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Fly Like Mr Steele On A Budget

This is a guest article by JJ Faulkner

In the article you will learn how to build and setup a freestyle drone to achieve similar performance to Mr Steele’s drones.

Firstly if you haven’t seen Mr Steele’s YouTube channel you should go check that out, he produces some excellent content. I came across his channel a couple of years ago and was instantly hooked since I flew RC planes at the time. However, the components he used were expensive and since I am a student I couldn’t afford to get into that side of the hobby at the time. Since the price of components has tumbled you can build a high performance drone to match his performance for a reasonable price and I’m here to share how I managed this. This article is for people with past building experience.

Build Parts

For the drone:

Most parts from Banggood (prices are approx.)

  • Frame – Realacc X210 4mm (£20)
  • Motors – Emax RS2205 2205 2600KV x4 (£52)
  • ESCs – Racerstar RS30A V2 30A x4 (£40)
  • PDB – Realacc HUBOSD (£12)
  • Flight Controller – X-Racer F303 V3.1 (£25)
  • Radio Receiver – FrSky X4R-SB (£22)
  • Video Transmitter – Aomway TX001 (£26)
  • Video Antenna – Aomway 5.8GHz antenna pair (£10)
  • Camera – Foxeer HS1177 (£28)
  • Propellers – 10 Pairs KingKong 5040 (£5)
  • Nylon Spacers – 88pcs M3 Nylon Spacers Screw Nut Assortment Kit (£4)
  • Electrical Tape – PVC Electrical tape (£1)
  • Battery Strap – Eachine battery strap x5 (£1)

Necessities:

  • Radio Transmitter – Taranis X9D Plus (I brought a used radio for £60 to save money)
  • Video Goggles – Fatshark Dominators (I brought a used pair for £100 to save money)
  • Charger – Hobbyking DC-4S Balance Charger & Cell Checker (£10)
  • Batteries – MultiStar Racer Series 1400mAh 4S 40-80C (£16)

The total cost for this build will be around £500 depending on how many batteries you purchase (I have included 5 batteries in this price), considering Mr Steele said his specific setup would cost around £1500 this is a great price for the performance you can achieve.

Realacc X210

 

This is an X frame based on the QAV-X. It is a unibody design that weighs only 88 grams. Mr Steele uses a 5 inch alien frame that is much more expensive. I prefer the X210 because it is lighter, the battery is bottom mounted and it has an integrated camera mount for HD cameras. The only downside is that the unibody frame means if you break an arm you have to replace the whole base plate, luckily I haven’t done this yet!

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Emax RS2205 2205 2600KV

 

This motor is still one of the most powerful out there even though it was released over a year ago. It is very rugged and will survive crashes in most situations. One of Mr Steele’s friends FinalGlideAus (another great pilot) ran this motor for a while, this shows the potential of the motor. Mr Steele uses his own custom motor which are said to be the ’smoothest’ out there, but they are expensive and cannot match this motor on thrust. Emax have released a new improved version of this motor and if you want to spend a little bit more money I would suggest them.

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Racerstar RS30A V2

This ESC runs on blheli_s and can capably run Dshot 600 when the cap is removed, I will show you how to do this below. Running Dshot gives you very responsive and smooth flight characteristics. It has solder pads which are very convenient for soldering motor wires to directly. Mr Steele runs the Kiss 24a ESC, it runs its own custom firmware that is very reliable and offers good performance. The Kiss ESC is much easier to set up but the RS ESC has much more flexibility to suit many different types quadcopters and it is much cheaper.

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Realacc HUBOSD

This OSD can accurately read current up to 140a and it shows consumed mAh so you don’t need to have an annoying buzzer or rely on a timer to judge when to land. This OSD is very easy to setup, just solder your camera and transmitter to the corresponding pads. You can also program the STOSD8 chip to adjust what you can see. It also has regulators to give you a clean power supply. Mr Steele uses an old type of OSD, the PNP50. It is bulky and you would struggle to fit it in the X210 frame. This OSD can accurately read up to 50a, considerably less than the HUBOSD.

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X-Racer F303 V3.1

The X-Racer can run 8k 8K on Betaflight 3.0+ thanks to the MPU 6000 gyro, this means you can have a very responsive quad with very minimal oscillations. This board has specific solder pads for the fr-sky receiver which makes it easy to set up. Also the way the solder pads are designed makes it very easy to directly solder to the board, this creates a stronger connection and saves weight. Mr Steele uses the Kiss FC which performs flawlessly out of the box but has a very limited number of features. One of Betaflights main advantages is being able to change the PIDS during flight from your transmitter.

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FrSky X4R-SB

This receiver has become an industry standard for pilots using the fr-sky protocol. It offers long range and very low latency which is very important for response time. When de-soldered this receiver is also very compact so it will fit in most builds. Mr Steele also uses this receiver and he says it is the most reliable out there.

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Aomway TX001

This is Aomays version of the TBS unify pro. They both can take the same input voltage and you can adjust the power output on both. The TX001 pro can output up to 600mW and the unify pro can output up to 800mW. They both have the extended SMA connector so you shouldn’t be able to rip the connection off in a crash. Mr Steele uses the unify pro, but both are very similar.

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Aomway 5.8GHz Antenna

This antenna offers a very clear image and gives you a good range. It is also durable and will survive the majority of crashes. Mr Steele uses the TBS triumph, this is probably the most durable antenna out there, but it is 3 times the price of the Aomway antenna.

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Foxeer HS1177         

This camera is regarded the industry standard, there are many different brands that make similar cameras but they all use the same CCD chip so they all perform roughly the same. This type of camera can handle bright and low light very well and switches seamlessly between the two. If you fit the camera with a GoPro lens the picture quality becomes even better. Mr Steele also uses a camera of this type. I will show you my camera settings below.

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KingKong 5040 propellers  

These props are well balanced out the pack and they give good thrust without sucking too many amps. These props are very durable, you can just bend them back in to place after crashes because they don’t shatter. The KingKong props are very similar to the HQ V1s 5040 in the way they perform and handle crashes. Mr Steele now uses the HQ V1s props, but they are $2 a pair whereas the KingKong 5040 are $7 for 10 pairs.

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Taranis X9D Plus

This is the most popular radio in the RC hobby. It offers a very robust radio link that rarely fails and is a very good price. The fr-sky protocol is considered as the best currently available. The Taranis is also very customizable with its open source firmware, there are also many switches that allow us to take full advantage of all the features in Betaflight. Mr Steele still believes this is the best radio for quadcopters and he has tried many different brands. If you want to make this radio even better I would suggest fitting it with the hall sensor gimbals. I purchased my Taranis second hand from my local flying club to reduce the cost, it performs as if it were new.

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Fatshark Dominators

This googles are the first edition of the well know Dominator goggles. The reason why I chose these goggles is because they were fairly cheap to buy second hand and have a module receiver design, so you can fit a diversity module in the future. They offer a good picture and field of view for your first pair of goggles. The only thing they are missing is a DVR. Mr Steele uses the Dominator HD V2, these are a much high quality version of the original Dominators. They have high resolution, larger FOV and a DVR. You get what you pay for from Fatshark and the HD V2 will cost 3 times as much as the original Dominators.

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DC-4S Balance Charger

This is a very basic charger, but it is suitable for someone just starting because you don’t require an extra power supply. Also it is very cheap and acts as cell checker also. Mr Steele uses the iCharger 406 duo, this charger is very powerful and when combined with a parallel board it can charger 12 packs within an hour. However his setup is a lot more expensive because you have to get a powerful power supply. I normally spend the morning charging all my packs one after another and then go flying in the evening, this has worked for me for a year now. However this is one part in my gear I would like to upgrade so I can charge multiple packs at once.

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MultiStar Racer Series

These batteries are very good for the price. They offer high discharges and low weight, the two properties required for a freestyle battery. I have 6 of these packs and this gives me a perfect amount of time for a flying session. Mr Steele uses the ThunderPower adrenaline series, these batteries are very lightweight and give out great power. These batteries come at a pretty big price though, you could either buy two Multistar packs or one ThunderPower and I would rather have the longer flight time than the bigger punch.

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The Setup

So once you have built the quad and setup the basics such as motor direction and failsafe. Now you can go ahead and install the latest version of Betaflight on the flight controller and blheli_s on the ESC’s.

Rates & PIDs

The rates I use are the same as Mr Steele’s that he published as while back on his YouTube channel. They are fairly snappy so it might take a bit of time to get the timing correct for rolls and flips. I mainly use the Super Rate feature to adjust the rates, this makes it feel more like the Kiss rate system. As you can see from the screenshot my roll and pitch rates are the same and the yaw rate is slightly lower.

To make the quad fly like Mr Steele in the air you need to have high P and I gain and low D gain. This makes the quad feel very precise on the sticks. Even if you have the exact same setup as me use these PIDS as a starting point, because PIDS are different for every quad even if they use the same components. I also soft mount my motors to reduce vibrations (strongly recommend) this means I can raise the P and I terms more without getting oscillations.

ESC’s

The first thing we need to do is remove the filter cap from ESC. I use a scalpel to simply pick the cap off, look at the diagram shown to make sure you remove the correct capacitor. Now you can select Dshot 600 in the Betaflight configurator. The final thing I like to do when mounting the ESC’s is place part of a broken prop over the ESC and tape it down, so that if the prop bends down during flight it doesn’t damage the ESC. When you use these unbreakable props I highly suggest this because they can easily bend down after hitting something and you’ll soon have an ESC fire if you don’t cover them.

 

 

Camera

The settings I use on my FPV camera are exactly the same as Mr Steele’s, I used his camera settings video on YouTube to get these (this video is below). I also run 25 degrees of uptilt normally because I find this is the perfect angle for fast flying and slowly proximity flying.

 

Finished Product

I will never know if this quad will fly like Mr Steele’s setup because I have never flown his quad, but I do know this is a very capable freestyle quad. I have only been flying drones for a short while and I can already throw this thing around. I have put together a small edit for you guys to enjoy, more practise is needed to be on Mr Steele’s level!

This is a guest article by JJ Faulkner

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3 comments

  1. Nice article, however there are some changes I would make to this product and make it fly even better. Firstly, the RS30A V2 esc’s are 40 pounds, and the Spedix esc’s, which are some of the best esc’s you can buy are just under 24 pounds for 4 of the 20amp variant, around 28 pounds for 4 of the 25 amp variant, and around 34 pounds for 4 for the 30 amp variant. The newest RCX 2206 V2 2400kv motors are also a much better motor on a budget if you can get your hands on them, and at around 45 pounds for all 4, they are an almost unbeatable deal, producing over 1400 grams of thrust on a 5inch propeller. I would also say that regarding VTX’s, the aomway is an expensive VTX, and you are much better off going for the VTX03 from bang good. It may not have 600mw, only unto 200mw, but when flying with friends, 200mw is the max that you can really go, 600mw is often unnecessary. Regarding radio’s, I would say nowadays, the most expensive radio you need to go for is the new taranis QX7, but even if that is too expensive, or you don’t feel comfortable taking apart a radio, the turnigy evolution is still the best budget radio. I know I am going on a bit, but lastly, the flight controller. The X-Racer F303 board is an extremely good board, however the hyperlite f4, and the rotor geeks SSD F3 are both in the price range of this board, and they both, in my opinion out perform the relatively old F303. I know I have gone on a bit, however inexpensive builds are something that I wish I had more knowledge on when I started flying, and now that I have better knowledge on what is good and what is not, these are just my opinions. I don’t want to start any debate, but I just wanted to give my opinion.

    • Thanks for the comment, some nice upgrades there. It’s all down to personal preference and the tune. A well tuned quad with old gear is very capable.

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