drones

Fall 2019 FPV Setup

I’ve been in the hobby for two years now. I started with toy drones that I got in a “White Elephant” Christmas Eve game. That was the first hit. My first real drone was the Wizard 220, but it only lasted two days. I moved on to building my own FPV drones starting with a huge camera drone with plastic arms that never really flew right. I was following instructions written the year before, which in any other hobby would have been fine. Not FPV.

NOTE my build choices are down below, feel free to skip my rambling and scroll down…


Finally, in the early summer 2017 I managed to build and fly the FliteTest FT210. That drone was with me until the Fall when I upgraded to the Armattan OG Chameleon. The OG frame was my first serious frame: I had two builds and a third backup of my OG by Christmas 2017. I was seriously hooked by then. Last year at this time I upgraded to the Armattan Chameleon Ti which I thought was the perfect drone.

After flying the Ti for over a year, I’m ready for a change. What I love about the Ti is that it is really resilient. I’ve only done warranty claims twice over the past year. My OG Chameleons would get claimed every few weeks. There is really no beating Armattan frames though and with the warranty they are just an amazing deal.

However, the Ti has two major flaws that involve the FPV camera. The first is that in hard crashes the frame is so strong that all the force goes right to the camera and destroys the plastic housing. Especially in winter. The second is that the smallest angle is about 35 degrees. This is a major challenge for smooth proximity flying which is basically what I want to do.

The Ti is also very tight build. You only get one stack and it is only going to fit two boards comfortably. So, it is time. Or it will be in the Fall when I hopefully have some more cash on hand.

Here is what I am planning on building next and why.

Fall 2019 FPV Drone Build

This build is going to be for low angle proximity flight footage. I want a clean build that I can easily work on and replace parts as needed. It should be economical but I don’t want cheap components. At the end of the day I’m planning on sticking to this new build way into 2020. Let’s start by talking about the frame.

Armattan Marmotte

This frame is essentially the Chameleon Ti that I know and love but with stronger carbon and more space for electronics. This frame solves the FPV camera issues. And since I plan on keeping for at least a year, the warranty will come in handy.

I really like the idea that I can bring my camera angle down and solve my throttle issues and I think that the extra stack in the back will make mounting things like the VTX way more clean.

I briefly considered a much cheaper frame like the Source One since I plan on eventually having two of these with a third frame for parts. But in the end I want to stick to the premium Armattan frames and be confident that I will have a good experience.

RDQ Badass 2306 2450KV

For most of last year, when I was at my peak as a freestyle pilot I was running the Hypetrain Grinders. They are essentially perfect with just the right amount of power and it was easy to service the motor because it had a bolt instead of a c-clip to keep the bell in place.

But I can never get these motors in stock when I need to replace them and I kinda want a new look on my drone. I put some RR Blasters on my Ti and I like that they are warrantied but I prefer the 2306 size and honestly the Blasters are just ugly.

So I’m going with the RDQ 2306 2450 motors for now. I still may change brands but I’m sticking with this size and KV for the new build.

Matek F722-SE 30×30 F7 Flight Controller

For the flight controller, I’m looking at this Matek F7 AIO. F7 to future proof and to avoid any inversion issues.

I just changed this to the AIO version of the flight controller. Previously, I was going to use a separate power distribution board to try to keep future replace and hassle costs down. But, Matek has such good quality that I think it’s safe to risk using an AIO here. Also, I rather avoid using that flimsy ribbon that is used to connect the PDB. This is just going to be so much simpler.

RDQ 3-6S 32Bit DShot1200 30A 

In my last build, I went with a 4-1 ESC and I loved the clean build. But, the problem is that I want to stay as economical as I can and these 4-1s burn out too much; it sucks to replace an entire $60 for one ESC. Replacing motors is also a pain with a 4-1. Finally, the Armattan frames are very tight and while I could move to an AIO I want to keep these components that fail too much separate so that I can keep my replacement costs down.

Matek VTX-HV 30×30 25-500mW VTX

This is my current go-to VTX. This will sit in the second stack on the Marmotte frame since it has the 30×30 mounting scheme.

This VTX has the Tramp setup so I can change VTX channels from my Taranis. It also has extra power pads for a camera and it can run off of VBAT directly in case the pads on the FC fail (and they always do).

Runcam Micro Eagle Pro “Rotor Riot Joshua Bardwell Edition” 

This is my current go-to camera and it works exactly how I want it to. Since it comes tuned and focused right out of the box I’m sticking to this one. I’m pretty sure it will fit into the Marmotte frame nicely.

AXII MMCX Stubby

The AXII stubby is great and I’ve used it for a long time. The stock provisions on the Ti were never ideal for this antenna though because it stuck too close to the frame. The range was pretty limited. However, I think with the Brain3D accessories below may alleviate this. What I really like the most about this antenna is that it is basically indestructible because there is really nothing to it.

FrSky R-XSR SBUS

This has been my go-to receiver for over a year and it’s worked great for me. It has telemetry and works with the Lua scripts on my Taranis so I can tune and change VTX settings. Yeah I know “Crossfire” is the hype but I don’t get it and don’t want to muck with my transmitter and do all the things to get that to work. FrSky is just fine.

Vifly Finder 2 Buzzer – Lost Drone Finder/Locater/Alarm

I’ve used the HellGate buzzers for about a year after I lost a drone during a meetup. They are great, but pricey and sometimes after a big crash it’s impossible to turn them off. Also, they are not quite loud enough.

So this time I’m going to try the Vifly Finder buzzer instead since it solves most of these problems.

Brain3D Accessories

This accessory kit includes a GoPro mount and provisions for a rear AXII antenna mount. Not much to say about this but these are essential.

Not sure which GoPro mount I am going to get, but I will likely start with the session but I’m going to move to the Hero 7 eventually.

ETHIX S3 5×3.1×3 Tri-Blade 5″ Prop

These props are tuned for proximity and freestyle. They are a departure for me since I have been running the Dal Cyclone 5045C. But, since I’m trying to slow it down and add some precision I’m going here for now.

Final Thoughts/Hand Wringing

There are a few options here and there that may change. I really like the Matek stuff, but I did consider the Radix stack as well. My issue with Radix is that it’s always out of stock and I need something parts that are easy to source.

But, all in all I think this combo is going to be an extremely long lasting quad and a much clear build. Probably my main concern is the price tag (isn’t that always the case though). I’m estimating that this is going to cash out at just under $500. This means that I am not going to be able to afford two identical setups right way.

What do you think? Feel free to comment below!

Matt has worked as a data analyst, writer, counselor, and business owner for a total of 20 years. Since the start of his career he's been fascinated by technology and passionate about helping people use modern technology to hack their work and their lives.

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