The Ultimate FPV Shopping list (Part One)
This is Part One of a Two Part blog.
In Part One I will explain the “flying parts” of your drone, the parts you need for it to get in the air.
In Part Two I will talk about the FPV video gear, and other misc items.
Buying your First set of racing drone gear is daunting and confusing. I want to try and make it easier for you by laying out how to choose, what to buy, and why (without making it too complicated).
This is gear like your Controller and Goggles. You’re not going to crash these items, so you aren’t going to have to fix or replace them like the parts on your drone.
To start with, I suggest your first purchase should be a radio controller (AKA Transmitter). The best choice right now is the Frsky Taranis Q X7. You can buy this, then use it with an FPV simulator on the computer.
Here are a couple of reasons why this is your best “first purchase”
You can use it to learn how to fly in a simulator
It’s a one time purchase. You don’t need to upgrade if you don’t want to
You won’t grow out of it. This is a radio that beginners can buy, but pros still use.
If you fly in the simulator, and decide it’s not for you, it’s easy to onsell, and will hold value.
Your transmitter is better treated than your racing drones. You don’t crash and break you controller, so you don’t need to spend money on new parts to fix it.
Here’s a link!
Another piece of “Forever Gear” is your goggles! They just sit on your face, out of harm's way, but are one of the most important pieces of kit because they’re what lets you see!
When it comes to goggles, you can either buy really fancy ones right off the bat, or cheaper ones if you’re not sure how much you want to commit.
If you’ve seen drone racing and thought “this is my calling, my destiny!” Then I would actually suggest going all out on a set of nice goggles. The goggles can last you years if you want them to, and quite often people buy cheaper goggles, only to upgrade to the nicer sets in a couple of months anyway.
My goggle suggestions are:
The SkyZone GS500 ($269.91)
The Aomway Commanders ($649)
The Fat Shark Dominator HD3 ($719.90)
(The Fat Shark HD3 requires an external video receiver. I suggest the True D V3.6)
If you can’t justify the expensive goggles, that’s okay! Whatever you choose will still work great.
“Your Racing Drone”
In this part, I will give you the cookbook, but leave some ingredients blank so you can choose your own.
First, the foundations. If it’s your first build, you want a frame that has enough room for you to have flexibility with your parts.
Therefore I suggest the:
This frame is roomy, but still light enough, and modern enough to be a nice, current frame.
We’ll start from the outside in for this drone.
You need 4 motors to fly, and there’s a lot of choice out there, but I suggest your first motor should be a 2205 size, with 2300kv.
2205 refers to the diameter and height of the motor.
KV is the RPM per volt.
ESC stands for Electronic Speed Controller. They tell your motor how fast to spin, so you need one for each motor as well.
There are two options for what type of ESC you run:
Individual ESCs go on the arms of your frame, close to the motors, and a 4in1 will be part of the “stack” in the middle of your frame.
The pros and cons of these types of ESCs are:
If you break an individual ESC, then you only have to replace the one that got damaged.
If you break your 4in1 ESC, then that’s basically all 4 of your ESCs out of the picture.
A 4in1 ESC makes for a much tidier build, and eliminates the use for a Power Distribution Board (I’ll explain that next) which saves you weight, a little bit of money, and gives you a more straight forward build.
Keep in mind that ESCs normally get damaged when they are exposed to impact, so 4in1 ESCs will likely survive crashes that kill individual ESCs because the 4in1 is tucked away inside the drone, while the individual ESC is exposed on the arm.
Spedix 20A Lite ESC (Cheap and light individual ESC)
Spedix 30A 4 in 1 ESC with 5v BEC (Cheap and well performing 4in1)
Most ESCs run a firmware called BLHeli_S or BLHeli32. For now I have suggested BLHeli_S ESCs because they’re more common. There is also a KISS ESC, which I will get to later.
Power Distribution Board (PDB):
Power Distribution is a key element to a racing drone. You need something that will take the raw battery voltage, and send it to all your components either at the same raw voltage, or lower voltage for certain parts.
You can also get ones that will show you battery information through your video feed, so you know what level your battery is at. That’s called OSD.
If you use a 4in1 ESC, then you don’t need a PDB because the ESCs that you need to distribute power to are already built into the board. They also now have plugs and regulators for you to power gear that requires lower voltage.
You plug your battery into the PDB, then the PDB will power four individual ESCs, your flight controller, camera, and VTX (all of which are coming up next).
You can also get PDBs with built in Flight Controllers.
Flight Controller (FC):
This is the brain of your craft.
When it comes to FCs, it can be a little bit like the war of Xbox vs Playstation, Marmite vs Vegemite, or Windows vs OSX because there are 3 or so different developments of firmware out there currently.
FlightOne (Formerly known as RaceFlight)
What you choose here may determine what ESCs you need to use.
Betaflight is Open Source, and works on all FC boards. I mentioned something earlier about BLHeli_S and BLHeli32 right? This is the language that Betaflight uses to tell the ESC what to do with the motor.
FlightOne isn’t Open Source, and currently only works with their FC boards. The Revolt V3, and the RevoltOSD. However, the FlightOne firmware talks to the same ESCs as Betaflight does, so you can use the same ESCs.
KISS is fully Closed Source, so if you buy a KISS board, you’ll DEFINITELY want to buy the KISS ESCs as well.
All these options fly very very well, and they are mostly similar in the way they fly. The controls are the same, but they can feel slightly different compared to one another.
The main difference is in the setup of these boards.
Betaflight has a bit of a learning curve. It’s easy to setup once you learn the steps, then you have the added benefit of being able to go much more in depth with the settings of your quad.
FlightOne is super easy. It runs all the setup through Wizards, so you basically follow the prompts, and do as it says, then come out of it with a flying quad. It is a little harder to go more in depth with though, and it hides a lot of the more complicated settings.
KISS is similar to FlightOne with the easy setup, mainly because you use all KISS gear which talks perfectly to one another. The only downside is that it’s not as popular, so there is potentially less support and knowledge around it.
If you’re the type of person who likes to play with settings, and have full control over what you’re setting up, I would recommend using Betaflight. THe steep learning curve will be worth it.
If you like it easy, and just want to setup and get in the air quickly, then FlightOne is definitely for you!
One other thing about FCs is, some Betaflight FCs also double as a PDB. This means they are mainly geared towards using individual ESCs but do eliminate the need for a PDB.
(Built in PDB and OSD)
(Not a PDB, but has OSD. You’ll need a PDB if you don’t use a 4in1 ESC)
(No battery info on screen, nor is it a PDB)
Radio Receiver (Rx):
This is what listens to your controller, and tells your drone what you want it to do. If you’re going to use the Taranis Q X7 like I’ve suggested, you need an Rx made by Frsky.
Just buy the Frsky R-XSR. It’s the best Rx for that Radio Controller.
I wrote a whole blog about choosing propellers. But for your first set, I recommend the:
Buy some sets!
This brings us to the end of Part One!
Stay tuned for Part Two which will come out next week!
If you feel like this blog helped you out, check out our store where you can get all this stuff from!
Thanks for reading!
Posted: Wednesday 23 May 2018