drones

Source One Drone Build

I had big plans to build an Armattan Marmotte frame this summer. I didn’t…

Here’s why. The build I spec’ed out with that premium frame and overpriced premium (LOL not really premium) motors cost about $500 for just one build. YIKES.

After I lost my job last year, I had to learn how to budget and FPV drones are at the bottom my budget. Sure I’m working now, but I’m not making the same money and most of my energy is going towards starting up my freelancing business. So…

I did the math in my head and realized that if I stuck to my plan of having 2 drones with enough replacement parts for a 3rd then I would have to invest $1,500! No way, that’s like two months of driving for Uber…

In order to stay in the air, I had to get more creative with my builds. The first thing I did was sell off everything that wasn’t my main setup. That included old and current whoops and micros. Different types of transmitters. Everything went. It wasn’t all about money either.

These days my time is really constrained, I’m doing ride-share just to pay the bills and working on getting freelancing clients and building up the right skills to sell on the open marketplace. I just don’t have the head-space to deal with 10 different drone setups, racing, freestyle, content creation and on and on. Anyway…

Here’s My New Build

Source One Build Guts

Frame

This build is about value. The frame is the Source One, which is an open source frame by TBS that you can get for $26. While this frame is dirt cheap, it still feels like a premium frame. What I love about this frame is that it’s a simple tried and true design. Let’s be real, five-inch mini-quads don’t need much innovation in frame design.

Motors

The motors are very cheap $11 Emax ECON motors. I like the 2306/2400KV motor sizes. they are perfect for me. Time will tell how long they last, but honestly $11 to replace a motor isn’t that big of a deal. They fly great.

ESC

This time out I went back to the individual ESC and I choose the latest Race Day Quad ESCs because they are cheap and support D-Shot. Honestly, one did fail after only a few flights so I’m keeping my eye on these and may upgrade to a more reliable version down the road. But, I’ve learned the hard way that the individual ESCs are a better value as the drone ages and parts start to need to be replaced. Swapping out an entire 4-1 that cost $50 sucks when it’s only one blown ESC.

Flight Controller

For the flight controller, I choose an AIO F7 from Matek. This part is not necessarily a value choice. There are cheaper options, but I like the feature set and definitely like the fact that you don’t need to worry about inversion for any UARTS. Plus, it’s future-proofed and I plan on sticking to this FC for at least a year and maybe two years.

Video System

For video, I picked the RDQ Mach 3 and Axii stubby combination. The main reason is that they included a 3D printed piece that made it easy to mount my VTX and receiver together in the back. It’s not perfect and had to be cut down a little, but it’s better than just taping everything to random areas on the back.

Provisions

The Source One doesn’t come with any extras like the premium frames from Armattan. But, I’ve found over the years that third-party add-ons from places that Brain3D are much better for mounting your antennas etc. So I got the GoPro mount, arm protectors and mounting solution from Brain3D. I made sure to pick the bright green color to go with my YouTube channel “branding”. This much cleaner than my previous methods of mounting the various tubes, wires and babbles that the drone setup requires.

Lost Drone Beeper

Everyone. Everyone. Everyone should have a lost drone beeper alarm in their build. Had it set to a switch so you don’t spend all morning looking for your drone. I choose the Vifly beeper. It’s super loud. And yes, it’s cheap.

FPV Camera

I went with the Foxeer Falkor this time instead of the JB branded Eagle. Honestly, I can’t tell the difference and they are both excellent. But, the Falkor is slightly cheaper.

So that’s my build. I’ve flown it now for about two weeks and it’s been great. We will see how it ages though. I’ve blown and ESC and motor already (damn that turtle mode). I may need to get better quality here but I’m going to give this combo another shot. It really flies great and that’s the main thing. Here is the first proper flight and edit from this build:

Why I Ditched Armattan and the HypeTrain

For like two years I was one of the guys that always said “Armattan for Life” every time I crashed. That’s because as everyone knows, as you break parts off your Armattan frame you can claim their warranty and get replacements.

In the spring, I bought into the HypeTrain hype and bought motors from Rotor Riot that cost $26 because you can trade them in as they break.

This parts would have cost $214. This is almost the entire price of the setup I went with. My frame and motors came to $66. Yes, the warranties are valuable but not 4 times the price valuable. But, it’s not all about the money either.

My Problem with the HypeTrain Motors

At the flying field, one of the guys was baffled about my decided to ditch the HypeTrains. He knew I was low on money and I already had four of these motors. The HypeTrains were already covered by a warranty, but I went ahead and sold these “premium” motors and bought cheap $11 motors from EMAX.

There were a two reasons: who had to do with my personal taste and the other had to do with my drone strategy.

I just don’t like the HypeTrain Blaster motors. They just don’t look cool and they don’t quite feel right to me. My favorite motor of all time was the HypeTrain Grinders (Botgrinder’s motor) and I thought they would be exactly the same. They are not. These ones are 2207 while the Grinders were 2306 and I guess the size difference is what I’m feeling. Mainly though, they just don’t look great on my frame for $26.

More importantly, as I’m thinking ahead over the next year I don’t want to pay this price tag again three times over. At least not with motors that I don’t love. Also, I don’t really break motors enough to make a warranty worthwhile.

Why I Ditched Armattan

Well, I didn’t ditch Armattan completely. I’ll always be a fan. But as someone who loses a few mini-quads each year I’m tired of spending this much money on things that are pretty disposable.

Armattan frames are very innovative and while I love this about them but there are unintended consequences. Each model will end up with it’s own set of problems. The OG Chameleon had too many types of screws, the Rooster had wiggly arms, the Ti/Rooster didn’t let you have low camera angles and they were so stiff that the FPV camera would shatter on big impacts, and the Marmotte’s carbon fiber was very fragile.

Finally, Armattan models can be a little bit more complicated then they need to be. There are lots of different screw sizes and custom pieces that can be hard to source. This is a matter of taste, but I love that my Source One only has one type of bolt and uses regular standoffs.

Conclusion

So far I love the new build, probably because I’ve now had two years of experience building these mini-quads and learned a lot of lessons. Everything works great.

Let’s see how this thing ages though. One thing about the Chameleon Ti is that it could take a beating. I’ve a had a few sessions with the Source One and it’s held up pretty well with the exception of a weak ESC that I have to replace now.

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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