Here is a list of useful and essential tools, spares parts you should get when building your quadcopter and drone. Some equipment listed are not necessary but will make building/flying multirotors much easier, more enjoyable and professional.
Tools and Equipment For Building FPV Mini Quad
So here’s the list of tools and equipment we recommend to have around when building multirotors.
The list of tools is divided into 3 parts, Basic, Advance and Professional, followed by a list of useful Spare materials. I strongly recommend getting all the Basic tools, should be enough to get you started with building a quadcopter. Advance and Professional tools are relevant to building and repairing quads too, so pick whichever you see useful :)
Basic and Essential Tools
These are the recommended and must-have tools for building and repairing your mini quad. Hopefully you might already have some of these tools in your tool box.
See this article for what soldering iron, solder and soldering related tools I recommend.
Allen keys Set (Hex Screw Driver Set)
As known as Hex drives, is used to tighten or loosen the hex screws in your quadcopter parts such as frames and motors. Having a set of allen keys of different sizes available can be extremely helpful . Look for metric sets, 1.3mm-4mm sizes. (for prop adapters, frame screws, motor screws etc).
Screw Driver Set
For the screw sizes typically found on multirotor, both cross slotted and single slotted.
|ES120 electric screw driver||If you build/repair often, an electric screw driver will help a lot||https://oscarliang.com/review-es120-electric-screw-driver/|
Hex Nut driver / wrench
Hex nuts used in mini quads are normally M2, M3 on the frames, M4, M5 on the motor/prop, so finding nut driver or wrench for M2 to M5 should cover most of your need. I sometimes even just use a pair of pliers for the job.
- WORKPRO Sockets Set – http://amzn.to/2rgQltZ
A.k.a. Side cutters – I use them to cut zip ties, electrical wires, magnet wires etc.
For gripping components while working with other tools. It can also be used as a nut wrench.
Everyday use – 3M Super 35: https://amzn.to/2MrElgI
I think that’s vinyl, it’s Stretchy and flexible, great for wrapping ESC on the arms. Avoid getting those PVC electrical tapes, they are more rigid and tend to tear, doesn’t stick to itself as well.
Heavy Duty – Scotch Super 88: https://amzn.to/2tCCL3U
Thicker and heavier than 35
3M 110 Double Sided Foam Tape
I use double sided foam tape to between ESC’s and the arms. It keeps the ESC from sliding around on the arm, as well as absorbing some of the impact when the ESC hits something in a crash. I also use it on VTX, and RX.
Strong double sided foam tape.
It resists high temperature and won’t melt easily.
Great for covering PCB when soldering, wrapping electronics when you don’t have the right heatshrink (and it’s transparent!).
A must have if you are working with electrical components, wires. Electrical tapes are also useful to hold parts in place and can be used for masking.
Double-sided Foam Tape
It helps sticking two components together, the foam also has vibration damping property.
Less Strong – http://amzn.to/2j0Owjo I usually use this to stick ESC/RX to the frame, then wrap them around with zip tie. They are not strong enough to hold the component to the frame, but they are easy to remove later.
Very Strong – http://amzn.to/2ABBiht This stuff is extremely sticky, it will hold the components really well alone without any aid from zip tie. But it’s also really hard to remove, I once had components ripped off from the circuit board when I peeled this tape off my ESC. Wrap your component with electrical tape first before using this :)
An obvious one, I guess everyone should have a pair scissors in the house, right? :)
Don’t throw away your old toothbrushes, they can be more useful than you think. I use them a lot in the field, to clean dirt and mud off my quad, prop thread, motors and gaps etc.
Multimeter is a very important tool for multirotor builders, it’s used to check voltage, resistance and current in a circuit, as well as testing for short-circuits and trouble-shooting.
The basic hobbyist level multimeters only cost a few bucks (e.g. this one from BG), however they probably isn’t suitable for measuring motor current draw, which is too much for them. For high current measurement you should get a proper watt meter (power meter).
Heat shrink tubes require a heat source to shrink. A lighter is probably the most cost effective companion to heatshrinks.
Utility knife, box cutter or hobby-knife, is great for cutting or removing components such as heatshrinks or wire protection.
It’s used when you plug in the battery to your quad for the first time. If there is a short somewhere, it’s supposed to cut the power and save your components. It’s something you have to build by yourself, but cheap and easy :)
Advanced User Tools
These tools makes building and repairing much easier, and therefore are recommended.
Soldering helping hand – it makes soldering so much easier with the “helping hands” hold your components in place to stop them from moving. It would also be nice to have the magnifying glass for precision work. Get it from BG.
Tweezers – To hold on to and move small components or wires. Also useful for shorting out boot pins on flight controllers!
Silicone Mat for Soldering
Wire strippers – I don’t actually use one myself, I use cutters and scissors for stripping wires. But wire strippers provide more consistent and precise results.
Hot glue gun with spare glue sticks – hot glue is tough, easy to use and quick. It’s also easy to peel off if you need to. Very handy to have for DIY mods and building.
Epoxy glue – if hot glue isn’t rigid and strong enough, you could try epoxy glue. Epoxy glues are rated by the time it settles, e.g. 5 min, 15 min, 30 min etc. The longer settle time, the stronger it is.
Heat gun – or hot-air gun, is great for heat-shrink tubes. Lighter also works but heat guns provide more consistent heat and don’t leave burn marks. Hair dryer might also work depends on the power of heat-element.
Liquid electrical tape – comes as thick paint, when it’s dried it forms a waterproof coating that protects exposed electrical circuit and solder joints. It’s useful for preventing short-circuits and increase water resistance in power distribution board (PDB), bare board cameras and FC. They are more effective than dry tapes as they stay on better. They can also be peeled off easily if required.
Sand Paper / File Set – gives you the nice and smooth edges on materials like wood, fiber glass, carbon fiber etc. Especially in carbon fibre frames where the edges are usually very sharp after cutting, “file-finish” the edges can prevent declamations during impact. Needle file can also be used to widen holes on carbon fibre frames.
- 6-piece file set – http://amzn.to/2yDXHsS
Servo Tester – it makes it easier to troubleshoot and test ESC and motor spin direction. Also useful for motor thrust testing. Get it from BG.
Parallel Charging Board
A parallel charging board allows you to charge multiple battery packs at the same time. But you should be aware that there are risks involved when parallel charging LiPos, and you must fully understand how it works before doing so. Read this tutorial to learn how to parallel charge LiPo.
so you need to make sure you fully understand what those risks are so you don’t end up burning your house down. Oscar has a good article on that HERE.
If you do end up going down the parallel charging route then only look at getting boards which have built-in protection (inline automotive fuses or poly fuses that will blow in case of excessive current draw). Safe charging and storage of LiPo batteries is one thing that still scares the sh*t out of m
LiPo Battery checker, a great safety tool for monitoring Lipo battery voltage to avoid over-discharging it. It’s also important to check the voltage per cell in your LiPo before doing parallel charging.
Vernier Caliper (or digital ruler) – for precise measurement up to 0.1mm
Digital Scale – I recommend to get one with at least 1KG capacity with precision up to 0.1g
Propeller Balancer – A nice addition if you fly larger quadcopters (e.g. 8″, 9″, or 10″). Mini Quad propellers such as 5″ and 4″ don’t require balancing in most cases.
Clamp Meter – A clamp meter allows you to measure current instantaneously by clamping the jaws around a wire, which means you don’t need to break into the circuit to take measurement. It’s able to measure higher current and safer than traditional multimeter. But the con’s are lower accuracy and they are usually more expensive.
Professional Builder Tools
This is how to Look nerdy in front of your friends, or if you build quads for a living :)
- Electric drill / miniature drill / hand drill / model drill – useful to have for drilling holes. I sometimes just use a knife and scissors as alternative for quick jobs.
- Watt Meter – Capable of measuring high current and power. Often used for motor power testing or measuring power of quadcopters. For example this one from Turnigy.
- Motor Thrust Station – For testing and measuring prop, motor, ESC current draw, thrust, power, RPM etc. High end: RCBenchmark, Low end: Turnigy. Alternatively you can also build one :)
Multiple Arms Third Hand/Soldering station
Apart from using it for soldering you can also use it for holding your quad for photo shooting. Here is our Review on the 6-arm soldering station from Realacc.
- Oscilloscope – an oscilloscope can be used to measure electrical signals and noise.
- Adjustable Power Supply – Useful for testing certain electronics components. In fact you can build your own with some adjustable voltage regulator as a cheap alternative. But they don’t usually provide enough power for testing motors. For high current applications, you might want to consider converting a Server/PC PSU for it.
- Junior Hacksaw – Good tool to have if you DIY a lot.
- Rubbing Alcohol and wipes – to clean areas before setting down adhesive strips. Also useful to clean any grease and oil on soldering pads surface before you solder.
- Smoke Filter for your soldering jobs – 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. A ghetto alternative is to just get a mini fan that keeps air flowing
- RF Power Meter – For testing and measuring radio/video transmitter output power.
- Dremel Tool Kit – Very useful tool as you can use it for cutting, drilling, polishing, and so on.
You’ll need to replace the parts in your quadcopter from time to time. Buying extra can minimize the wait for shipping. For example when building a new mini quad, I always get 5 motors and 5 ESC so I have backup when one fails.
Products in the FPV industry have a very short life span, which means manufacturers and shops don’t keep enough in stock. Also most of the parts are made in China, shipping could take weeks to ship around the world.
Here is a list of spare parts that you might find useful for building and repairing your multirotors.
I personally get them in various sizes – mostly the 2.5mm (width) and 4mm.
Electrical Wires & XT60 Connectors
Get them in various gauges, commonly used sizes are 12, 14, 16, 18 and 28AWG – The size requirement depends on current going through the wire, check out this guide about electrical wires and connector for more detail.
Get various sizes for different wires, e.g. 2mm, 3mm for motor wires and power distribution, 20mm, 25mm for ESCs.
|For wires – Red & Black Assortment 198 Pieces||For ESC/RX – Clear 25mm 2:1 shrink ratio|
To mount your LiPo battery on the frame, both Adhesive Velcro and Kyosho Sheet are popular options. The Velcro is cheap but you have to stick it on both the frame and batteries. Kyosho sheet are much more convenient to work with and it’s sticky again when you clean it with water.
Not only they keep your battery in position, they also prevents your batteries from getting punctured by the screws heads on the frame.
|Adhesive Velcro||Kyosho Sheet 3mm|
Two types, thin ones and thicker ones, depends on how wide the battery strap slot is in your frame. Thicker ones are always preferred if you can as they are rougher, but also a few grams heavier.
I would advise you get ones that have rubberised thread running along the inside of the straps. This will help to reduce the chances of your battery slipping out and being ejected in a crash.
|Strap with Rubberized Surface (thin and light)||Kevlar Straps (thicker, stronger but heavier)|
- LiPo battery balance connector – See why you should stock up balance plug.
- RX antennas
- Pin Header – Creating connection points on your PCB such as FC or PDB
- Loctite (thread locker) – Information about Loctite glue. I mostly use loctite for mounting motors on the frame. It prevents screws coming loose due to vibration
- Nylon Lock Nuts – M5 thread for mounting propellers, M3 thread for frame
- Hex or cross slotted bolts in various size and lengths e.g. M3 8mm, 10mm – Many motors / frames uses this type of bolts, sometimes things break or loosen from vibration
- Rubber bobbins (standoffs) – for soft-mounting flight controllers
- M3 Screws and bolts in various sizes, these are used in assembling the frame. And M3 Nylon hardware kits – usually includes nylon screws, bolts and spacers, great for mounting FC/PDB stack in the frame
|M3 Screw Assortment – Button head||M3 Steel Screws Assortment – Cylindrical head||M3 Nylon Hardware Kit|
|Amazon||Amazon||Both F-F and F-M – Banggood
Female-Female Standoffs – Amazon
Female-Male Standoffs – Amazon
- Servo Leads (3 wire jumper cables) – can be used for connecting components without soldering
- MMCX to SMA pigtail
- U.FL to SMA pigtail
- U.FL to MMCX pigtail
- Rapstrap – reusable, elastic, strong cable tie. Basically re-usable zip tie
Don’t forget to bring a box of tissue to wipe your tears when you crash. :D
You probably won’t need, just to mention…
- Gold Bullet Connectors (banana plugs) – e.g. 2mm 3mm for motors / ESC, 4mm for batteries / XT60. If you usually solder motor/ESC directly together, you won’t need them
- Magnet wires – I use them to build LC filter, making circular polarized antenna etc.
- Coaxial Cable RG316 (more common) or RG402 (semi rigid) – used a lot for making antenna for FPV gear and TX/RX.
- SMA Connector – various angle, in case you break it on the VTX, or you want a different angle connector
- April 2015 – Post created
- October 2015 – Updated with pictures
- May 2017 – 10 more items added