8 SERVO 02.2018
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Many readers of SERVO will likely be drawn to the
experimental category. These are multi-rotors that come as
kits or plans. Often, you’ll need to assemble, program, or
otherwise tinker to get these off the ground. While they are
more work to get flying and keep them there, you do
learn a lot about the fundamentals. It’s also generally
much easier to try different motors, flight controllers,
or other gear.
Instead of everything being kept in a nice injection
molded housing, there are frame members that you
can drill into and more easily mount your own gear.
Great power can be accompanied by great headache
or epic crashes following a bad solder joint. If you want
a fully customizable experience and have the time, this
is a fun route.
The final category is the thrill-seeking bunch.
Acrobatic and racing drones are generally small in size
and phenomenally over-powered compared to any
other category. These drones will shoot straight up at
an alarming rate, scream by at traditional car-like
speeds, and send video back to their pilots wearing
FPV (First Person View) goggles (Figure 4).
While there are some ready-to-fly (RTF) models out
there, many racers tend to straddle the experimental
category, upgrading their airframes to carbon-fiber,
adding faster motors, more aggressive propellers, or
better cameras. Personally, I’ve never been that
interested in drone racing, but it has become a popular
sport with TV placement on major networks and
competitions around the country. If you’re looking for a
competitive real life video game-like experience, these hot
rods might be for you.
Build or Buy?
One of the next questions you’ll have to grapple with is
whether to build or buy your multi-rotor. The answer is a
complicated optimization of time, money, technical skills,
tooling, and desire.
First off, is there a commercially available product that
will do what you want? If there is, it’s doubtful that you’ll
be able to do it from scratch for a similar price and with as
Figure 4: FPV flying is common amongst the racing
sport, but can be fun for the general hobby flyer as well.
Figure 3: For those looking to dip their toes into flying a quad, the
Syma X5SW-V3 is a great starting place and economical at under $50.
(Image courtesy of amazon.com.)
Figure 5: The DJI Phantoms are an incredibly feature-rich line of
products at an intermediate budget that will keep you busy for many
weekends of exploration. (Image courtesy of amazon.com.)