The AirBladeX 130 X-Racer is a true X micro-quad racing frame that runs 3″ propellers.
Frame Design Philosophy
The designer of this frame, AirBlade UAV co-founder Nguyen Tran, had two criteria in mind to make a better frame than what is currently available in an X-configuration.
- The FC should be protected and isolated from other components
- The frame should be as low profile as possible
This design succeeds and allows a variety of choices for the builder in providing crash-protection for sensitive components, as well as placement of FPV components, and overall height (depending on choice of components).
Frame Unboxing and Included Components
The frame arrived well-protected in a padded envelope and packaged in a single poly sleeve with sealed compartments to keep the components separated.
- Main plate: 3mm 3K carbon fiber unibody X
- Mid-plate: 1.5mm 3K carbon fiber plate (for mounting camera, etc)
- Top-plate: 1.5mm 3K carbon fiber plate (with 2 choices for fixing VTx antenna)
- M3 Threaded Spacers: 20mm (4), 10mm (4), 8mm (4), 6mm (4)
- M3 Screws: 16mm (4), 6mm (12)
- Also included are (8) M3 3mm unthreaded spacers and a battery strap
The quality of the carbon fiber is top-notch, and while the finish is not the high-gloss in other frames I’ve seen, the surface weave is tight and the cuts are clean. The 3mm main plate is very solid, and even the 1.5mm plates allow very little flex. (And because of the design and size, the hardware should give way before any part of the frame.)
Assembling the Frame
Before starting assembly, I have to mention a small caveat about the kit. I found the hardware slightly insufficient to complete the frame build. I think that at a minimum, 4 additional 6mm M3 screws should have been included. Not a big deal for me, because I have plenty of M3 hardware of my own.
No assembly instructions were included with the frame, but by looking at the photos on AirBlade UAV’s website, it was easy enough to figure out how to put it together. However, you will need to make a few decisions before you start. Will you try to keep the FC stack isolated from the FPV stack (as the designer intended). If so, do you also want to use a PDB (or a 4-in1 ESC like me)?
I was curious how other people built this frame, and found some examples online. A common way to build the 130 X-Racer is with a single isolated FC on the “inner” stack, using standard ESC’s wired together (no PDB) beneath the stack. This is probably a very good way to build this quad, as it will crash-isolate the FC, keep the weight down, and there is plenty of room for a Pololu regulator to handle the voltage requirements of the FC or FPV equipment. (Another good option would be to use an all-in-one FC on this little beast.)
If you do decide you want to use a PDB and keep the PDB/FC stack isolated, the kit includes short 3mm spacers to keep the height down. Of course it’s also acceptable to attach the mid-plate directly to the FC stack (and I did see some builds like this online).
Assembly for an isolated FC only inner stack is very straight forward. Since there were no instructions included, I will go into some detail here.
First, assemble the inner stack: Use the (4) 16mm screws through the bottom of the main plate and into the (4) 8mm threaded spacers (these are threaded all the way through). Be sure and use the 4 holes at the ends of the battery-strap slots.
Then, mount the FC on the 4 exposed screws, and secure with the (4) 6mm threaded spacers used as nuts. If you have actual M3 nuts, you can use those instead.
Next, fasten the (4) 20mm threaded spacers to the main plate using (4) 6mm screws (through the other 4 holes on the plate).
Next, grab the mid-plate and fasten the (4) 10mm spacers using (4) 6mm screws through the bottom of the plate (using the holes at the ends of the side slots). [Attach your camera mount now if you have one.]
Next attach the mid-plate to the 20mm standoffs from the main plate using (4) 6mm screws through the remaining holes on the mid-plate. [Note: You should have clearance above the nuts holding the FC.]
Finally, attach the top-plate with (4) 6mm screws to complete the build. (This is where you will need the 4 additional 6mm screws.)
When you’re done, you have a nice little X-frame that comes in around 51 grams (including the flight controller).
Camera Choice and Alternate Builds
Because of the size of the frame, you are a bit limited in camera choices. If you stick with the “lower-overall-height” philosophy and the included 10mm spacers between the top- and mid-plates, you will need to select from the several micro cameras available. If you substitute 16-20mm spacers, you can fit in a FatShark-style 21×21 camera. (An HS1177-style camera won’t work without cutting out some of the top-plate.)
Also, if you decide to go with a PDB and FC, then the build requires a bit more planning and creativity to retain the isolated inner stack. This is the route I will take with my build (but using a 4-in-1 ESC as well as an Eachine 1000TVL CCD camera). The setup shown below is what I am going for.
Thoughts and Recommendations
I really like this frame and the philosophy of protecting the PDB/FC stack. I would recommend this frame for any experienced builder interested in a smaller racing quad. Equipped with 1306’s and 4s pushing some 3” tri-blades, this thing should scream!
The only change I would suggest to the manufacturer would be to include a better hardware selection (more screws, more and different standoffs), and detailed instructions for different ways to build it. That would make this little beast a real winner!