Useful Tools and Spare Parts for Building Multirotors 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 is divided into 3 parts, Basic, AdvanceProfessional 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

 multicopter-building-tools-soldering-iron 

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:

Wattage Temperature Range Changeable tip Temperature Display Price
YiHua 908+ 60W 220°C – 480°C Yes No $28
Weller WESD51 50W 175°C – 450°C Yes Yes $136
Weller WLC100 5W-40W N/A Yes No $39
Hakko FX888 200°C – 480°C Yes Yes $130
TS-100 17W-65W 100°C – 400°C Yes Yes $51

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 Low quality solder

multicopter-building-tools-solder

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

multicopter-building-tools-soldering-paste-flux

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)

multicopter-building-tools-allen-key-set-hex

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 Drivers Set

multicopter-building-tools-screw-driver-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.

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.

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.

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.


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!

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

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.

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 PartsArms (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.

multicopter-building-tools-loctite-thread-lock

  • 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.

multicopter-building-tool-spare-Rapstrap

Most Importantly

Don’t forget to bring a box of tissue to wipe your tears when you crash. :D

Edit History

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

18 thoughts on “Useful Tools and Spare Parts for Building Multirotors 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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I only check blog comments once or twice a week, if you want a quick reply you can post your question on this forum IntoFPV.com... You might get a faster response from me there (multirotor related only).