emax 250 nighthawk build

How to Build an FPV Quadcopter Part 1: EMAX Nighthawk 250 Pro

In Basics, Build, Review by Mike Tseng76 Comments

How to Build an FPV Quadcopter

Yes!  Time for another build!  This is for someone just getting into building FPV quadcopters.  I will show you step by step how to build your own racing quad.  If you are brand new to FPV quadcopters, I highly recommend reading the Quadcopter Basics post to familiarize yourself with the working parts of an FPV quad.  Keep in mind you can apply the build principles below to building pretty much any FPV quadcopter whether it’s a QAV250, ZMR250, ZUULMb Epic…etc.

emax 250 nighthawk pro

EMAX 250 Nighthawk Pro Kit

To keep things simple I will be building the EMAX 250 Nighthawk Pro kit.  Even though the Pro kit is called a 250mm it’s actually a 280mm.  Included in this kit are the following:

  • 1 x Full Carbon Fiber 280mm Quadcopter Frame (3mm arms, 1.5mm top, 2mm middle and 1mm bottom)
  • 4 x Motors – MT2204 2300KV
  • 4 x 12A ESCs with BlHeli firmware.
  • 1 x CC3D Flight Controller
  • 2 x Pairs 6030 Carbon Fiber Propellers

The difference between the full carbon “Pro” kit vs the “Glass fiber and Carbon fiber kit” is that the  glass + carbon fiber kit comes with smaller motors, smaller 5030 props and the frame is not full carbon fiber.  If you can find the full carbon fiber pro kits I suggest getting this one over the glass fiber kit.  The price difference is usually less than $10.

In addition to the EMAX 250 Nighthawk Pro kit, you will need the following parts.  The links are what I’ll be using in this quadcopter build.

  • A transmitter that supports at least 6 channels.  I will be using a FrSky Taranis X9D
  • Receiver – FrSky D4R-ii I use this in all my builds.  It’s small, has telemetry and supports PPM.
  • A 3 or 4s battery and 1000mah – 1800mah – Tattu 3s 1300mAh 75c or Tattu 4s 1300mAh 75c
  • XT60 connectors or any other type of plug for the power.  I use XT60 because most LiPo batteries use these.
  • Battery Charger – A basic 50w charger will do fine.

The EMAX 250 Nighthawk kits come with an OpenPilot CC3D clone board.  I will be switching this out for a Naze32 Acro board.  You can still use the CC3D but I think the Naze32 is a much better board for several reasons.

  1. The PIDs are easier to tune and it has a more “locked in” feel.
  2. Built in low voltage monitoring
  3. Output for discovery buzzer and low voltage warning.

For the FPV section I’ll be using the following components.

The following parts are optional.  You can still build the quad without these parts but I highly recommend it. It will make your build easier.

  • Mini Power Distribution Board (PDB).  This will make installing the ESC’s, power cable or anything else you need to power easier and help make it a cleaner build.
  • Bullet Connectors.  These will make repairs to the motors or arms easier.  Otherwise you’ll have to solder the motors directly on the ESC’s.
  • Piezo Buzzer This will act as a low voltage warning and a discovery buzzer.  This can be a life saver when you lose your quad in tall grass.

Let’s Get Started!

This is the basic schematic for this build.  To power the flight controller (Naze32), we’ll be using the BEC (battery eliminator circuitry) power off ESC 1.  You can remove the power and ground (red and black wires) off the other ESC’s because it’s not needed and it helps clean up wires.

 

how to build an fpv quadcopter

emax 250 nighthawk pro frame

Make sure you have all the parts for the frame.

how to build a quadcopter

Use the M3x16 screws and H5 spacers to mount the arms.  Later you’ll use the self locking nuts to secure everything.

how to build a fpv quadcopter

how to build an fpv quadcopter

This is the part of the quadcopter build that takes me the longest, figuring out how I’m going to lay everything else.  This one is pretty easy because the EMAX 250 frame is almost exactly like the Lumenier QAV250.  I’ll put the mini PDB under the Naze32 so it will be easy to solder the ESCs.  The Naze32 will be facing to the right.  Make sure you set the correct board alignment if you face the Naze32 any other way than the arrow on the Naze32 facing forward.  If you don’t the quad will do crazy things when you take off.

emax 250 quadcopter build

Mount the ESCs under the main frame to minimize the wires and it makes it easy to solder the wires.  Shorten the power and ground wires so you can solder them on the pads.  If you decide to mount the ESCs on the arms you’ll probably have to solder the motor wires directly on the ESCs.  There won’t be enough room for the bullet connectors.  Run the signal wires from the ESCs under the PDB so you can connect it to the Naze32 on the other side.

If you are building the quad without a power distribution board, you’ll need to make a wire harness to splice the wires together.  Connect all the reds to the red on the battery and negatives to negative of the battery.

how to build a quadcopter

Naze32 for a quadcopter build

Naze32 with 90 degree header pins.

Solder the red cables to the + and negatives to the – on the power distribution board.  Make sure you have a good clean solder joint that’s shiny and smooth.  A solder joint that’s dull and bumpy may come loose while you’re flying.

For this quad build I’ll be using 90 degree pin headers facing inside on the Naze32 board.  This will make the build look clean with minimal wires.  Solder the pin header on outputs 1-4 and the VBAT and buzz.  The VBAT will connect directly to the battery or PDB so you can monitor your battery voltage.  The buzzer will be used as a low battery alarm and discovery buzzer.

how to build a quadcopter

Now you can start connecting the signal wires from the ESCs to the Naze32.  It helps if you mark the signal wires 1-4 so you won’t get the wires mixed up when connecting them.  On this quadcopter build we’ll be using the power from ESC 1 to power the Naze32.  You won’t need the power and ground wires from ESC 2, 3 and 4 so you can remove them.

emax 250 quadcopter buildConnect signal, power and ground from ESC 1 to the Naze32 output 1.  Since the 90 pin header is facing inside, the signal will be the bottom pin, power in the middle and ground will be on top.  Make sure you connect the power and ground correctly to the Naze32.  You will probably fry your board if you get this backwards.  Since we removed the power and ground off 2, 3 and 4 you are left with just the signal wires.  Plug them into a 3-pin connector harness and plug it in 2, 3 and 4 output on the Naze32.

The easiest way to shorten the wires from the ESCs would be to remove the heat shrink from the ESCs, cut to length, re-solder and put the heat shrink back on.

power the quadcopter build

Connect a 2 pin connector from the VBAT (the red and black wire coming through the middle of the PDB) on the Naze and solder it directly to the battery or PDB.  Solder your battery cable to the PDB.

FRSKY D4R-II on a quadcopter build

If you are using a receiver that supports CPPM or PPM such as the FrSky D4R-ii, put a jumper wire across 3 and 4, connect signal, power and ground to the Naze32.  On the Naze32, ground is on left, power middle and signal is on the right.  PPM will let you use connect just channel 1 but still output 8 channels.  You can use a header pin to connect it but I like to solder the receiver cable directly on the Naze32.

naze32 connected to a receiver

If you are using a regular (non PPM) receiver you’ll need a RC breakout cable to connect channels 1-6 on your receiver to 1-6 on the Naze32.  Channel 1 will be on the 3 wire connector, ground, power and channel 1.

emax250 quadcopter build

The EMAX 250 kit comes with CW and CCW motors.  The prop nut on the CCW motors tighten by turning to the right (normal way).  The CW motors tighten to the left.  Make sure you mount the motors like the picture above.  Go ahead and plug in the motors to the ESCs.

That’s pretty much it for the basic build of the quadcopter.  Check out part 2 for setting up the Naze32, receiver, programming the transmitter and hooking up the FPV (camera and transmitter) part.

If you found this post helpful and want to support the site, you can make your Amazon purchases through the links on this site or with this Amazon link.  It won’t cost you anything extra.  Thanks in advance, I really appreciate it 🙂

 

Comments

  1. Did you end up seeing a big difference in the camera for this build vs. the sony camera you usually use? I am working on my first build and wanted to know before I go diving in and spending more than I have to.

     
    1. Author

      If you are on a tight budget it will work but I would not recommend it. The quality is not as good as the Sony Super HAD 600TVL.

       
  2. Is there an advantage in removing the power and ground wires from ESC 2, 3 and 4, apart from making the wiring much neater? On some other build videos I have watched they just connect them all. Is this better electrically or does it not matter? I like the way you have done it.

     
    1. Author

      To be electrically sound you should remove them. If you have them all connected you can get a ground loop. That could cause unwanted power noise or you can shock yourself.

       
  3. I noticed you zip tied the ESCs through the holes for the main aluminum stays. How were you able to fasten the stays with the zip ties in the holes?

     
    1. Author

      The zip ties aren’t completely necessary. When you sandwich the plates together it’s tight enough to hold the esc’s in.

       
  4. Naze 32 or cc3d ? Open pilot or clean flight ? Just want to say, excellent video build ! Great instructions, very understandable !!! Keep it coming

     
  5. I like to conect a 4s lipo, do i need a step down between bowerbord and the naze32 ?

     
    1. Author

      Hi Olaf, not sure what a bowerboad is, do you mean power board? The naze32 can take input voltages up to 16v on VBAT so you’re good. But make sure you are powering the board with 5v only on the power on channels 1-6 (only one is needed). If you connect that to your battery direct your naze32 will smoke. I’ve done it on accident before.

       
  6. Would there be any problems caused by simply connecting esc 2,3,4 to naze32 output 2,3,4 or is there a reason to remove power and ground and just connect signal?

     
    1. Author

      You can connect the power on all the ESC’s but electronically speaking you should only have one. If you have all of them connected it could cause a ground loop and you can get shocked.

       
  7. I see the the Taranis transmiter is sold with an X8R receiver.
    Is it good for this build?

     
  8. I just saw that people are also recommending the Turnigy 9x transmiter.
    It’s half the price of the Taranis..
    Is there a reason for that?
    Is the turnigy good enough?

     
    1. Author

      Battery life depends on your flying style and setup. It can range from 3 min of hard flying to 9 min of just hovering around.

       
  9. Hey! Great guide, I am following closely to build my first Emax 250 now. One question, did you end up confirming that the ESC’s you ordered have the BLHeli firmware? I ordered the BLHeli ESC’s with my kit and like yours they are packaged as Simon series. However I also ordered a spare in case I toast one in an inevitable crash, the spare one is packaged as BLHeli. So I just want to confirm that all 5 of my ESC’s are actually running the same firmware before I start installing and may have to exchange some. Cheers!

     
    1. Author

      Yeah, my box showed BlHeli but package inside was simonk. I hooked them up to see and it was SimonK. huh?

       
      1. Interesting. Support just got back to me and said that mine were indeed flashed with BLHeli. So I guess I’ll find out when I spin them up!

         
  10. Hello
    I like to put an OSD and GPS on my 4S Emax drone.
    I have a naze32 and a normal receiver .
    Where can I find a good drawing for install ( 4S lipo -power board- step down 5V- naze 32 to GPS/OSD/CAM ) From there I am lost !, lots of drawings but not for 4S
    Can someone help me out ?

    greets Olaf

     
    1. Author

      Hi, sorry I can’t help. I’ve tried to put gps on my quad but was never successful. Can I ask why you want GPS on a racing quad?

       
  11. Hi!

    I have all the parts used in this video except Im using a AR8000 Spectrum receiver with a satellite and a DX8 Transmitter. How would be the process with this setup?

    Thanks in advance

     
    1. Author

      Hi Bob, sorry I can’t help you with that. I’ve never used Spectrum.

       
  12. How much for the whole Qav 250 kit with all the protection and orange 3d printed parts pictured below..
    It looks great
    I would need everything sent to me and I then can go by your brilliant video for the build ?????

     
  13. I’ve got Emax blheli esc’s installed, and I wanted to know if the calibration be the same as the simonk esc’s?

     
  14. The combination of written instructions and videos will make this build from scratch easy. This will be my first quad build and will also help me understand the hardware and software needed for a quad copter. Thank you very much.

     
  15. As a first time builder of a quad I would just like to congratulate you on such a helpful video as well as the whole website. So refreshing to see an impartial, frank and in-depth video. All I can say is that if I fry my naze, lose a motor or smoke an esc it won’t be any fault of yours!

     
  16. Are you familiar with FrSky DJT-JR 2.4GHz Transmitter Telemetry Module installed into the Turnigy 9x transmitter? If so would it work with the FrSky D4R-2 receiver? I have a Turnigy 9x but want to use the FrSky D4R-2 receiver.

     
  17. I’ve started building this quad and I have a question about the ESC. I’m using the BL20A ESC from FlightClub. The ESC comes with both black and white signal wires. The documentation explains the twisted black/white signal wire is for signal conditioning (improvement). Should I connect both wires to the Naze32? Any help is appreciated.

     
    1. Author

      You only need to connect the site wires to the Naze32. The black wire is there if you want to connect to a USB tool to change settings in BLheli. If not, you can remove it.

       
  18. hello

    i have a 4s lipo and i have 20a BlHeli.
    how can i power the naze32,if connect the 4S directly the naze32 it will fry.
    but the Biheli esc is getting power from the 4S and I only connect the signal wire to the naze32.
    I was thinking of a volt chancer from 4S to 5V but where do I connect it ? next from the puzzer ?
    is there a drawing on internet ?
    please help me out

    thnks otto

     
    1. Author

      Hi Otto, the bl20a do not have a built in BEC so you’ll need to power the naze32 another way. In my other build, the QAV250, I use the OSDoge board to supply the 5v for the Naze32. If not you’ll need an external BEC.

       
      1. hoi I have BEC, can I connect this on a spare channel of my naze32 esc pins?

        tanks for all you input an info !

         
  19. I really like your OsDoge with Naze32 stack is there a reason you didn’t use it on this build?

     
    1. Author

      I wanted this build to be as basic as possible so it wouldn’t overwhelm someone who’s never built before 🙂

       
  20. In your parts needed list you call for a 3S or 4S battery, in the video it says 3S. Can you use either one? I’ve already bought 4S but I don’t want to damage anything if this voltage is too high.

     
    1. Author

      I can’t verify if the 12a esc’s on this quad can handle 4s on 6″ props as I’ve never tried. Perhaps one of my readers would know the answer?

       
  21. Hi, I’m totally new to this. Today I’m receiving a hubsan X4 to practice piloting and currently just learning as much as I can to build my own quad. I have experience with a ton of RC helicopters, but damned I need to try FPV, looks insanely fun.

    Your video is really clear, just a few questions. The Mini Power Distribution Board is included when you purchase the flight controller? Or do you have to buy it separately?

    Finally, I only have a mac computer. Is it possible to do all the programming in a Mac?

    Thanks again for the great video.

     
    1. Author

      I started with the husband x4 also!

      No the PDB is not included, you get it separately.

      I use a mac also and everything is done on my macbook.

       
  22. Speaking of peop nuts ccw and cw, do you sell these. Great store btw I really like the designs for most of your printed stuff. Can you make a 3D printed series for the zmr250? That’s a popular model.

     
    1. Author

      Thanks! I have a ZMR but just haven’t had time to build it yet. I’ll build it soon and make parts for it.

       
  23. Hello. Great videos! Very clear and very helpful. Just one question. What hardware did you use to mount the PDB and flight controller? I see the picture of the side profile and that helps. But I am wondering if you used hardware that did not come with the kit or what. Specifically, what screw did you use to penetrate the PBD to reach the spacers connected to the controller? The screws that come with the CC3D are not long enough.

     
    1. I also have a question about the hardware used to mount the controller: how are you securing it to the frame? I see 4 white pegs sticking up through the controller, I’m guessing these are standoffs? But are they screwing into anything or just sticking up through the holes, not screwed into anything? Thanks in advance and great videos!

       
  24. Hi! First of all, I want to thank you for posting such a good and understandable video! I just have two simple questions. What battery charger would you recommend to charge the Turnigy nano-tech 1300mAh 3S 45~90C Lipo Pack (same battery you used in the build)? Aside from the Taranis, do you know of any other transmitter/module (a bit cheaper) that would work with the FrSky D4R-II?

     
  25. Thanks! And do you just let the standoff ends stick through flight controller without securing it with a hex nut or anything? (it looks like you could just lift the controller straight up, off the standoffs)

     
  26. Got it, thanks! I can’t thank you enough for taking the time to document and record this whole process – I couldn’t have gotten into the hobby without it!

     
  27. The quad I am building uses a 12v battery. Everything on the quad accepts 12v except my receiver, which accepts 4v-6.5v. Do I have to use a voltage converter to convert the power the receiver is using to 5v?

     
    1. Author

      Normally in quads the receiver is powered from the flight controller. On the Naze32, the power for the receiver comes from the 3pin connector going to the RX, Ground, 5V and PPM (signal).

       
  28. So if I set up my receiver exactly as you show in the video, I should be fine?

     
  29. The receiver is the FS-iA6B. From Fly Sky. Fs-i6 transmitter. Naze32. Basically everything you used.

     
  30. Hello! Your tutorial videos are the best I’ve seen anywhere. Thanks for taking the time to make them.
    The issue I’m having is flashing the ESC’s with BLHeli. I’ve trimmed back the +/- on ESC’s 2-4 but it seems these wires are required to flash BLHeli. Have you run into this issue before and is there a way to flash or should I get new ESC’s?

    Thanks!

     
    1. Author

      If you need to flash the esc I would just solder on the ground back on the esc. Or get a set that come preflashed with blheli. Most of the newer esc come with blheli and all the options already set for you. they are all pretty good too

       
  31. Awesome! thanks for the reply.
    So today I attempted to power the quad but when I plugged in the battery nothing happened. I checked the voltage on the pdb and I’m getting power to all of the ESC’s but the naze will not power up. It seems I’m only getting 2.2V from ESC 1 to the +/- on the naze. Possibly a bad esc or board?

    Thanks a lot for the help.

     
  32. Hey, curious on 2 things. The first being, if my power dist board only has 4 +/- inputs will that be an issue for my build. Second, do you have any experience hooking a go pro up as the secondary camera in this build? Thanks

     
  33. I have followed this build to the T and when it came to the PID you kind of glossed over it. What would be a good PID base to start from? You mentioned another video but I dont see one on here.. am I missing something?

    Thanks.. on a side note you just sent me my QAV210… looking forward to Part 2 on that build before my kit arrives..

    Cheers and keep up the amazing work !!

     
  34. Brilliant page and video for a complete newbie like me.
    I am very much convinced to go and try for this build. However, answers from your side to a couple of questions would be quite helpful, as I am on a quite tight budget.
    – I noticed that EMAX sells an eight-hannel transmitter+receiver: Flysky TH9X – 87$. Would you recommend this one ?
    – Is it possibly to start without the FPV camera, or use a mobile or ipad instead of the goggles ?
    Cheers

     
  35. I started building this setup when I found this post right around when it was posted. Then life got busy. Well I am diving back into this FPV build and had a question. It is in regard to FrSky Smart Port. I see a lot of builds connecting the Smart Port GRND wire to ground and the GREEN wire to either the TX/RX section or to PIN 6 on the bottom of the Naze32. Will Smart Port give me other features I would want that this build doesn’t provide or will your provided setup give me enough telemetry? Can I even use the smart port if I use CPPM, which I am by the way.

    Thanks for the great article, it is put together very well and has taught me a lot.

     

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