Hey, everyone.

This is my first post here.  I'm an IT consultant who also tinkers with Arduino, coding, amateur radio and other things, so as you might imagine I'm interested in building rather than buying.

After doing a lot of reading and video watching today, it seems that one of the best ways for me to ease into this hobby will be with one of the builds in my post title.  I want to keep my initial cost down to around $600, but I will be doing additions and upgrades over time. I have a few too many expensive hobbies at the moment, and just got my ham radio license and HF transceiver. My wife has been looking at me a bit sideways... haha!

Anyway, it seems a lot of people around here recommend building with the Flame Wheel 450 kit.  I thought the ArduPhantom I saw here was very clever too, and of course 3DR is good stuff.  As an outdoorsman, I will be taking this quad out into my local desert and mountains for photography and other things.  I'm also joining my local CERT (volunteer emergency response) and so later on one of my goals is to get into applications for SAR and related missions (with better craft, obviously).

What I really want to do here is start with gear I can upgrade and build into for a while.  I don't want to buy something that may be obsolete or limiting (my fear of the Phantom), and regret it a few months after making the investment.

I also saw that the pixhawk is coming soon, but I don't know if that is a successor to the APM 2.6 or what.  Again, worries about buying the wrong hardware if something new is coming out.

Any advice you can give on which gear and where to start would be greatly appreciated.  Thanks in advance for your help!

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  • I spent a lot of time writing this wiki page to help with questions like this: http://copter.ardupilot.com/wiki/build-your-own-multicopter/

    So you might take a look at it.

    If you already have a Phantom, then an Arduphantom or better a Pixhawk phantom is probably a fine way to improve the Phantom.

    But if you don't have a Phantom the Flamewheel F450 ARF kit is a really rugged and cost effective way to go.

    And if you want to kick it up to an even more durable copter do a Flip Sport or Flip FPV frame build with DJI Flamewheel motors and a 4 in 1 ESC. These may not be completely unbreakable, but they come closer than anything else.

    Of course if all you want to do is fly and can afford it, get an IRIS, it is a really great design and execution.

    In any case, the wiki page I wrote and possibly the one on FPV should help you figure out which way you want to go.


    Use Gemfan carbon filled 10"+ props for good performance and maximum prop survivability - cheap.

    Best Regards,


  • The ArduPhantom is nice since I can just stuff it in a backpack (without the props) and go hiking in the mountains with it, but it's a pain in that stuffing a lot of hardware in such a small case can be difficult, and once you add a brushless gimbal and GoPro the weight will be up there, and you'll only get about 6 minutes of flight time with the stock battery. Although I plan to use T-Motor MN2214 motors which are designed for Phantom and are more powerful and efficient for the same weight, and the new 9-inch CF props T-Motor is coming out with, also designed for Phantom, then add a larger external battery. Hopefully when these upgrades are complete it should increase my ArduPhantom flight time past 10 minutes.

    In the meantime, I'm really enjoying my 3DR quad, with an APM 2.6. I've upgraded it, adding T-Motor MT2216 KV800 motors, APC 11x4.7 props, and a WIND-1 brushless gimbal for the GoPro. I'm using a 5200 mAh battery, and get 10 minutes of flight time despite how heavy the brushless gimbal is. That's flying around at 40 to 50 km/h the whole time too. And it can easily exceed 70 km/h top speed.

    Pixhawk is certainly the way of the future, but don't worry about getting one when you're just starting out. When you're ready to upgrade to the Pixhawk you can certainly find a use for the old APM, for example stick it in a foamy RC plane or an RC car or boat to make it fully autonomous, and send it on a mission!

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Shivchand Jaysaval liked Shivchand Jaysaval's profile
Aug 25