Hello there.

I'm new to the drones so I wonder what's option is better: buy all-in-one Phantom 4 or assemble my own drone?

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Well, they are both good options.  It depends on what you prefer.  Going DIY is a lot more work, but in my opinion is a very fun hobby.  Prices vary, you could end up spending more or less than Phantom 4.  In my opinion a properly configured Pixhawk quad is less likely to fly away or crash than a Phantom 4.  However since you're new, there are a lot of possible mistakes.  I respond to a lot of threads on here from crashes, and a lot of them are from people new to the hobby who did not have their vehicle set up properly.  That, and people cheaping out on the parts.  If you do decide to go DIY, can get help here, even for picking out parts.  Sometimes on here no one replies... but you could always message me if that happens.

Thanks, mate! Will do if decide to go this way with RC quads)

Hi Gregor,

I agree with Stephen it really depends on what you prefer, and also what you plan on using the drone for.

The DJI Phantom 4 is an incredible piece of technology for mid-range aerial photography. If you want an all-in-one package that's going to capture incredible video for YouTube and online video projects, you're going to spend a lot more time, money and frustration trying to DIY a package with the features that the Phantom 4 provides out of the box.

However, if you're like me and get more enjoyment out of researching sensors, frames, motors, etc and finally putting together a package that flys exactly how you want, then DIY is the way to go. I would go as far to say that most people in the DIY community enjoy tweaking, upgrading, and modify their quads/hexas/octos more than they do actually flying them! The group is also pretty awesome and supportive and it's fun to see the creativity of what others are building and share your own projects and designs.

Either way you decide to go, I would highly recommend getting a cheap toy quad if you've never flown anything before (Cheerson CX-10, Hubsan X4, Syma X5C). They are a lot of fun to fly and practice with these will help a lot with being able to avoid and recover from any issues that will inevitably arise when you build/buy a larger drone.

JR

Yo john, if you enjoy finding the right parts and researching sensors ad stuff, I have a challenge for you. Build a drone,(quad or hex) that has features like orbit waypoints, and maybe a follow mode, as well as a video downlink that has at least a mile range. With gimbal. And retractable landing gear. I don't want to worry about getting gear or props in my shot. I have a gopro but it's the session so it does not have hdmi out. Also have a decent Point and shoot. My ideal setup though would be to use a Panasonic g7. Also I don't want to need a laptop when I fly. I have only android devices btw. I have a 5 channel rx and a balance charger. Here's the catch:it has to be under $1000. Cheaper if possible. I have found a few peices but not too much. If you want to try and round up the right parts that would be great but don't feel obligated to.
Forgot to say if it's a bigger machine I need the arms to fold for transport.
I also have access to a 3d printer

Simon,
So this is what I currently fly as a Hobby AP rig. It took me a LONG time to get it right and I've spent a lot of time and money putting together a package that flies extremely well and gets great video. It misses on a couple of points in your list that I'll mention, but here's the part's list. I wish I had this when I started building this thing, I've probably spent 2.5x the amount below before I got it right!!!


- S550 Hexacopter Kit (Frame + Motors + ESCs) - Ebay ~ $135USD
- Pixhawk (clone) FC w/ M8N GPS & 3DR 915Mhz Telemetry Radio - Ebay ~ $150-160USD
- Graupner 10x5 props - Ebay ~$60 for 2 sets of 4
- HMF650 Retractable Landing Gear - Ebay ~$50USD
- FrSky Taranis Transmitter w/ X8R Receiver - GetFPV.com ~ $225USD (Can exclude this if you plan on using your existing TX/RX, but 5 channels may not be enough to operate everything)
- Ideafly 3 Axis Brushless Gimbal (rebranded Zhiyun Z1 Tiny2) - Gearbest ~$200USD (Not designed for the Session, but seriously the best out-of-box gimbal you can buy!)
- Mauch Electronics Power Module - Mauch ~$40USD
- TS832 VTx + RC832 Receiver - Amazon ~$35USD
- 4s 5000mAh Batteries - ~$40USD each
Total Cost ~$935 (or $710 without the Taranis package) + A LOT of work!


You can put together a pretty awesome machine for not a lot of money. With the 3DR Radios and your Android device presumably supporting USB OTG cables, you'll be able to use the Tower ground station app to get automatic flights with waypoints as well as follow-me and circle modes etc.

But here are some of the features you'll be missing with this setup:
- Portability - the S550 is not foldable and is about a 2ft diameter circle. The Tarot folding frames are great but you start getting into the 650-680 size which requires more expensive motors, larger props, larger batteries etc.
- Flight Time - with the setup exactly as above, I get about 10 minutes of flight under normal flying
- Video Range - I have not tested this, but I don't think a normal 5.8Ghz video system is reliable up to a mile under normal conditions. I believe you may be able to use the DJI LightBridge system to get HD video at extreme distances, but that kit starts at $1000!! Also, you have to have a small screen to receive the live video feed as this really isn't designed to stream to your android device.
- RC Transmitter - You mention you have a 5ch transmitter which is nice from a cost perspective, but as you start adding things like the landing gear and gimbal, you'll need more channels to have control over the camera & gear. It's also nice to have some additional channels for in-flight tuning or activating AutoTune modes. You can go a lot cheaper than the Taranis, but it's one of the best and does 16 channels. It also does telemetry so if you just want to fly you don't need a smart device connected as all of the info will be right on your TX!
- Warranty - If this thing falls from the sky, there's no company you can call to complain!

So if you really, really want to build something yourself, in my opinion this is a good way to go. I'm sure others will disagree or have better options that I would love to hear!

I have to be honest, if I was starting this journey right now with the goals you've laid out, I would buy a Phantom 3 Pro (~$800 best price for performance), Phantom 4 (~$1200 best features + video quality), or DJI Mavic Pro (~$999 amazing features & ultra-portable). I would have recommend the GoPro Karma but apparently they really do fall from the sky!!! Those products come with everything, work out of the box, and if something goes wrong you have one company you can complain to. They also have a lot more features, longer flight times, longer video range with HD downlink, and an integrated package that you can fully control with your Android or iOS device along with getting the live video feed. The only thing they don't offer is a removable, stand-alone camera.

So weigh your options and your goals and make the right decision for you. If you decide to go DIY, I'm happy to help as much as possible to make your build a success!!

Hi Gregor,

Since the Mavic came out I would not recommend the purchase of a Phantom 4 unless you can get a really exceptional deal on it.

The Mavic will be replacing the Phantoms I am sure and they will be pahsed out and discounted severely till they are gone.

The Mavic is superior in every way and because it is smaller it cost DJI less to build it.

Your best deal would just be to buy a Mavic.

Your second best deal would just be to wait till you can get a really good super discount deal on a Phantom 4.

At this point you should only build one if that is what you really want to do and almost nothing you make that costs less than a Mavic will have the over all functionaluity od a Mavic.

My opinion anyway.

Best,

Gary

I doubt Phantoms will be phased out, the Phantom 4 Pro and Pro + have just been launched and the response is very favorable. They will sell like crazy just like the Mavic.

If the OP is a tinkerer then go DIY, if not go Mavic or PH4. Used 3's and 4's will drop in price and become more attractive to hobbyists.

There is literally nothing a Phantom 4 will not do vs Pixhawk. Apps like Litchi allow for full autonomy and you have streaming HD video at for 3-5 miles. If video is your objective go the RTF option. Mavik ditto, if you can find one. But P4s are cheaper now with the P4 Pro launch.

If you enjoy DIY then go the Pixhawk route. It is much more rewarding. You will not get comparable results though. The other thing to bear in mind is that a Phantom is light and will do little damage if it falls while your DIY effort will certainly weigh more and have sharp edges. Phantoms are very reliable these days though and the DJI flyaway syndrome really stopped at the Phantom 2.

Hi Stephen, all,

I'm new to quads but I've done quite a few months of research on the components and programming, and am quite keen on now spending some money to build my own quad.

Obviously my research will not compare to the experience you guys collectively have up your sleeve so i was wondering if anyone could give me some pointers as to what components (and specs) I should look at purchasing for my build / spare myself a handful of costly mistakes I would otherwise no doubt make ?

The goal is to build something that achieves the following:

  1. can be built for $AUD 400-600, rather than a) buy a Mavic PRO ($1500 AUD) or  b) buy a Phantom 4 Pro, both of which are quite pricey.
  2. can fly up 7km or more, like the DJI's
  3. similar size to the mavic when folded up (exclude props) - I'm hoping to design something more portable than a phantom - i'm also planning to 3D print my own frame and reinforce folding joints
  4. 3-axis brushless gimbal + a hi quality camera (for photography and video capture)
    1. can i use this same camera for a live feed to my Radio controller?
    2. can i control the gimbal via my Radio? - that would be amazing.
  5. I want to have the following sensors: (can Pixhawk accommodate all of these on the one board?)
    1. down optical flow
    2. forward sensor
    3. left sensor
    4. right sensor
    5. rear sensor
  6. GPS/GLONASS
  7. Can have a redundant battery for extended flight/ fly for longer than 30 minutes (though this will make the whole thing less efficient - I'm keen on advice for what has been tried and tested, and what seems to be the ideal balance of Flight Time VS Weight, with components available today)
  8. additional servo for retractable landing gear (I presume i need to have a decent Radio with additional channels to accommodate these functions)

Please let me know what you guys think, and how realistic this configuration might be. For the budget i have I would be very appreciative of your any help on what list of components you might recommend to build this?

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