Hello all, I am just beginning to get into multicopters and had a few rookie questions. I have been doing tons of research on this over the years but finally have an opportunity to begin working on my first UAV. I am planning on building a rather large rig capable or carrying upwards of 20 lbs (~9 kg). I know that it is a big undertaking, but I have plenty of time to work on this to get it as close to perfection as I can. I have a general idea of all the parts I need to get it in the air such as flight controllers, power regulators, motors, props, and all that, however I do not know which companies have the best parts and which are most trusted by the community. If anyone could help me out with this it would be greatly appreciated because I would like to know which specific parts I am going to use so that I can begin designing the main frame of the beast as detailed as possible. I'm sure I will have plenty of other questions along the way, so thank you so much in advance for all the help. 

Cheers, Aaron

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I can't give a reply that you'll find directly useful, because I've got little experience with coptors... or ANYTHING on that scale.  

But I hope that when you say you know it's a big undertaking you understand that this means both expensive and dangerous.  For something that heavy I'd never rely on the bargain motors and escs from HobbyKing...  you need to spend top dollar because with that much weight - every time this thing comes down it's going to be REALLY expensive to fix, so you're going to want to minimize the number of times that happens.

Which brings me to the next point - these things come down.  If you don't have extensive experience building and flying multicopters you really need to spend a year or two getting that experience with a smaller aircraft before you get into this or you're going to lose the bird MANY times as you try to learn to fly the monster.   No matter how experienced you are as a pilot/designer/builder... these things do occasionally come down.  For the inexperienced, they come down frequently.  Cheaper and smaller copters survive these crashes, get new props and get the frame straightened and go back up again.   A 20lb payload and the 12lb bird that lifts it don't get caught in a tree or get stuck on a neighbor's roof...  they smash through the roof or the windshield of a car.  They kill people.  And that much inertia may well destroy the frame, motors, electronics and payload.  And there WILL be crashes. 

I'm sure you've thought of all of those things, but they're worth saying again, and you may already be an expert flyer, in which case I apologize for assuming you weren't yet!  I'm not sure you'll find many here who are able to help with something of this size, and I'm not sure those that are able to help will be willing to do so, since it's your first post.  If you post a little more about the mission you're trying to accomplish (what you're lifting, how long you need to keep it in the air, what altitude and distance, etc.) you might have more luck getting suggestions for ways to work up to it or ways to accomplish it with smaller lighter equipment.

Thank you for the concerns, I have thought through all of those things and have accepted it. I was planning on using all top-dollar equipment because this will be carrying top dollar recording equipment. (After many hours of test flights and adjustments of course) My main goal is to build it rather large to keep it modular and allow it to work with an extremely wide array tools and equipment. The main equipment that I will be using is a camera, however the type of camera will most likely vary quite a bit, from small Cannon's to much larger shoulder mounted ones. I understand the dangers of this, but what would life be without risks? And with great risks come great rewards, so I would like to carry on and do everything I can to try and bring this idea to life, with this great communities help of course :)

Shoulder mount cameras are heavy, expensive, delicate and require lots of fingers to operate. (as do the smaller canons that are designed for professional handheld use.)   How do you plan to control zoom, focus, iris, pan and tilt at a minimum on different camera payloads?  

PTZ cameras exist that offer excellent, broadcast-grade image capturing and are designed for remote control over a serial interface.  I'd start by looking there.  I know I'm stepping on your big idea here...  but I'd REALLY strongly recommend you pick a single camera that will work for most of what you want to do and build a system around that... and I recommend that it not be a 20lb shoulder mount camera.  That's just not what they're designed for.

If you really can afford to keep rebuilding this $5000 dollar copter and replacing the $20,000 dollar camera, I'm sure you'll find an engineer willing to design it for you.  But realistically - if you're thinking about (illegally, at the moment) using this thing to shoot commercially...  figure out exactly what it needs to produce, footage wise, and find the smallest, lightest, easiest to control camera that can do that.  Lifting an HPX-300 isn't the mission goal - getting footage of a certain quality and character is.  Lifting a shoulder-cam on a quad is like trying to drive a VW bug across the ocean just because it's the vehicle you're most familiar with.  You need to get a boat if you want to sail...  not spend a lot of money and effort waterproofing your car and still arriving at a sub-standard end result. 

I'm really not trying to be argumentative or negative, though I feel like I am.  I'm just trying to help!

Thanks for the help, I truly appreciate it, I understand that you're not trying to be argumentative at all. I would like to have a relatively light camera on there for the majority of the time, however I would like it to be a flexible platform. I am not trying to make this for commercial use, one of my biggest hobbies is rock climbing, I have been climbing for a few years now and many of my friends who also climb are very much into photography and videography. When it comes to photographing climbers, it is hard to get good shots because you have to anchor in to one point and you do not typically move for a few hours as people climb around you. This makes for a lot of similar shots, and although they can look good, there is plenty of room for improvement. I would like to use this hexacopter to help add flexibility and allow for more creativity among our shots, especially when it comes to other hobbies like high-lining. Most people have different cameras which is why I would like the system to be as flexible as possible, which I know will be very difficult. I have had many ideas on how to do that, which is why I would like to build a larger copter, it adds lots of room for expansion and change. I love to experiment with things like this, and this would be a great prototyping platform. I may never take a camera larger than a go-pro or simple point and shoot, but it would be nice to have the ability to do so. The main problem that I am running into now is trying to find the right hardware just to get the copter itself in the air without all the bells and whistles. Thanks for all of the replies so far and don't hesitate to criticize or point things out, it definitely helps to shape ideas and get a better and more functional final product.

I also need help for upgrading parts or if i'm doing it wrong or right for aerial video productions/photo, here is my set up:


I am working on getting a small quad to learn a bit more about the flight dynamics and finer points of multicopters, and I have found a way to completely control the camera in the air, but I think I am sticking with some relatively small cameras such as the Canon D70. That should make things a bit easier however I would still like to make it rather large to add lots of room for improvement. Has anyone tried putting a robust superstructure above the booms to minimize flex? I was trying to think of different ways to make it more smooth in flight. When is comes to prop and motor matching, how do you calculate how powerful of a motor you need for each prop because I was thinking of some larger 13" props with a moderate pitch to them. Thanks again for all the help.

A few things to consider:

-If you want to build a platform to carry a heavy and expensive camera then you need the most reliable platform, which is not a Hexa. However I don't think you need a big platform...

-A heli optimized for heavy lift will not be the ideal platform to carry a go-pro or light camera. Realistically you need different multicopters for different payloads for the best results.

-A 20 pound camera payload is a big overkill unless you absolutely must carry something very specific. A stripped down Red with a prime is only 6 pounds and that will satisfy 99% of your shooting requirements. A GH3 shooting at 1080p60 50Mbps is only 750 grams with lens and if you are doing this for a hobby would still probably be overkill. A gopro 3 on a brushless gimbal is probably all you need.

-If you are shooting climbing and action sports you'll soon find out you want the smallest heli for the payload. Ideally something that can fit into a case or backpack, because as you know you'll need to hike in your gear to get the really good locations.

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