Newbie question about kit vs RTF


I'm interested in getting a quad copter type uav, and have a few basic questions before deciding how to start. I think I'd like to get a kit (like the one here at store.diydrones), and build it myself, as it will be more rewarding than buying it RTF, and I should gain some knowledge on how to fix it when things go wrong.

However, I'm a bit concerned that I may get stuck and not know enough about how to continue, whether it's about how to connect a receiver up, soldering problems, or whatever. I'm a software engineer by trade, not a mechanical/electrical engineer, though I've built some RC cars and a (small) helicopter in the past. 

My question then becomes, would you recommend a kit to a noob? Or is my lack of knowledge going to be more of a burden, to the point of making it exceedingly difficult to be able to achieve stable flight? I know buying it pre-built is more expensive, but if it's hardly going to fly or fly poorly building it myself, I'd rather spend the extra money to get something I know will work.

Assuming things go well, the next thing I'd want to do is add a camera, then maybe an FPV setup.

Any advice and/or pointers to good beginner information would be awesome.


- Blake

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  • Another thing that was very helpful to me when i was learning was to practice in a simulator, as I had no remote control experience when I started, I used but they don't do multi rotor compters, but I am sure that there is one out there that you will be able to find. Its cheaper to crash in a simulator ;)

    R/C Desk Pilot - a free rc flightsim |
  • Well, Blake, you are where I was about 6-months ago.  I was lucky to have a mentor who preceded me by a few months as well.  I built the 3DR Hexacopter kit (but the APM was already assembled) because I wanted the extra lift capacity for carrying a camera and large battery.

    If you are comfortable with a soldering iron, then get the kit and use the extra funds to buy spare parts, because you will likely crash during flight training.  At the least, get an extra set of props.  I would advise also a spare motor and motor arm.  The assembly instructions in the Wiki are pretty well done, but the answers are sometimes a bit hard to find.

    This forum is a pretty good place to ask questions.

    But you're in luck because I am in Westford, so you could drop by and compare notes on our copters.  I also have an AR.Drone modified with an R/C transmitter which really helps learn the basics of flying a multirotor.  You are welcome to borrow it.


    My specs:
    ArduCopter HEXA 3DR Frame
    APM 2.0 Purple Full Kit Assembled
    Motor AC2836-358, 880Kv
    ArduCopter ESC 20 Amp
    Propellers: 12X45 EPP Style
    MB1200 XL-MaxSonar-EZ0
    3DR GPS uBlox LEA-6
    Firmware: 2.8.1
    Mission Planner: 1.2.17
    Radio: Spektrum DX7

  • Blake,

    I would recommend a 3DR kit to a noob. Why?

    #1 - This community. #2 - I've read the documents for other projects...(critics of 3DR obiviously have not read other sites).

    That being said, RC gear opinion/feedback is like discussing politics and religion.

    Look for the best deal and hold the seller to task for warranty support. REGARDLESS of the brand, learn as much about how it works, how it can fail, and how it performs before trying to put your aircraft in the air.


  • The kit is more rewarding and you'll know how and why everything goes together.  You do however need to have some basic soldering skills and a good soldering iron.  The instruction manuals have come along way over the last couple years and are explained very well.  This is the best place to start Arducopter Wiki

  • Moderator

    Hi Blake and welcome.

    I was tossing up between the kit of RTF myself when I purchased from here.  I'm glad I got the kit though as I now understand how everything fits together, feel i'm in a better position to tune it better and when it crashes, fix it quicker.

    All the information you need to build it is contained within these forums (be it through the manual, wikis or questions that have already been asked) but if all else fails, you can just pose another question.  Even if you get the RTF version, you'll still need to do some things to it.

    Building it (quad in my case) it isn't that difficult...  It's the tuning that takes the time.


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