Tools and Spare Parts for Building Quadcopters and Drones

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.

Soldering Iron

We explained in more detail what soldering tools you should get in this tutorial. Here is a summary what to buy.

Item Description Links
TS100 Compact and portable. It’s powered by DC 12V-24V. See review. http://bit.ly/TS100-solder-iron
TS80 Also compact and portable, but slightly better ergonomics than the TS100. However it can only be powered via USB-C. See review. http://bit.ly/2EoSvjE
Weller WLC100 One of the best value basic AC powered soldering iron for the bench. http://amzn.to/2vzEIlH
Hakko FX888 If you don’t like the TS100 and prefer an AC powered iron this is a good option. http://amzn.to/2xI8R1J

Solder

Using the right solder makes soldering so much enjoyable! Get some thin ones (e.g. 0.6mm diameter) because it helps with fine soldering. Either one of the following is great solder.

Item Description LInks
Kester 63/37 http://amzn.to/2A6IWCu
MG Chemical 63/37 http://amzn.to/2BnqK5F

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

multicopter-building-tools-screw-driver-set

For the screw sizes typically found on multirotor, both cross slotted and single slotted.

  •  –
Item Description Links
StarTech 7-piece http://amzn.to/2xCpGuw
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.

Wire cutters

multicopter-building-tools-wire-cutter

A.k.a. Side cutters – I use them to cut zip ties, electrical wires, magnet wires etc.

Pliers

multicopter-building-tools-pliers

For gripping components while working with other tools. It can also be used as a nut wrench.

Tapes

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.

https://www.amazon.com/3M-Heavy-Duty-Mounting-Black/dp/B01EOEW25S
Strong double sided foam tape.

Kepton 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!).
https://www.amazon.com/Mil-Kapton-Tape-Polyimide-Yds/dp/B006ZFQNT6/

Electrical Tape

multicopter-building-tools-electrical-tape

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 :)

Scissors

multicopter-building-tools-scissors

An obvious one, I guess everyone should have a pair scissors in the house, right? :)

Old Toothbrush

multicopter-building-tools-tooth-brush

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

multicopter-building-tools-multimeters

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).

Lighter

Heat shrink tubes require a heat source to shrink. A lighter is probably the most cost effective companion to heatshrinks.

Utility Knife

multicopter-building-tools-utility-knife

Utility knife, box cutter or hobby-knife, is great for cutting or removing components such as heatshrinks or wire protection.

Smoke Stopper

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 :)

How to build a smoke stopper.


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.

multicopter-building-tools-soldering-helping-hand

Tweezers – To hold on to and move small components or wires. Also useful for shorting out boot pins on flight controllers!

Cutting Mat

GetFPV | Banggood | Amazon

Silicone Mat for Soldering

BanggoodAmazon

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.

multicopter-building-tools-wire-stripper

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.

multicopter-building-tools-hot-glue-gun

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.

multicopter-building-tools-epoxy-glue

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.

multicopter-building-tools-hot-air-gun

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.

multicopter-building-tools-liquid-electrical-tape

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.

multicopter-building-tools-sand-paper multicopter-building-tools-file-set

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.

multicopter-building-tools-servo-tester

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.

multicopter-building-tools-lipo-battery-cell-voltage-checker

Vernier Caliper (or digital ruler) – for precise measurement up to 0.1mm

multicopter-building-tools-vernier-gauge-caliper

Digital Scale – I recommend to get one with at least 1KG capacity with precision up to 0.1g

multicopter-building-tools-digital-scale

ISP Progrommer / AVR programmer / USB to Serial adapter / Arduino Uno – useful for programming ESC, OSD, FC etc.

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

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.

multicopter-building-tools-Propeller-Balancer

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.
  • http://amzn.to/2rZhZfU

multicopter-building-tools-electrical drill

  • 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.

multicopter-building-tools-watt-meter

  • 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 :)

multicopter-building-tools-motor-thrust-stand-station rcbenchmark-thrust-stand-1520

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.

multicopter-building-tools-oscilloscope

  • 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.

multicopter-building-tools-adjustable-power-supply

  • Junior Hacksaw – Good tool to have if you DIY a lot.

multicopter-building-tools-hacksaw

  • 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

multicopter-building-tools-soldering-smoke-filter

  • 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.

multicopter-building-tools-dremel

Spares Parts

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.

Zip Ties

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.

Heat-shrink Tubes

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
http://amzn.to/2iYZVQN http://amzn.to/2ADcPbw

Battery Pads

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
Banggood
Amazon
Amazon

Battery straps

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)

multicopter-building-tools-loctite-thread-lock

  • 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

multicopter-building-tool-spare-Rapstrap

Most Importantly

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

Edit History

  • April 2015 – Post created
  • October 2015 – Updated with pictures
  • May 2017 – 10 more items added

18 thoughts on “Tools and Spare Parts for Building Quadcopters and 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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