Choosing The Correct FPV Drone Components | How To Fly FPV Drones
There's a huge range of FPV drone parts out there. We break down each component of a FPV drone
It’s easy to get a little lost when looking at the wide range of FPV components and working out whether they are compatible with the type of FPV build you’re going for. Fear not, however, this article details all the equipment required to build your own FPV drone and, when you’re ready to do so, will show you how simple it is to actually go through the process of building your own FPV drone.
While an FPV drone might look like a slightly confusing mess of circuit boards and wiring, they’re actually pretty simple little things. You just have a flight controller at the centre of the drone, which sends commands to the ESC, which then sends commands to the motors in order to fly. All of these commands are given to the flight controller via the VTX. Then, all of these components are held together by the frame.
So that’s an extremely brief way of looking at the components that make up an FPV drone, now let’s drill down into exactly what each specific component does.
So first up is, of course, the FPV drone frame. Made of a solid chunk of carbon fibre, these frames are built to take on the inevitable beating that you’re going to put your drone through while you’re out flying.
Because FPV frames are made of carbon, they’re also pretty stiff too; this stiffness will also help to smooth out any unwanted vibrations as your motors are spinning at over a thousand rotations per second.
The frame we’re looking at is a ‘true X’ design. This means that all four of the motors are all set the same distance away from the flight controller, giving great responsiveness and acrobatic performance.
The flight controller is the brains of your FPV drone. Taking the commands from your VTX, the flight controller tells the ESC how to spin each individual motor to get the desired outcome you’ve just pushed into the transmitter. Featuring an inbuilt gyro, the flight controller also aims to reduce any unwanted oscillations from your motors.
The flight controller is usually paired with the ESC as a ‘stack’, creating an easy plug and play system.
The point where you solder the motors is called the ESC (electronic speed controller). The ESC takes the orders from the flight controller and sends the correct amount of amps to each motor. If you look back a couple of years ago, FPV drone builders would have to buy four separate ESCs to fit onto each motor. These days, there are now 4-in-1 ESCs packed into an extremely small chipboard – saving on space and weight.
The ESC also takes the large voltage spikes from your battery and for this reason, there are a lot of sensitive components on this circuit board. Care must be taken when handling them.
As we said in our What Is FPV Drone Flying article, we’re going to be focusing on digital FPV drones, due to the superior picture quality. Digital VTX’s (video transmitters) feature a small FPV camera that sends a signal to the VTX box, which transmits it wirelessly to your goggles.
Offering up some phenomenal ranges, these are extremely impressive bits of kit. A digital VTX also takes the commands from your transmitter and sends it over to the flight controller, all in a fraction of a second for near-instant responsiveness.
The four motors are designed to spin the propellers, providing your drone with thrust to fly. Each of the motors comes with three different wires that need to be soldered to the ESC.
There are different sizes of motors. The width and size of the ‘bell’ is called the stator size (eg 2207), and the KV (eg 1800KV). Which motor you buy depends on the size of the drone you’re building and the type of battery you’re carrying. As a rule of thumb 2207/2208 motors work well for 5” FPV drone builds, with 1800 KV being the go-to for 6S batteries and around 2100 KV for 4S batteries.
The propellers (or props) are bolted onto the ‘prop shaft’ found sticking out of the motor. FPV drone props are surprisingly varied, with a wealth of different lengths and pitches available. We’re focussing on 5” FPV drones here, but it’s worth mentioning that you can go from 1” – 20” (and maybe even larger) propellers – but 5” is the most popular, for sure.
Aside from the size of the prop, it’s also worth noting the pitch of an FPV drone prop. The pitch tells you how aggressively the prop pitches up towards the centre. High pitched props (around 4-5) provide a lot of thrust, but low efficiency. Low pitched props (2-3) provide a smooth and efficient flight, with less thrust.
A GoPro shouldn’t be anything new to you if you’re a regular reader here at Mpora. King of the action camera community, GoPro are also the kings of the FPV world. Providing an unbeatable image quality in a small, compact and relatively lightweight box, GoPros are ideal to strap to your FPV drone and whizz them around at 100+ km/h.
While the newest Hero9 offers the best picture quality, the Hero8 is usually the go-to GoPro for FPV pilots, due to its lighter and smaller build (over the Hero9). The Hero8 also has fantastic image stabilisation (essential for FPV drones).
Featuring cells of lithium polymer connected in series, FPV drone batteries are built with the sole aim of providing a bucket load of power at a relatively low weight and pack size.
There are a few slightly confusing things to consider when looking to buy batteries for your FPV drone build. Firstly, and most importantly, is the amount of cells that the battery consists of. Ranging from 1S – 8S, the amount of cells a battery is made up of determines the voltage of the battery. For FPV cinematic drones that carry a GoPro, we’d recommend only looking to buy batteries in the 4 – 6S range, due to their high power to weight ratio.
Next up is the capacity of a battery. Measured in mAh (milli amp hours), the capacity of the battery determines the overall size. A larger battery usually equals more flight time, to a point where your motors can no longer produce enough thrust to lift up the battery.
Choosing the right battery for your FPV drone is about finding the right balance between capacity (flight time) and weight. We’ve been using 6S 1300 mAh batteries, which we think provides a great middle ground for this drone build, even when carrying the large and heavy GoPro Hero9.
Now, before you all shoot off and scan the web for each separate component to build your own FPV drone, we’re going to stop you right there. This is because the good folk over at Ummagawd have created this handy kit bundle with all the components required to build your own FPV drone.
Once you’ve made your purchasing choices (or have bought the above kit), then head over to our ‘How To Build Your Own FPV Drone’ article, as a guide on how to put all the components together into a working FPV drone.
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