This is a list of parts to build a basic drone that can fly in the CNY Drones Annual Team Drone Challenge. To be successful in completing the various missions additional electronics and/or materials will need to be added based on your team’s mission goals. CNY Drones does not guarantee the availability of any parts from any vendor. In fact, these parts regularly go out of stock or are discontinued for new versions. This post was last updated: Jul 7, 2019 @ 7:40 pm

Also it is important to buy parts well in advance of when they are needed as some take a very long time to be received. CNY Drones has taken care to provide links to products from reputable vendors that are usually pretty quick on shipping. However, the fact that it can take time to get a much needed part that may break in the field, it is best-practice to order multiple of most parts. Propellers break, electronic speed controllers (ESCs) can burn out, and it is easy for an inexperienced solderer to burn through a pad on a small flight controller accidentally.

The parts you will need to put a drone together at minimum are:

  • (4) Propellers – (2) Clockwise rotating and (2) Counter-Clockwise
  • (4) Motors
  • (4) Electronic Speed Controllers (ESCs)
  • (1) Flight Controller
  • (1) Quadcopter Frame – 450mm motor to motor length or less
  • (1) Receiver
  • (1) Transmitter (Remote Controller)
  • (1) 3 cell (3s) or smaller Lithium Polymer (LiPo) Battery
  • (1) LiPo Battery Charger
Part TypeLink and ImageGeneral Price of Item TypeWhy it was chosen and things to note
Motors & Propellers


$60-$70Good value. High torque for big propellers which will be stable and efficient. PLEASE NOTE: The props in the kit are too large for the Team Drone Challenge. The about $14 props are acceptable for the team challenge.
Electronic Speed Controllers (ESCs)$60-$70Our CNY Drones mentors have had good experiences with these particular ESCs and they "just work". There may be cheaper options in the $40-$50 range but these are suggested for their reliability. Also on a technical note, they are BLHeli_S Firmware with pass through meaning that you can access the ESCs through the flight controller using BL Heli Suite: Learn More
Flight ControllerOnly one is needed per drone, but they can be hard to find, here are a couple of places to look:


Race Day Quads

Ready Made RC

getFPV
$25-$40Incredibly popular Flight Controller. Josh Bardwell authored manual and selected features, manufactured and backed by RaceDayQuads. If you don't know who Joshua Bardwell is you really should look him up on YouTube.
Quadcopter Frame$15-25450mm motor to motor is the limit that we allow for Forest Fury. Good value frame. Plenty of space for adding sensors and other equipment each to find accessories for this frame as well.
Transmitter
$100-$200FrSky is a very popular brand with good reliability. The software for configuring the transmitter is open source and makes configuration easy. Go to https://www.open-tx.org/ to learn more. Taranis Q X7 is the most popular and best value. Has plenty of switches and channels.

Only need one controller to use with all your drones, robots, RC cars, etc.
Reciever$30-$40FrSky is a very popular brand with good reliability. The software for configuring the transmitter that works with this receiver is open source and makes configuration easy. Has the ability to be 8 channel with PWM if needed.
Battery$25-$40We recommend a 1800mAh~3600mAh 3S LiPo battery with an XT-60 connector.
This is a 2 pack of 3S 2200mAh 50C batteries. It is always good to have a spare batteries so that you can charge while you are flying and quickly change out batteries.
Battery Charger
or
$25-$50Hobbymate charger is a clone, but a good value. Doesn't do some special features, but does all you will need. Comes with a power supply.

GoolRC B6 is also a clone but is really cheap and gets the job done. Again does not do any special features. Also does not come with a power supply.
Optional Power Supply for Charger$10-$15Only needed with the GoolRC B6 charger. Any power supply that is 12V and does at least 5A should work. The connector size needs to be 5.5*2.5mm. You may have one laying around from an old monitor or laptop.
Fire Retardant Battery Charging Bag
Large Bag: $10-$15
(4) Small Bags: $15-$20
This is important to have. Charge and store batteries within the bag. We like this particular bag becuase of the zippers and handles to make transporting and storing a lot of batteries very easy.

The smaller bags can be used for individual batteries. It's best to charge a battery in a bag by itself rather than with all your batteries.

Still might be a good idea to buy a metal ammo can at Harbor Freight or similar as a backup.

Also, here is a great video from flight test on how to build a battery bunker: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gobFcNzGG9I
Battery Checker w/ Low Voltage Buzzer Alarm5-Pack
$10-15
Used to quickly check battery voltage. Also great to put on the battery while flying to know when the battery is getting to low in voltage. Especially if not using FPV with an On Screen Display (OSD) of the voltage. Just get a 5 pack because they are small and sometimes get lost.

While not necessary for flight, the following parts are highly recommended and essential for First Person View (FPV) flying; without these parts, your will be restricted to flying Line of Sight (LoS) only:

  • (1) FPV Camera
    • You may want more than one camera, but this will require one transmitter per camera. You will also need one receiver/goggle per camera or you will have to switch channels between the cameras to each camera’s feed.
    • Some cameras include the antenna and transmitter All In One (AIO)
  • (1) FPV Transmitter
  • (1) FPV Antenna for the Transmitter
  • (1) FPV Receiver – either FPV Goggles or a receiver that outputs to a screen
    • Multiple goggles or screens can tune into the same broadcast channel from an FPV transmitter.
  • (1) Antenna for the Receiver
    • While most goggles/receivers come with antenna(s), a good antenna will provide a much better signal and viewing experience
    • Some receivers are diversity receivers meaning they feature two or more receivers and automatically pick the strongest signal from the pool of receivers. Diversity receivers will need an antenna for each receiver and generally the antenna will be different types serving different purposes. More on antennas in another post (coming soon).

Even though there will be a more indepth post on antennas in at a later date, please note that there are three important things to know about video antennas. First, they come in left-handed (LHCP) and right-handed (RHCP) varieties, and you must put the same variety on your quadcopter and your goggles. Most pilots fly RHCP, and that’s what we recommend you start with too. There isn’t any performance difference, but having the same type as everyone else will let you watch them in your goggles.

Second, they come with different connectors: SMA and RP-SMA. Whatever kind of connector came on your video transmitter and your goggles, you have to buy the same kind on the antenna, or they won’t screw together. Don’t assume that the goggles and the vTX will have the same connector either. Here is a pictures of the different connectors: 

Third, you should never power up your video transmitter without an antenna attached. This can damage or destroy the video transmitter.

Part TypeLink and ImageWhy it was chosen and things to note
FPV AIO Cameras
The below cameras will allow for On-Screen Display (OSD) of the drone's battery voltage, for example, if you would like to solder the wires to your Flight Controller.
Cheap, also don't need a transmitter, or antenna. Very small and can be attached with just double sided mounting tape or 3D printed mount. Picture quality may not be as good, but definitely flyable indoors. Can be flimsy and prone to damage. Also may have a limited range compared to a standalone transmitters. Though these concerns may not matter if the only purpose of the drone this/these camera(s) are going on is for Forest Fury. Last year a majority of the drones that competed in Rig Rescue used FPV AIO Cameras.
FPV Cameras without transmitter
Generally used on racing or freestyle drones. These are very durable and provide the best picture. These will require an FPV transmitter and must be mounted to the frame.
FPV Transmitters
https://www.getfpv.com/lumenier-tx5gs-vtx-bfcms-mmcx.html

Below is basically what is built-in to some of the AIO cameras. It is popular because of its lightweight and cheap. Also the extra features that other transmitters have may not be used or understood by a beginner.
The video transmitter (or "vTX" as it's usually written) takes the video signal from your camera and transmits it wirelessly to your goggles. An important function of the video transmitter is how easy it is to change channels and the transmission power level. FPV video transmitters operate like old analog television signals. If two transmitters are on a channel too close together, they will interfere, and both pilots won't be able to see to fly. When you fly with other pilots and at the competition, you or the competition's safety director will have to organize who is on what channel. If you can't quickly and easily change channels, that becomes a hassle.
FPV Antennas - Omnidirectional
Remember you will need at least 2 antennas, 1 for your receiver/goggles and 1 for your transmitter. If your goggles/receiver has diversity you will need multiple antennas. If you only need 1 antenna on your receiver, go with a more versatile omnidirectional antenna (transmits/receives in a donut like pattern). Also use an omnidirectional antenna on your transmitter(s) because the craft will be flying around.
FPV Antennas - Directionalhttps://www.getfpv.com/invader-antenna-5-8ghz-rhcp-polarized-receiver-patch.html
If your goggles have only one antenna connector, then you only need an omni antenna. If your goggles have two antenna connectors, then they support diversity and you need both an omni and a directional antenna.

Directional antennas are usually big, long, and bulky. Exactly the opposite of what you want hanging off of your goggles. A patch antenna is the answer. It's directional, and it's also small and light. But nothing comes for free: good patch antennas are expensive, and cheap ones aren't usually good. The MenaceRC Invader is a decent patch antenna at a low price. If that's what you're looking for, this is the one you'll buy.
Antenna Packs (Optional)
The Menace pack has 3 antennas in it (2 Omni and 1 Directional) in a neat pack along with various interconnects to make sure it will fit to your drone, goggles or ground station. It is a little on the expensive side, but you won't have to do an research and will have adapters on hand when someone says "I got this antenna but I can't attach it to my new goggles/drone."
FPV Receiver
This tends to be better quality and has diversity for better signal:
https://www.getfpv.com/fpv/video-receivers/lumenier-rx5gdr-5-8g-av-diversity-receiver-with-raceband.html
Good for hooking up to a TV or Projector via RCA cables (Red Yellow White). These tend to come with "rubber ducky" style antennas, which are basically garbage; throw those out and get some better antennas.
FPV GogglesThis is really the cheapest goggles worth having. Features include OSD that shows battery, frequency (channel), and signal strength; and a DVR so you can record your flights. Also the front half splits apart so it can be mounted on a tripod or used as a hand-held. It also has diversity meaning, in this case, that you can put 1 antenna that receives in donut shape around you (Omnidirectional) and 1 antenna receives in a more focused beam (Directional). The antennas that come with this pair of goggles are actually pretty good. Lastly, the menu system for the goggles is pretty easy as well.
FPV Goggles for those that wear glassesThis was stolen from Joshua Bardwell:

What makes the FXT Viper better than other box-style goggles? It's mounted to a head-band, so it "floats" in front of your eyes instead of being squeezed up against your face. This makes it perfect for people who wear glasses, since you can keep your glasses on while you fly. Switching between FPV and line-of-sight is easy. You can even remove the silicone sun-shroud and maintain peripheral awareness while you fly. The FXT Viper also uses a mirror mechanism to increase the focal distance, so you don't go cross-eyed from staring at a screen 6" in front of your face like other box goggles.

None of this would matter if the FXT Viper wasn't a great goggle. Good news: it's a great goggle! Image quality and resolution are comparable to others in this price range. The user interface makes it easy to find the channel you're looking for and switch to it quickly. RF performance is impressive. There's a DVR. It's even got an HDMI input so you can use it as an auxiliary display when you're not flying FPV.

If you wear glasses and struggle to use other FPV box-style goggles, I highly recommend the FXT Viper. If you don't wear glasses, a cheaper goggle like the Eachine EV800D would probably make more sense. The Viper is quite good, but it's hard to justify the price premium unless you really want the unique things it brings to the table.
FPV Monitor Screenhttps://www.getfpv.com/4-3-lcd-fpv-monitor-with-5-8ghz-32ch-raceband-receiver.htmlSome people would rather look at a screen on a their transmitter (RC Controller) rather than in FPV goggles or on a tripod. This screen comes with mounting brackets to attach it.

You will also need good drone tools and supplies, check out this post for more info.

If you have any questions or would like to suggest other parts, please leave a comment below.

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