRSKY RXSR. It includes technology to send data back to your transmitter radio to inform you of signal strength and it is very small and light so mounting inside your build is very easy.
The most recommended radio among the Table 5 team is theFrSky Xlite. While many of the Table 5 pilots fly with a Taranis X9D which is a more robust model the xlite is absolutely a capable 16 channel transmitter that uses the FRSKY communication protocol. It happens to come in at about half the price of a X9D and it was released after many of the Table 5 pilots started flying. As our team pilots wear out their equipment they are all switching to the xlite units as they are great replacements for the X9D.
While the xlite works well for many of the table 5 pilots the video game controller style is just not right for some hands, If you are comfortable playing video games thent he xlite is a great option but if you prefer something a bit more traditional the QX7 and the X9 lite are both great options.
FrSky Xlite ( Requires 18500 batteries – not included )
FrSky X9 Lite
Each pilot in the Table 5 team has their own preferred antenna combination. Some people swear by their antenna setup while others choose dipole whips for weight savings. For the purpose of this guide we will recommend 2 antennas that include the MMCX connector type so they plug directly into your video transmitter with a strong click on connection.
Whip – Good for close to medium range and very lightweight/durable
AXII – Good for close and long range but more fragile and larger so easier to damage.
RECEIVING ANTENNA – You will need at least one for your goggles
Goggles is an interesting part of this conversation. Being the part that interfaces with your face and the part you will be relying on to accurately represent what the drone sees in both signal clarity and picture quality there are really an infinite number of options ranging in price from $60 to $1000. There really is no best goggle, just the one you prefer to fly on. For the purpose of this guide i will suggest 2 typse of goggles one being the BOX STYLE where the goggles use a large screen to give you a big screen experience and a set of pro looking low profile FATSHARKs that are the most common goggle found in the FPV community. Keep in mind that FATSHARK goggles will also require you to purchase a stand alone FPV Video receiver module and it will cost about 1/3 the cost of the goggles themselves e but the trade off is much more portability and in many cases better user experience and reliability from the additional modules.
BOX GOGGLES – Bigger and heavier but still very functional ( Great for a 1st pair )
FATSHARK GOGGLES – The Industry standard for FPV, Lightweight and reliable and includes a starter module.
A NOTE ABOUT DJI “HD”
There has been a recent product release in the FPV drone industry by DJI, they are the same brande that makes the phantom drones and mavic drones and they have a tremendous ammount of experience in the photography drone industry. they now offer a digital HD video and control link that is similar to the cost of the ultra premium offerings from brands like TBS and FatShark. If you would like to build a DJI FPV drone you will need to purchase DJIs goggles Radio, and Camera/VTX unit at a cost of about $920. While the price is realtivly high compared to the other components listed the feeling of flying HD on a big monitor is pretty amazing and while it is still a version 1 product and there are some kinks to be worked out like display lag and frequency hopping the performance is nothing less than stunning. Until they work out the lag situation and the channel locking the Table5 team will not be switching to digital HD FPV but it may be a good solution if you only intend to fly by yourself and go straight up to look around.
LITHIUM BATTERY SAFETY
WARNING LITHIUM BATTERIES ARE DANGEROUS! THEY ARE FLAMMABLE, TEMPERATURE SENSITIVE AND VERY ENERGY DENSE. THEY CAN AND WILL CATCH FIRE!
Table 5 pilots fly a combination of batteries from Turnigy Nano-techs to Venom power packs. As a general rule of thumb we fly any pack with sufficient current carrying capacity and a high enough C rating to support 120 amp punch outs. At this point you probably already understand the importance of keeping a stack of batteries stored safely in an ammo tin or battery bag and you also know that you should expect 3-5 minutes of flight time from your battery packs. When Table 5 needs new packs we typically look to the Pirodrone “who cares” packs. They have been a great option and when they are in stock they are the most cost effective option for pilots at about $20 each.
*EDIT 09/01/2018* As the hobby is shifting toward 5S and 6S power we are looking to PiroDrone once again for new batteries. In the 6S configuration PiroDrone Who cares 1250mAh and 1100mAh 6S liPos are excellent performers. At $28 per pack they last nearly 2x as long as the 1300mAh 4S packs and they allow a pilot to change batteries less often and fly longer. Keep in mind you will need to select a 6s Capable motor if you intend to run 6S batteries and while 4s batteries run OK on a 6S build you CANNOT run 6S batteries on a 4s Drone.
The most reliable and easy to use chargers we have found are produced by ISDT, they are typically sold as DC input only chargers so they may require the purchase of a separate DC power supply if you intend to use them with household 120v power. Table 5 uses retrofitted PC power supplies and LED driver power supplies to power their ISDT chargers. If you are comfortable with a multi meter an old PC power supply can easily provide the 300W at 12v to power a ISDT charger and if you find the need to charge in the field you can easily whip up a cigarette lighter to XT60 cable to charge from the car. ( never charge batteries in your car because they are flammable and can be very dangerous if they decide to fail in your vehicle )
If your not comfortable tearing apart PC or server power supplies there are other options that will get the job done with built in AC adapters. That means that you will be plugging your charger into the wall with a regular plug and be able to charge packs to your hearts content. Typically chargers with built in adapters charge at less amps or are more expensive and the HOTA option is definitely more expensive but for new pilots who just wants something that works its a great option.
ISDT Q6 Pro – This charger can handle charging at up to 300W or 14Amps, safe charge rates are typically around 1.3-1.5A unless you use a balance board.
HOTA D6 – this is a great option if you dont have a DC power supply handy or you prefer something more compact and easy to manage
After you have read this whole list and re-read it you may find yourself with a shopping cart full of parts ready to pull the trigger on $800 worth of drone parts. We will take that as a compliment and we look forward to seeing you out at the field with us.
As always if you need help with your purchase or you are not sure what to get please dont hesitate to reach out over email at firstname.lastname@example.org