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Today I want to share with you on how you can build your own drone. To be exact an FPV drone.
What do I mean by FPV drone?
FPV stands for first person view. This is where the drone is controlled by a pilot who uses a remote to control the device remotely. This pilot can either be you or somebody else who has a remote and virtual goggles that are connected to the cameras on the drone.
If you are an enthusiast and want to know how you can put together your own device so that you can have a chance of modifying it to your specifications, then you are at the right place. There is not a lot of helpful information out there but I will try my best to guide you on what others who have successfully done it have made it.
So what do you need to make a drone?
- The very first item you need is a frame or body of the drone. This is obviously to hold the main structure that will hold the other pieces you are supposed to plug into it.
- The second item you will need is the FPV camera for recording the flight path of the drone and will also be responsible for transmitting the video feed for you to see what you are doing on the ground. There is also the FPV air unit that you will need to attach to the FPV camera so that it works as a unit. The ones made by DJI usually come as one unit but since you are making your own you will need to buy both of them separately then join them together.
- The third item in this process is the flight controller which you will have to solder to the main board. This controller is responsible for clearing any interference that may be there in the atmosphere so that you have a stable flight path.
- The fourth item is an ESC computer chip that is responsible for controlling the individual motors of the drone.
- The next thing is to actually buy the individual motors but will be responsible for the movement of the device. You need about four of them. Then you also have to get the propellers that will go on top of the motors. You can see how to select the best drone motors here
- An 1800mah lipo battery is also needed to power all this up.
- If you so choose, you can get another video camera to put on top of it; either a GoPro or an action camera that you can use to record all the action when you will be flying it.
Once you have finished getting all those parts you will also need to get FPV goggles that you will use to see what you are doing when you are flying around the device from the ground. This will sort of be giving you a bird’s-eye view what is happening. It will be like your ring a virtual game wearing a pair of Oculus VR headset.
Before I forget there is one piece that I almost left out that is the remote control unit. All the other parts would be unnecessary without it since there is nothing else you can use to control the machine in the air.
Now that you have all those things ordered you will have to learn the skill of soldering. There are some people out there who have put YouTube videos that you can go to learn from but the best way is just ordering a soldering set and start learning by practice.
Will have to solder the FPV unit into the flight controller as shown below in this video;
Make sure that you take all the necessary precautions because these are very volatile material that can catch fire at any time. Remember you are dealing with lithium batteries that are inflammable.
It may take a few trial and errors for you to figure this out; probably a few weeks or even a few months cuz it is something new but just hold on there if you do not give up, you will surely make it. If you try it and see that it is not for you, you can always order a ready-made DJI drone or ask somebody who is conversant with the art of soldering to help you out.
If you are successful in soldering all the parts together, you will need to do a test to see if all the circuits are working and that nothing is sparking any fires. This is called a smoke test to see whether all the required parts have held together. If you have an electrician around, he or she may be able to help you out in this with measuring all the circuits to see whether the correct voltage is being transmitted.
To be honest I have a whole new appreciation of all the companies that pre make all these drones and sell them ready made for you to just purchase and start flying . It is not easy at all. It encompasses a whole lot of trial and errors and buying components again and again when they fail or when you solder something wrongly. This process is not for the faint hearted. The next time you buy a drone ready-made just know that you are really paying for what you get.
Now that you know that your FPV drone is hopefully put together and working correctly, you will have to do what is called beta flying. This is where you have to use software to program your drone so that it flies correctly according to the commands that are coming from the FPV controller.
If you fail to do this step, it will be like trying to move a rock with a feather. It will not be Sharp when flying through the air and its response time will be laggy to say the least; plus it will have very weird oscillation noises when moving up and down in the air.
You can watch the YouTube video below to see how to fiddle around with the settings until you set it up correctly;
Another interesting thing to note is that your device does not have a GPS mechanism so if you fly it far away from you and it hits an obstacle like a tree or a bird or something, it will just drop off the air down to the ground. There is no homing mechanism to bring it back to you. That being said, you will have to do a lot of practice on virtual machines to know how to maneuver one in the air through your goggles.
Building the FPV drone is just one part of it. We will need to know how to flight it, how to maintain it and how to fine-tune the software settings on it.
Another thing you have to know is that this type of drone is more of a sport thing and not one that you can use to capture professional videos with. For professional video shooting, you will need an advanced one with more technical components and sensors. This is just a basic one to play around with.
The video below shows you a more in depth look at the individual components and how they should be assembled :
Some important takeaways after watching that video;
- You should make sure that the wires do not touch while soldering or else it may cause a very dangerous short circuit and ruin your device.
- There are several types of motors that you can use for your drone but i advice that you use the good quality ones which are light and last longer while still delivering tremendous flight power.
- The DJI flight controller is one of the best basic controllers that you can start with to get your hands wet in this assembly game.
- Speed controllers can be included so that you are able to adjust the speed of your device.
- Make very good use of zip ties 😊. They are essential in holding the wires firmly to the frame and prevent any electrical damages.
- The body of the frame is often made of carbon fiber, which is light in weight but powerful. Some say it has more tensile strength than that of steel!