Here is a list of useful and essential tools, spares parts you should have on hand when building your first mini quad or quadcopter. 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 is divided into 3 parts, Basic, Advance, Professional and Spare. I’ve been in the hobby for over 5 years and still don’t have all the tools in this list, but getting items in the Professional level is something I am working towards to. Generally speaking having the basic tools in this list should be enough to get you started with building a quadcopter.
Not everything here is necessary, but you will see how these tools will make quadcopter building more efficient and of higher quality.
Basic and Essential Tools
Recommended and Must Have Tools for building and repairing your mini quad. Hopefully you might already have some of these tools in your garage tool box.
Soldering Iron and Accessories
The most important tool would probably be the Soldering Iron. It’s used to melt solder and make connections between components. You will be using it a lot in building as well as repairing throughout your FPV flying career.
Some of my recommendations:
- Weller WLC100 40-Watt Soldering Station (Good value): http://amzn.to/2qGKaQU
- Portable soldering iron – TS100
- Tip Cleaning tool: http://amzn.to/2qH0KAf
Get one with a good soldering tip. Personally I prefer pencil and chisel tips, which are are good for precise works such as soldering small pads on FC. Some prefer bevel tip for larger area soldering, such as XT60 connectors and PDB pads.
Make sure you get enough solder (solder wire) for your soldering jobs. Here are my favorite:
Also be aware of “fake” lead solder: “lead solder turns out to be lead-free”
It’s optional but a good idea to also get some soldering flux (soldering paste) for preventing oxidation and making soldering easier. For example: http://amzn.to/2sttBJj
For removing solder you can get solder suckers or de-soldering wick (solder braid): http://amzn.to/2sta6QV
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).
- Wiha Hex Driver Set – http://amzn.to/2rKsYdo
Screw Drivers Set
For the screw sizes typically found on multirotor, both cross slotted and single slotted.
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.
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.
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, amateur 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.
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!
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.
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.
LiPo Battery Cell Meter – aka lipo voltage checker, checks the voltage of your battery, it’s important to get one that displays the voltage per cell as well. Get it from BG.
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.
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.
Basic and must have
- Propellers – Prop should be considered consumable, and you will need a lot of them!
- Zip Ties in various sizes – width of 2.5mm and 4mm are the ones i use the most (I ordered 500 cable ties 6 months ago, and I am about to run out! )
- Silicon electrical wires of various gauges – It depends on how much current you are conducting through the wire, check out this chart for more information. For example for my mini quads I use 14-16 AWG for power distribution, and 18-20 AWG wires for ESC/motor.
- Heat-shrink tubes of various sizes, e.g. 2mm, 3mm for motor wires and power distribution, 20mm, 25mm for ESCs.
- XT60 / JST connectors plugs (Male and Female) – for LiPo Batteries, DIY power adapter etc.
- Servo Extension wires – Connecting components together, such as FC and RX
- Adhesive Velcro or hook and loop tape – useful for securing components on the frame, such as Lipo, radio receiver, mobius/Gopro etc.
- Spare Frame Parts – Arms (booms), body plates, screws, washers, nuts etc. Everyone pretty much will break their frame at some point.
- Extra Nylon lock nuts – For the frame, get M3, for prop nuts, get M5
- LiPo battery balance plug – See why you should stock up balance plug.
- RX antennas
- Battery straps – Battery velcro straps can break in crashes
- Pin Header – Creating connection points on your PCB such as FC or PDB
Good to have spare
- Spare Motors and ESC – They generally don’t break easily, but when they do they takes a while to deliver, good to have spare.
- Loctite (thread locker) – Information about Loctite glue. I loctite the prop adapter side screws, motor screws, frame screws.
- 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.
- Nylon Lock Nuts for M3/M4/M5 threads – Good for mounting propellers, or used on 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.
- Anit Vibration FC mounting Pad / Vibration Absorbing foam – I use these sticker pad a lot to mount my FC, or make camera mount using it.
- Screws and bolts in various size
- Spare soldering iron tips
- Double sided tape – Holding down components that don’t need to be easily removed and vibration damping
- Servo Leads (3 wire jumper cables) – used in RX to FC, OSD, etc, also good to have spare for ESC.
- M3 Nylon standoff kits – usually includes nylon screws, bolts and spacers, useful for mounting FC/PDB stack in the frame
- Spare Micro / Mini USB cable for Flight Controller and Camera
- SMA Connector – various angle, in case you break it on the VTX, or you want a different angle connector
- 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.
- Rapstrap – reusable, elastic, strong cable tie.
Don’t forget to bring a box of tissue to wipe your tears when you crash. :D
- April 2015 – Post created
- October 2015 – Updated with pictures
- May 2017 – 10 more items added