Welcome to this beginners guide which takes you through the (sometime torturous) process of putting some equipment together in a certain order that should result in a fully functional drone...in this case, the QAV210 DIY Quadcopter Kit.
This is a great piece of kit as it comes with everything you need to complete the build, right down to the zip-ties and velcro strap. Be aware though that this kit does not come with FPV (First-Person-View) gear (i.e. camera and video transmitter) and you do need to purchase a battery to operate this thing. Suggested additional equipment can be found on our page listing for this product. So what exactly is required for this build I hear you ask...?
- The QAV210 DIY Quadcopter Kit . As mentioned above, this includes most of the equipment you will need but we also used..
- The DroneBuildr Tool Kit - this includes the hex and screw drivers that you need to complete this build.
- A high-powered and reliable soldering iron. I have used my fair share of soldering irons and drone builds are made a great deal easier with a high-quality one. It's worth investing a bit more in a solid soldering iron - trust me.
- A Tattu 1300mAh 11.1V 45C 3S1P LiPo Battery to get the thing in the air although we need to do some configuration of the flight controller and ESCs before we fly...a guide on this to follow.
Solder the motors to the ESCs
- Firstly, I will just mention that it definitely helps if you have some previous experience in soldering. If you feel you may need some revision on this topic, please see our Soldering Basics guide.
- If you are used to soldering, this step is pretty simple. You will see that on each ESC there is the side with the power cables (red and black cables) attached, and the side with three soldering ports. You simply need to solder the motor cables onto these ports.
- Here, you can cut the motor cables down to size but we have not done this as they can be tidied up at a later stage and it's always good to have a bit of wiggle room when mounting the motors/ESCs.
- You don't even need to worry about which order you solder these cables. This order controls the spin direction of the motor (which is important) but we can change the spin direction on the computer with BLHeli Suite (more info on this to follow but we do have a BLHeli guide if you want to read about this now).
Soldering the components onto the PDB
- So now we're going to solder everything that needs to be soldered (for now) onto the power distribution board (PDB).
The PDB is an electrical circuit that distributes the power (that is supplied by the battery) to everything that needs to be powered.
- Below you will see a diagram showing how everything is connected. It is important that you keep to this diagram and solder everything to the exact port that we suggest, as otherwise, you may blow the flight controller and/or make the build more complicated than it needs to be.
Soldering the ESCs/ battery cable
- First, let's concentrate on soldering the correct ESCs to the correct ports.
- On each motor, you will see that they are labeled either clockwise (CW) or counter-clockwise (CCW). You must ensure that you solder an ESC that is connected to a motor labeled CW to the top left, and bottom right, port on the PDB (as shown in the diagram). Also ensure that you have the PDB orientated as shown in the diagram.
- Once you are confident which ESC you are going to solder onto the top left port, you then have to make sure that you solder the black cable to a negative port (labeled with a '-'), and the red cable to a positive port (labeled with a '+').
- Once you've got this one sorted, you then need to repeat the process, following the diagram.
- You can then move on to soldering the pre-made battery cable with XT60 connector to the PDB.
Tip: it's a really good idea to test that you've soldered everything correctly as you go along. This can be done with a multimeter on the continuity setting. You can then catch a mistake before it becomes difficult to correct.
Soldering the power and battery voltage cables
- We next move onto soldering the cable that will allow you to measure the battery voltage. This is a cable that is included in the flight controller pack and is shown below.
- You simply solder this cable onto the ports highlighted in the connection diagram above.
- We then move onto the cable that will power the flight controller. This is slightly more complicated as this cable is not pre-made for you, and so we have to do some modification ourselves.
- There are two cable harnesses in the flight controller pack. We take one of these and extract the servo cable that has the red, black and white wires (as shown above).
- So we physically take the wires (all three) out of the white molex-style connector, and we also extract the white wire from the black servo connector. For more detail on the practicalities of doing this, see our Swapping NEO-7N/NEO-M8N GPS connector for Pixhawk/APM Guide
- Once we have done this, we cut the ends of the remaining red and black wires and solder it to the 5V ports on the PDB.
Do not discard the rest of the cable harness after completing this process - it will be needed later.
- You should then have something that looks like this:
Connecting the Flight Controller
- We can now connect the flight controller to the ESCs and the PDB.
Connecting the ESCs to the flight controller
- Let's start with connecting the ESC servo cables (the twisted black and white cables) to the flight controller.
- Before we do that, we need to solder some pin headers to the ESC rail on the flight controller. You can choose either the straight pins, or the pins that are bent at 90 degrees. Here, we went for the straight pins.
If you are unsure how to solder the pin headers, have a look at this video.
- There are several things to watch out for here. You will notice that the columns of pins are numbered 1 to 8. We are building a quadcopter and so we will only be using 4 of these columns for the ESC servo cables (1-4).
- The motors (that the ESCs are connected to) are labeled 1-4 in the following way:
- So you need to ensure that you plug in the servo cable that is connected to ESC 1 to the column of pins labeled 1 on the flight controller and so on for all 4 ESCs.
- Also ensure that you plug in the servo cables so that the white wires are on the top (connected to the row labeled 'S' for signal), and the black wires are on the bottom row (labeled with a '-').
Plug in the battery voltage and power cable
- You then just plug in the battery voltage cable into the plug marked 'vbat' and you plug the power cable into a spare rail next to the ESC servo cables.
- The battery voltage cable plugs in one way only and when plugging in the power cable, ensure that the black wires is connected to the bottom row of pins (just like the ESC servo cables).
Connecting the Radio Receiver to the Flight Controller
So now that we have the flight controller hooked up to the PDB, the last slightly tricky job is to connect the radio receiver to the flight controller.
Intuitively, the radio receiver is the device that receives the commands from the radio transmitter and these signals need to be passed on to the brain of the quad i.e. the flight controller.
Here, we use the two cable harnesses that come in the pack with the flight controller. One of these harnesses we have already modified to create the power cable for the flight controller, but we will need the rest of that harness now.
- The diagram below shows how everything is set up. The cable harness that is connected to the right of the flight controller as we look at it is the one we modified earlier.
- The wires that you can see that are not plugged into the receiver are not needed. In this instance, we have left them connected to the cable harness and we will make sure to tidy the loose wires later. Alternatively, you can remove them altogether from the connector or simply cut them short.
- You should end up with this...
Nailing it down to the frame (not literally...)
- So we now should have all the electronics connected and we now simply attach these to the airframe itself.
Installing the PDB and Flight Controller
- We start with stacking up the PDB and flight controller. These are going to be stacked in the middle of the frame, one on top of the other.
- We start with the white plastic spacers and secure them at the bottom of the frame with the nuts.
- We then place the PDB on top of these spacers and use four more of these nylon spacers to secure the PDB.
- Make sure that you orientate the PDB correctly, remembering that the battery cable is attached to the back of the PDB and so this should match the back of the quad.
- Before you secure the PDB, it is a good idea to thread the ESC servo cables from the back two ESCs (i.e. ESC 1 and 3) underneath the PDB as this tidies them up as you will see.
- Once these four spacers are in place, you put the flight controller on top of these and secure with the nylon screws. Again, make sure that the flight controller is orientated correctly, and this is made easier as there is an arrow on the board showing which direction is forward (the USB port is therefore at the back).
- Before you secure the flight controller, try and tidy up the receiver wires by putting them underneath the flight controller. This just keeps them contained.
Be careful not to over-screw the screws as this could strip the screws and the spacers of the thread, rending them useless.
Installing the Motors and ESCs
- We need the metallic hex-cap screws and the red motor mounts and legs to attach the motors to the arms.
- This is a bit fiddly as you have to thread the screws up from the bottom, through the landing legs, through the motor protections mounts and finally through the motors. Keep persevering though and once you have one screw in, it gets easier.
- Once you have done this for the motors, we can secure the ESCs.
- Here, we have done this with some zip-ties that are supplied with the kit, but you can also add some double-sided sticky tape for extra security if you prefer.
- Ensure that you tie the excess cables down under the zip-ties as you do this.
Try not to 'pinch' any cables directly underneath the zip-ties as this could damage the actual cable.
Securing the Radio Receiver
- Last but not least, we need to tie down the receiver. This is going to go at the back of the quad.
- Before we do this, we found that it is a good idea to thread the battery cable underneath the frame as shown below. This leaves a space for the receiver and takes care of the battery cable.
- So we simply tie the receiver down with another zip-tie but do ensure that you do not pull the zip-tie too tight and damage the receiver.
- It is also a good idea to 'twist' the receiver a few times before securing as this twists the cables and tidies them up nicely.
Again, be careful not to trap any cables underneath the zip-tie here.
- Now we add the finishing touches.
- First, we attach the tall silver standoffs to the frame using the screws provided.
- We then attach the top plate...
- Lastly, we need to tidy up the receiver antenna. The receiver has two antenna and to get the best signal, we advise mounting the antenna in opposite directions to one another (or at 90 degrees).
- We threaded one antenna through the top plate as shown, and we ran one along the bottom plate. We kept them in place with a bit of electrical tape.
- And we're done! For now...
- Next up, we have to go through the setting up of the SP F3 flight controller in BetaFlight. A guide on this to follow...