Essential Tools and Materials for Building FPV Drones

Here is a list of essential FPV tools and materials for building and repairing FPV drones. I will make recommendations what products you might also want to get that are useful for troubleshooting and building.

Getting the “essential tools” listed in this post should be adequate to get you started with building and repairing a quadcopter. However it would be nice to have some of the “good-to-have tools too, but by no mean they are necessary.

All the links in this page are affiliate links. It doesn’t cost you anything, but if you make your purchase via one of these links I will receive a small commission to keep this blog going.

Essential Tools

These are the recommended and must-have tools for building and repairing your mini quad.

FPV Toolkit

Toolkits that are designed specifically for FPV come with many useful tools. It’s awesome if you don’t already have most of these tools, and usually this works out to be cheaper than purchasing each of these items separately. They might not be the best quality, but will certainly be enough to get your started.


Soldering Tools

Choosing a good soldering iron and solder tin will take a whole blog post to explain. And there are other related tools you might want to get too which make soldering easier and the soldering quality better.

I recommend getting the TS100 soldering iron:

As for solder, I’d recommend:

And you also want to get some solder paste (flux):

Soldering Helping Hands

Soldering requires at least 4 hands – one to hold the iron, one for the solder and two others to hold the components. That’s why you want to get some “soldering helping hands” if hiring an assistant is too expensive.

Mounting putty (even cheaper): https://amzn.to/3xexEqJ


Hex Screw Driver Set

We mostly use hex screws in this hobby, so getting a set of hex screwdrivers is extremely important. The most common sizes you will need are:

  • 1.5mm
  • 2.0mm
  • 2.5 mm

Here are some good options:


Wire Cutters

multicopter-building-tools-wire-cutter

I use wire cutters for cutting zip ties, electrical wires etc. When I am being lazy I’d use it to strip wires too before soldering, not the best practice but it works.


Pliers

multicopter-building-tools-pliers

For gripping components while working with other tools (for example when soldering a wire to an XT60 or ESC power, the wire might become too hot to hold by hand). It can also be used as a nut wrench.


Prop Nut Wrench

We commonly use 5mm nylon lock nuts to secure propellers on motors, it’s not an easy job to tighten and undo them without proper tools.

My favourite is probably the Spedix one-way bearing wrench: https://oscarliang.com/product-sdun


Multimeter

A digital multimeter (DDM) can be used to troubleshoot your quad’s electronics, verifying voltage outputs, short circuit etc.

I have a whole tutorial explaining how to use a digital multimeter on an FPV drone. Some good DDM purchase options are:


Smoke Stopper

A “smoke stopper” is a testing device that you connect between the FPV drone and LiPo battery. You use it when you plug in the battery for the first time to see if the drone has a short circuit, which could potentially damage your components without a smoke stopper.

I recommend the Vifly ShortSafer V2 (review), it works and you can buy it off the shelf:


LiPo Voltage Checker

By simply connecting the balance lead of a LiPo battery to a LiPo checker, it tells you the voltage of the battery, as well as the voltage of each cell. It’s an important tool to have to monitor the state of your LiPo batteries on the go.


Good-to-have Tools

Your FPV friends will surely be impressed by these tools :)

Electric Screwdriver

Not necessary but a godsend if you have to do a bunch of 20mm, 30mm long screws often. Simply press a button and the screwdriver will do the rest for you. They also come with a wide selection of screwdriver bits, which could save you from buying those screwdrivers separately.

I recommend the ES126, it’s quite powerful and good quality.

Bench Power Supply

A bench power supply (PSU) has variable voltage output that can power many things, including your TS100 soldering iron, test your quad, FPV components, LiPo charger and so on.

My favorite at the moment is the ToolkitRC P200. It’s versatile and compact.

Tweezers

Tweezers are used to hold and move small components. cross-lock tweezers are preferred because they apply pressure when you release them, they won’t let go of your work even if you set them down.

Amazon: https://amzn.to/3sMLlK7


Wire Strippers

multicopter-building-tools-wire-stripper

I have one but I rarely use it (mostly due to laziness), I just use my cutters or scissors to strip wires most of the times. But wire strippers provide more consistent and precise results if you are a perfectionist.


Heat Gun

multicopter-building-tools-hot-air-gun

Heat gun, or hot-air gun, is mainly used to shrink heat-shrink insulation tubes. Yes, you can just use a lighter, but heat guns provide more consistent heat and don’t leave burn marks.


File Set

multicopter-building-tools-file-set

You’ll use these files to modify and clean up things like carbon fiber frame parts, giving them a nice and smooth finish.


Digital Caliper

multicopter-building-tools-vernier-gauge-caliper

Useful for precise measurement up to 0.1mm.


Digital Scale

multicopter-building-tools-digital-scale

Every gram counts for RC models that fly, so having an accurate tool to weigh your quadcopter and components is important. Having 1g precision is good enough generally, but 0.1g is even better. Make sure maximum capacity is over 1kg, if you plan to build larger models you might want to choose one with even higher weight limit.


Clamp Meter

A clamp meter allows you to measure current instantaneously by clamping the jaws around a wire without the need to break into the circuit to take measurements. It’s capable of measuring higher current than a multimeter, but the accuracy might be lower and they are fairly expensive.


Kapton Tape

Kapton tape is basically non-stretchy translucent electrical tape. It can withstand high temperature and won’t melt easily, therefore is great for covering PCB when soldering, and wrapping components when you don’t have the right sized clear heatshrink.

Amazon: https://amzn.to/3sGtu7u


Watt Meter

A watt meter can measure current drawn and power consumption. It’s useful for testing motor or even measuring the power of a whole quadcopter.


Motor Thrust Testing Stand

You will need a motor thrust stand for testing motors, propellers and ESC. You can measure thrust, current draw (power), RPM etc.

Soldering Fume Extractor

multicopter-building-tools-soldering-smoke-filter

Solder fumes are very bad for your lung. Some people can become sensitized to flux fumes, especially from the older rosin flux used in cored solder, and get breathing problems.


RF Power Meter

For testing and measuring radio/video transmitter output power. ImmersionRC Power Meter V2 is an compact and affordable option.


FTDI Adapter

multicopter-building-tools-usb-serial-converter-adapter

FTDI adapter, aka serial converter, can be useful for programming ESC, OSD, FC etc. In the events of damaged USB port on your FC, you can also use it to connect your FC to your computer via one of the UART.


Propeller Balancer

multicopter-building-tools-Propeller-Balancer

A nice addition if you fly 7″ or larger quadcopters, those big propellers might need balancing for the best possible performance. Mini quad propellers such as 5″/6″ and smaller don’t normally require prop balancing.


Supplies and Materials

Electrical Tape

multicopter-building-tools-electrical-tape

Electrical tape is generally a must-have whenever working with electrical stuff. It’s great for insulation and holding parts in place in your FPV drone build. I also use it for masking when I am soldering.

I only use 3M Super 35, it’s stretchy vinyl and pretty flexible, great for wrapping motor wires or ESC on the drone arms too.

Amazon: https://amzn.to/3ngQNn5


Double-sided Tape

Double sided tape is for sticking components inside the build.


Zip Ties

Useful sizes (width): 2mm, 3mm and 4mm: https://oscarliang.com/product-m5zz


Electrical Wires

Get your electrical wires in various gauges, commonly used sizes for 5″ FPV drones are 12AWG, 14AWG for power, 20AWG for motors, and 28AWG for signals. The size requirement depends on the current going through the wire, check out this guide about electrical wires and connector for more detail.


Heat-shrink Tubes

Get various sizes for different applications, e.g. 2mm, 3mm for motor wires and XT60 pigtail, 20mm, 25mm for ESCs / RX, etc.

For wires – Red & Black Assortment 198 Pieces For ESC/RX – Clear 25mm 2:1 shrink ratio
http://amzn.to/2iYZVQN http://amzn.to/2ADcPbw

Battery Pads

A good battery pad will stop your battery from sliding, or getting punctured by the screw heads on the frame. The best battery pads on the market right now is probably the Ummagrip:

Original Version (3mm thick)

Lite Version (1.5mm thick)


Thread Locker

Information about thread locker, basically it prevents screws from coming loose due to vibration.

Amazon: https://amzn.to/2Qrl5aV


Hardware

M3 Stainless Steel Screws Assortment: https://amzn.to/3tOpPpA

M3 Nylon Hardware Kit:

Banggood – http://bit.ly/2AB4p6s
Amazon – https://amzn.to/3xlFMph

Silicone Conformal Coating

By coating this on your electronics, it makes it water proof! You can learn more in my tutorial.


Isopropyl Alcohol

Isopropyl alcohol can be used as a degreaser, solvent and cleaning agent. You can use it to clean residue from burnt solder flux, as well as just general cleaning of your electronics. It can also be used to remove certain types of glue, as well as silicone conformal coating.


Edit History

  • April 2015 – Post created
  • October 2015 – Updated with pictures
  • May 2017 – 10 more items added
  • Apr 2021 – Shortened page URL, reviewed and re-organized items, updated product links

18 thoughts on “Essential Tools and Materials for Building FPV Drones

    1. Oscar Post author

      You are not supposed to oil brushless motors, the bearing is actually sealed off from outside, so the oil will only gather dust and make it worse in the long run.

      Reply
  1. Dave Pierce

    Hi Oscar,

    Your knowledge and webpage has been a huge inspiration ans source of information to me as I enter this wonderful hobby.
    My only issue is with your choice of side cutter for cutting electrical wiring. After 40+ years of design, implementation and production assembly experience, I can say with confidence that a side cutter is not the tool of choice to cut a wire.
    A side cutter creates a pinched wire end that can cause additional issues when it comes to termination and tinning with solder.
    Every production line I have ever been exposed to has deemed this practice as complete voodoo and improper.
    What you should use is a form of shear (similar to a scissor action), just like that found on a t-stripper.
    I sincerely hope this helps both you and your loyal followers such as I am.

    Reply
    1. Oscar Post author

      Hi Dave, thanks for the comment :)
      perhaps not the most professional choice for cutting wires, but surely it’s practical and quick.
      I have been doing it for years as a hobby and it haven’t been a problem for me… but your comment valuable for those who are looking for alternative solutions!

      Reply
    2. adium

      I second the opinion on those wire strippers. You are better with the ones that have 20-30 gauge holes already cut. Cheaper, simpler and faster.

      And if you have money to burn, get yourself some Hotweezers. These things are fantastic!

      Reply
  2. darkhawk

    My recomendation: a skatetool for the prop nuts! you will screw and unscrew these a lot and a tool that you hold like that will make changing props a whole lot easier and faster.

    Reply
    1. Oscar Post author

      thank you very much for the tip Darkhawk! really love that idea :)

      lastly, i would really appreciate it if you could join the forum: http://intoFPV.com … I don’t want to miss your comment, because I only check my blog comments once a week, but I use the forum daily!

      Reply
  3. Les E

    Hi Oscar,

    Also try a set of dental picks. Cheap on ebay. They’re good for pulling, for example, that last zip tie under the top of the frame through the rats nest of wires, or the end of a velcro strap through the holes that are otherwise a pain to pull back up through the frame.

    Reply
  4. Shay

    Hi Oscar, thanks for this article.
    I’d highly recommend having a lipo balancer, such as SkyRC lipo pal. When charging your lipos and especially when preparing them for storage, I usually use this tool to balance the cells. This prevents cells from getting out of balance over time.

    Reply
  5. Bill

    I didn’t see any crimpers for making custom length servo wires. The crimpers that Lutro0 recommends are the best ones I’ve found.

    mainframecustom.com/shop/cable-sleeving/lc-ratchet-crimper/

    Reply
  6. Martin

    On the topic of wire cutters. After I saw David Windestäl’s V3 build video I had to have the same magical wire strippers. Amazon will most likely have it (knipex 12 40 200).

    I felt like Harry Potter in the wand store after I first held it. It’s genius and I highly recommend it. It really is as simple as sticking the wire(s!! All 3, in the case of servo wires) in and cut! Done.

    (amazon.co.uk/Knipex-12-40-200-Stripping/dp/B0001P0BYY/ref=pd_sxp_f_pt)

    Reply
  7. M.G

    Dear Oscar,

    Thank you very much for all the information you give, without it I never had any clue how to start building my mini-quad.
    I love your articles, I have read every one of them and i’m always waiting for your next article.

    keep up the good work! Thank you

    Reply
  8. Kevin Goff

    Great post. I also think it would be useful to keep heat shrink larger than tubes. They are useful for covering the larger boards that you might want to protect. (rpi etc) I haven’t really found a good source for them. Old retired circuit boards are great things to hang off your frame as platforms too.

    Reply

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