best quadcopter frame

Design the Best Quadcopter Frame of All Time

In Build, News, Review by Mike Tseng119 Comments

Best Quadcopter Frame

best quadcopter frame

For the past three months I’ve immersed myself in designing the best quadcopter frame and learning how to cut carbon fiber.  It’s been a frustrating, hair pulling experience but I’m very proud with the results.

best quadcopter frameI thought my inner OCD self in making clean builds was bad, designing frames is 100 times worse.  To give you an idea, I designed 4 different frames in the past 3 months with no less than 10 different versions/revisions of each.  There were the standard two horizontal carbon fiber plates, vertical plates, aluminum/carbon fiber struts, carbon/printed, camera on top, camera in front and canopy frames.  I designed using different materials, aluminum, G10, TPU, Nylon and different manufacturing techniques before I settled on a design that I liked.  This is before even prototyping and testing!

Mantra

Protection, protection, protection

What do we all want in the FPV quadcopter hobby?  I think everyone can agree that it’s to build a quadcopter, have fun flying and pray to not break something when you crash.  So the most important goal when I set out to design the best quadcopter frame was to make it as durable and crash resistant as possible.  Protection, protection, protection.  It had to be easy to work on too and of course fast.

To recap on my other post on Designing the FPV quad frame, here are the goals I wanted to achieve in the best quadcopter frame.

  • Sub 300g – It’s physics.  A high power to weight ratio means a really fast quad.
  • Strong frame –  I’ll be testing different thickness Carbon fiber and or aluminum to see what works best.  Even though the only arm I’ve broken was on my first quad, QAV250.
  • Easy to build and work on – An easy to build frame is a really important feature.  If you have a frame that’s too complicated you’ll waste a lot of time doing repairs.  I have quads I never bothered to fix after the maiden flight…ahem, Corgi.
  • X pattern or long X pattern – Of all the frames I’ve flown, the X pattern gives you the best feel.  It works equally well for race or freestyle FPV flying.
  • Designed for the HS1177 or similar camera with protection – The HS1177 camera form factor is pretty much the standard camera for FPV racing quads.
  • Built in recording camera mount for the GoPro or Mobius type cameras.
  • Bottom mount battery – this offers the best battery placement for a balanced quad.

In my final model I was able to achieve and surpass all the goals.

Simplicity is the Ultimate Sophistication

best quadcopter frame

Details Details Details

Although this frame looks simple, there are lots of small details you won’t notice until you spend some time building and flying it.  Every detail is meticulously engineered to the tenths of a millimeter to make sure everything works perfectly.

I haven’t come up with a name for this frame yet so for now I’ll refer to it as FX210, FlightClub X frame 210mm.

I compiled a list of tips from the reader comments from the Designing the FPV quad post and this is what I came up with.

  • 210mm true X pattern frame.  Of all the frames I’ve built and flown, I think 210mm is the sweet spot.  Big and heavy frames like the Alien 5″ fly really well like on rails but lacks the agility to whip around a track.  Smaller frames like the 200mm Xhover MPX200 or Armattan SCX200 can move quickly around a tight track but lacks the stability of the Alien.  I think 210mm is a perfect combo of stability and agility.  I could have easily made the frame a 205mm by just shrinking the arms but I wanted to make sure there is plenty of clearance for all props including the RaceKraft 5051.  A long X frame will be an option after I finalized this version.
  • Short small body.  I wanted to keep the body as small as possible to minimize air drag and maximize agility.
  • Fully protected camera and lens.  Most frames mount the camera on carbon fiber.  Carbon fiber is strong, light but provides zero protection for fragile parts like the camera.  When you hit something, there is zero give so 100% of the impact is transferred to the camera.  Either the camera, lens or carbon fiber will break on impact.  On the FX210, there are three stages of protection for the camera.  1 the protruded lip around the lens.  2 the flexible body absorbs the impact.  3 the camera is mounted on the metal camera mount that will bend on extreme impacts.
  • best quadcopter frameVTX protection.  Once again, most frames mount the VTX on carbon fiber with zip ties.  On the FX10, the vtx is mounted on the flexible canopy with a 15 degree downslope.  Instead of bending the antenna up like on most quads, the FX10 is bent down.  When the antenna is above the props the first thing that will happen when you land upside down is the antenna will take a lot of impact and bend into the props.  It will be most likely the first point of impact when it lands upside down or in a roll.  Mounting the antenna pointing down it will not touch the props or even the ground.  When the quad lands upside down the prop is already bending in that direction so very little stress will be put on the antenna or SMA connector.
  • best quadcopter frameEasy to change the battery strap.  Some quads it’s so hard to change a battery strap you almost have to take the quad apart to do it.  On the FX10 all you do is pull out the broken one and slip in a new one.
  • Angled antenna ports on side of body.
  • Aerodynamic body
  • Only two screws to mount the canopy.  No need for messy silicon glue on any part of this canopy.  I’ve tried to rip the canopy off with my hands and it won’t budge.  Simple, light and strong mounting solution.
  • Plenty of carbon fiber around the motors to protect them.
  • Bottom of the quad will be completely flat in the final version.  No screw heads poking out to rip apart batteries.
  • Fully chamfered carbon fiber bottom plate in the final version.
  • The GoPro mount is a work in progress

best quadcopter frame

 

best quadcopter frame
Tesing and Damage Report

best quadcopter frame

The prototype pictured here has had around 50 batteries of flight time so far.  It’s hit fiberglass race gate poles at least 100 times, flown through/into trees, done countless cartwheels, dive-bombed into the ground, got stuck 30 feet up in the tree then hit the ground,  hit a metal fence and flown full speed into a steel light pole twice.  Besides the props, it’s only broken a $7 camera lens.  How about that for protection?  Impressive if you ask me.  The camera lens broke when I hit the steel light pole the second time.  By the sound of the impact I thought the quad was a goner.  I was surprised to find the only damage was a cracked lens and bent camera holder.  I’ve built and flown countless all carbon fiber frames and I’m positive a full carbon frame would have suffered major damage and would have ended my day or week waiting for replacement body parts.

My main objective in designing the best quadcopter frame is to get maximum flight time by means of protection.  After I built the first prototype I was really surprised the first time I put it on the scale.  It only weighed 280g!  (for reference, the QAV-X and SCX200 are 319g, Alien 5″ is 390g)  That’s getting into micro quad territory and the 250g limit FAA registration.  As a result the FX210 is fast!  The first time I flew it it was too reactive running PIDs I had for the QAV-X.  I had to increase the rates in the PIDs to reduce the twitchiness.  That’s what happens on a light quad with powerful motors.  Once it was tuned it flies like a surgical jackhammer.  So much power on a light quad makes it easy to whip around corners and launch into orbit when you punch it.  Best of all is that I know if I crash I could just bend the props back and keep flying!

After 50 Batteries…

  • All 4 motors are still perfect.  No bent casings, nothing.
  • Antenna is still perfect.  Antennas on my other quads look like bent half chewed pretzels after this many flights and crashes.
  • VTX, no broken SMA connectors.  Zero issues.
  • The camera itself hasn’t suffered any damage besides the $7 lens.  30 second swap and I was back in the air
  • ESCs using the ESC guards are fine
  • XSR antennas are still intact, zero damage.  This was a salvage XSR I took off my AstroX TrueX frame.  (Off topic but this AstroX only lasted 2 batteries before the two vertical plates broke in half on the first crash.  I was planning to do a build/review post on this frame but it didn’t even survive past the second battery.  Easy not recommended on this frame.)
  • Canopy is a little dirty but has zero damage.  TPU is crazy strong, nearly indestructible.  Good thing about a canopy quad is that it’s very easy to keep clean.  It protects all the electronics from dirt and blended grass.  All you have to do is take it off and wash it under water and it looks like new.  My full carbon frames look like the inside of a lawn mower covered with shredded grass and dirt.
More testing

Even though this frame is already great.  My OCD won’t let it go.  There’s still some small tweaks and different ideas I want to try out.  I’ll build some more prototypes and test it myself.  Once I get a version I’m satisfied with I’ll have some frames cut to send to testers before making it available to everyone.

I still haven’t come up with a name for this quad.  Help me name this quad in the comments below.  The winner will get a free quad frame.

Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.

 

Comments

    1. 1. Shut up and take my money. You are building everything I want in a quad.
      2. Name: the comet

       
    2. Based on the time you have spent developing this thing, you need to call it: OCD

      Scott

       
  1. Impressed, I like it!. I am a stickler for a well designed frame, and I can tell you put a lot of thought into it.

     
  2. Nice work! I want this frame soon! I think stay with the name “FX 210” or FX 210 Hornet.
    Give us a clue of when you think it will be hitting the market.

     
    1. Author

      thanks Luke! Hopefully it will be available next month. Chinese new years set everyone back.

       
  3. When pigs fly. Something about this thing reminds me of a pig. It’s the pigasus. Done

     
  4. the FC Jabber…FC for flight club, and jabber, cause its small, nimble and packs a serious punch!

     
  5. Love the frame and will definitely be interested in purchasing one because I know how much you take pride in your work. Keep up the great work. I think The name you chose is a good one . How about OCD210… lol

     
  6. Nice job, you’ve put a lot of thought and experiments into the design. It’s interesting that you’ve arrived at something very similar to a BoltRC Kraken frame. Yes, I know there are differences, but it seems you both used similar criteria to drive your designs.

     
  7. Always love reading your builds and watching your videos. Keep em coming! I have the perfect name for your new quad based on it’s looks: Beetlejuice WINNER!!

     
  8. Very cool Mike! Can’t wait for the finished product! My name suggestions are the Flight Club Cyclops (just for the look) or the Flight Club X-Fighter. 2 suggestions: I’ve found very little room in the Lumenier canopy for their X / Skitzo. So little that I couldn’t even use it to fit the components I wanted. I would want to see a canopied quad have the same height to stack components like a 35mm standoff quad would (QAV210 or R). I also found the Lumenier canopy to work with virtually no cameras other than old form factor HS1177s – no Runcam models would fit. I’d want to see a camera aperture that could fit the body of Runcam Eagle, Swift, Owl etc and had a large enough hole to fit their larger GoPro style lenses. Looks great – keep up the good work!

     
    1. Author

      thanks Joel. My frame will the hs1177, foxeer arrow and runcams. I’ve got a 2.5mm lens on mine so no worries fitting a wide-angle lens

       
  9. Did you see the unusual frame Nytfury was flying in the Sebring Drone race a week ago? It was a prototype I think. It was a quad, but one arm directly in front, one in the back, and the two on the sides were swept back. The idea is that when it’s going fast, you’ve got essentially three props pushing instead of just two (since on a regular frame, the two in the front must reduce power in order to pitch forward).

     
  10. Great work. It looks like it’s coming along awesomely and it’s great that you’re taking in the community’s feedback. I absolutely want to test pilot this frame.

     
  11. Possible names: Brute210, Apogee210, Huginn or Muninn (one of Odin’s Ravens)

     
  12. Congratulations! I will order one as soon as available. The small X has become my favorite frame for proximity. I fly a Xhover 200B with Motolab Tempest fc/pdb, XSR rx, TBS unify vtx and Runcam Swift II (vbat in OSD), XM20As and red bottoms. Clean and simple! VTX antenna under the props is definitely the way to go. I have cut my vtx repair to nil since hanging the antenna.
    I think FX210 is perfect. KISS.

    Side note: Soft mounting motors on beat up frames and motors definitely makes a difference. Not so much on racing gear.

     
  13. One option as far as naming it is : SpeedDome . I would consider right angle with a TBS stubby this keeps it out of the way of the props.

     
  14. Sweet, would really like to build one of these out!

    How bout the Kracken 210

     
  15. Hey Mike, what about ICARUS 210? Since its meant to fly like the greek god who flies closer to the sun!!!!

     
  16. Love the thought going into this project Mike. I’m looking for a race specific frame at the moment. Will definitely hold off until yours is ready. Cheers.

     
  17. X-ray (passes through anything unharmed) or
    Thunderdome
    Looks like a nice frame, can’t wait to see the final version!

     
  18. Dude, when I saw the title “Mantra” in your description I thought that was what you were going to call it! So that is my suggestion, the “Mantra”. FWIW I had a pair of Volkl skis called Mantra’s and they were great, they still make them, their top of the line “all mountain” versatile ski.
    I also want to say I have been following your site and learning, buying a bit, taking suggestions, and I love your videos, from the Tiny Whoop on, and it is cool to see it grow to a real force in FPV quads. I admit to being a sucker for prepackaged quads, Immersion Vortexes, Furious Toretto and Moskito (just got it today!) the Eachine QX90’s and of course the Inductrix. But I am itching to build one and this would be a great way to return the favors, it looks awesome!

     
  19. Hey Mike, nice design. How about ‘The Ripper-P3’ or ‘Fortitude-P3’ for the attributes of your design? Cheers, Brooks.

     
  20. How about the Kaizen 210. Kaizen is a Japanese word meaning to continuously improve and always moving forward. Never sitting still. Plus it rhymes with 210 ;^)

     
  21. Sounds very interresting ! Name ; Lightening FC210 ! Hope to see it soon on the market, great job !

     
  22. When can we get one? I’m not much on naming things but there are a lot of good names above.

     
    1. Author

      i’m shooting for next month. still have a lot of testing to do

       
  23. You should name it Anubis, according to Wikipedia: protector of the dead. Quadcopters are the flying dead 🙂

     
  24. Hmmm. Don’t know what to call it, other than my next build! Put an integrated Session mount and a slick way to protect the undermount battery on it…take my money!

     
  25. The “Scarab” 210. The prototype remind me of a Scarab. A mystical and revered symbol since ancient Egypt.

     
  26. Boaty Mcboatface, no wait a minute, that’s the wrong naming poll. 🙂 how is this coming along mate?

     
    1. Author

      i’m waiting for samples from several different factories and trying different elements. once I get the samples I’ll send them out to testing.

       
  27. I really like your Quad. Looks well balanced. Love to have one. I like the name PhoeniX

     
  28. The flight club argos, it’s got some Greek mythology in it and if it starts with A you might find it in the products first page when looking at quad frames

     
  29. Interesting Mako variant. Like where its headed, but always concerned about RX antenna placement. Would rather see them tucked behind arms for durability even though it doesn’t look as sexy.

     
    1. Author

      not to trash other maker’s frames but that frame has a lot of issues i’ve address in my frame. you’ll see soon.

       
    1. Author

      it’s been working really well in our tests. over 100 battery packs and the antenna is still working great with no damage. I was worried it would get too much interference but we flew it in a warehouse and it still worked great.

       
  30. Flightclub Knockout X210 – This is a really nice frame! I’d put my name on a pre-order as-is!

     
    1. Just read comments on your YouTube video of this quad… noted that you are also planning 4″ and 6″ versions of this quad… maybe you need 3 names like KnockOut 210 (KO210), Peek-a-Boo (4″), Upper-Cut (6″) – Really great work, admire your passion for this industry,
      Cheers,
      Dan

       
  31. Name it…Zero’s & 1’s…..0’s & 1’s.

    Basically something that’s been developed throught a formulated process.

     
  32. You should make the legs replaceable so IF you do crack one of the legs, you can change it out. Like the Skitzo frame.

     
  33. now this frame got me stoked, seems to tick all the boxes.

    how about… Singularity?

     
      1. as a possible name :p
        or hummingbird after its weight and agility
        although I’ve seen some pretty good ones earlier already so..

         
  34. call it “simple simon”. when and how can i get my hands on this combo?

     
  35. Okay just what I would like on a frame I will fly.. i am next in line! When will this be available?

     
  36. FX Tyler Durden210 cause, well, you know. First rule of fight club….?

     
    1. Author

      hi scott. pre orders started last night but they sold out by noon. if you are interested you can sign up to be notified on the product page. thanks!

       
  37. What’s the thickness of the main frame (4mm?), the frame weight including the plastic top hood (g?) & max camera up tilt (65deg+) ?

     
  38. Hello –

    Have some name suggestions for you in the hopes that I can buy a frame if I don’t win one.

    Was doing the research to build my very first drone and came across this site! First impressions from a retired marketing guy 😉

    “Mouse” …..that’s it in a nutshell. Looked exactly like a mouse. I would even take it a step further and call it “Mighty Mouse” (look up the old cartoon character – fits perfectly!)

    You could tweak the spelling if concerned about rights to the name.: MyT Mouse , might-T-mouse…etc.

    Great design work!!! – PLEASE put me on a mailing list when its available…I would choose your “mighty mouse” over the dquad obsession in a heartbeat.

    Feel free to email me if you like the idea and would like any free suggestions on logo design 🙂

     
  39. I have my awesome Tokio X frame and all the components ready to go. When will you do a build and set up video for us? Using your recommended components I hope! I will be using a Taranis Tx so I hope you can go over the telemetry setup for battery usage warnings With no OSD that would be a great feature to use rather than just running a timer and hoping it is close. Thanks, very excited to get going on this build.

     
  40. It looks like you used some sort of braided lines on the motor leads in one of the pictures. Can you tell me more about them? Are they metal braids? Where did you get them?

     
  41. looks nice! I’d build it up! Gotta say though, I hope you offer other colors. The black to me looks like a flying rat. If I had a black one, I would call it the rat. (please keep in mind, I in no way intend the “rat” moniker to be insulting). If it were gray, it would be the mouse lol.

     

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