Build a Racing Drone

Building a Racing Drone: My Reasons

I wanted to share my experience of my racing drone build. This was the first real experience with a drone I had encountered.

There was a reasonable learning curve to the drone build. With my inexperienced soldering proving frustrating, fiddly and messy. A bit of patience is required.

With the right tools and a bit of practice it does come. The satisfaction of building something, quite complex and exhilarating, was worth the hassle. In my view it’s a great achievement to fly these components you were taking out of bags days before. A great cheap entry level to flying a drone. $150 and a bit of elbow grease. You’re up and running.

In the following post I will cover:

  1. Why I built a racing drone
  2. What type of kit I bought
  3. What Beginner transmitter I bought
  4. Best way to start flying drones
  5. Basic Tools needed to build a drone
  6. Basic components you should receive in a D.I.Y drone build kit.
  7. Positives of building a drone
  8. Negatives of building a drone
  9. Conclusions
  10. Photo of current drone and Tx

The Short answers to those questions are as follows:

  1. I built the drone to learn more intimately about U.A.V technology. To get myself my first drone to own and fly. Have a lot of fun with it.
  2. The first kit I bought was a Sun Foundry 180 racer, it cost about $100 on Amazon, like this one
  3. The beginner transmitter I bought was a Flysky TS-T6 on Amazon, like this one.
  4.  The best way to start flying U.A.V’s is first on an emulator to learn the controls. Then a toy drone to get the feel in real life. After you have more confidence go for it.
  5. Various tools needed – No short answer….read further down to see all the tools needed at minimum
  6. The basic components received in kit – No short answer read on to see the minimum you should receive
  7. Positives of building a drone – Learn a ton, have a drone to fly, had a lot of fun in the process.
  8. Negatives of building a drone – Can be frustrating at times, steep learning curve (but achievable).
  9. Conclusions – Go for it!

My Reasons for building my racing drone

When I first got into drones, I thought to myself, what is the best way to learn about the technology. I wanted a hands on, close up experience to get a good grasp of the basic concepts of drone flight, without having to spend a fortune. After trawling the internet, with just high end price drones being offered, I found what I was looking for. A racing drone was the perfect answer. I had seen lots of self build racing drone kits, but thought nothing of it.

That was the light bulb moment. ‘Build a racing drone!’. A $100 drone kit was affordable, I had all the tools you would need, ‘I can build stuff’, I said to myself!

So I found a kit on Amazon, ordered and waited……………..

………I was expecting a 3 day wait, but on day 2 I had a little brain flash, ‘How was I going to fly it? I had no transmitter!’ So back on to Amazon I went, looking for an affordable controller to fly the thing. The prices ranged from $30 – $1000. So I opted for a cheap first time buy.

Remote Controller

A Flysky FS T6, it cost around $60 at time of purchase, a few years ago. It has been a good solid starter transmitter. Although I would comment on the apparent lack of range when flying the drone, but this could be down to the cheap receiver on my racer, not the transmitter.

Maybe I could have sourced all the individual parts separately. But to be honest that first time, I didn’t really know what I was doing. what parts I needed, how they fitted together, how long it would take. At that time. I didn’t have a clue about the flight control board configuration through Betaflight or Cleanflight.

For my next build, I plan to have more customisation of parts when buying. So a better quality receiver will be the cheap fix for the problem. If that doesn’t work and research doesn’t reveal any other ideas. It maybe the expensive option –  an expensive transmitter!

Starting your Build

Once your kit comes, you can begin building your first drone!

I took me about 7 days to build that first one, spending 2-3 hours at night constructing. It then took me a couple of days messing with the configuration, as I mentioned before. But I won’t go into the configuration in this post.

Before you do start make sure you have the correct tools for the job.

One mistake I made, was to use a normal soldering iron. The kind with the blade shaped head. Bad mistake, I definitely learnt the hard way with that effort. Ugly soldering, charred pieces of circuit board, fried transistors, resulting in a replacement board needed to be ordered!

A pointed solder iron, for electronics is essential to make tidy solder joints on your boards. It reduces the chance of accidentally applying heat to an adjacent resistor when working and maybe frying your board. Which you would only find out about on your maiden test flight.

Soldering Irons for Electronics

One of these solder irons are perfect for the job. Hopefully it will stop you frying your board like I did mine. Once I had an iron for electronics it was a whole different world. Maybe because my ordeal with the other shaped iron, but I made what I thought a very professional looking job of the Flight Control Board.

This was all more than 3 years ago, so I can’t find photos. I have been hunting, if I find any I will be sure to add to this post. To show you during the build and my finished flying product. But see at the end of the post of the drone and transmitter at the current date. A bit worn and battered, but that’s down to good use!

Tools needed:

  • Appropriate work area
  • Good Lighting
  • Soldering iron for electronics
  • Thin solder wire
  • Tweezers
  • Wire strippers/ pliers
  • Electrical shrink wrap
  • Electrical tape
  • Doubled sided tape

Your home build kit should contain at least the following:

  • Carbon fiber frame
  • 4x Brushless motors
  • 4x Electronic Speed Controllers ESC
  • Flight control Board
  • Power Board
  • Receiver unit
  • buzzer (for retrieval)
  • Construction manual

I didn’t mount a camera as I don’t have FPV goggles. A camera and googles will add an extra $200 – $500. I am currently looking at the best pair of goggles to go along with build number two. Fat Shark are the top range brand. These have a slimmer profile. Whereas the cheaper copies are bulky and look quite cumbersome.

Check that you have all the kit you paid for……… and get to work!

I will do a more in depth step by step guide, once I complete my next build. I researched a lot online before buying and building, so I strongly suggest you do the same. In the end though, you always learn a lot more by doing and making mistakes than not trying and reading too much and watching too many YouTube tutorials.

Positives

I would without doubt, recommend anyone wanting to learn more about drones, to build your own. It is undoubtedly extreme, but worth the time and effort at very low cost. Now, I have the underlying knowledge of the basic systems of drones, how they operate and interact with one another. It makes trouble shooting problems and malfunctions quicker, choosing consequent purchases with more confidence and gives me a more in depth understanding of the tech, which is very satisfying.

I enjoyed most of the build and found it relatively easy. The best part of course was flying for the first time. Then after that, flying with some control.

Negatives

Depending how experienced you are at piloting a drone. This might not be the best entry point for you. I found this out the hard way, as I had never flown a drone before and the things are like little rocket ships. The first experience flying was taking off too quick to no power, falling out off the sky to PANIC – Full Power.

The thing shot off 2 km over fences and fields out of control. Luckily I had installed a buzzer, so finding it was actually a lot easier than I had been fearing. When it shot off, that first instance I did think. ‘$150, a weeks work for what…10 seconds enjoyment.’ But it all ended with a happy ending that flight. Many others did not end so happy.

If like me, you have no experience flying a drone, building your own would be great for your learning. I would recommend to begin with first time you pick up a drone. The best bet is a small toy drone, just to get the feel of it. Learn the controls, because they are new to everyone, bar astronauts.

Toy Drone

One of these would be ideal to hone your skills. you could practice in the house without disturbing anyone until you had the confidence to fly outside with people and children about. You could also pass it on as a present when you out grow it. It may seem childish to buy something like this to begin with. I have crashed by drone more times than I can count. Most repairs I have to make are replacing the Flight Control Board, which cost about $20 each time. So I have probably spent $100 on replacing it 5 times. I believe if I had followed my own advice, and practiced with one of these toy drones. I could have saved myself a ton of time sourcing, travelling, buying and replacing the parts.

Emulator

An Emulator is a piece of computer software that emulates an experience. A life like video game to practice certain tasks before performing them in the real world. There are many such drone video games emulators to practice the art of flying. These will give you a grasp of the basic controls, pushing what causes what affect. They can not emulate a live flight, Just as a F1 emulator can not replicate driving a F1 car.

It would definitely recommend a try to learn the basic controls, but I would still advise – trying a toy drone to test how they react with real air and forces.

Conclusions

The most valuable advice therefore, I can give you in bullet point:

  • Building a racing drone is a great way to increase your knowledge about drone technology
  • Flying a racing drone is NOT the best way to learn how to fly
  • Find a suitable location to fly your drone and comply with the laws
  • A Toy drone or emulator would be a recommended start point for learning to fly
  • Use the correct tools for the job when building your drone
  • Don’t buy what you can’t afford to lose, drone racing is rough, even more so in the beginning

Before you go, now I have told you my thoughts, why not tell me yours in the comments below.

Tell us about your experiences…

  1. Have you built a drone?
  2. Do you fly racing drones?
  3. Would you like to build and fly racing drones?
  4. Did I miss something out you think would be valuable to add?

 

my Drone and Tx

 

Here is the current state of my baby, after she has taken one too many hits during my adrenaline filed flights. Awaiting parts coming to get her air borne again.

 

NOTE. One tip if you thinking of giving a build a go. Look into how to shorten the ESC wires, as it helps making a cleaner setup without all the extra unneeded wire.

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