Handy Tools and Replacement Parts for Building Multirotors
Let’s share with you a comprehensive list of the most needed, handy and useful tools and replacement parts that you should keep in your armory when constructing your very first mini quadcopter. Some of the components that we are going to enlist here may not be mandatory but it will definitely make life easier for you if you are looking to build and fly your mini drone.
Tools and Gear Needed for FPV Mini Quadcopter
Here are a few tools that should always be a part of your armory when looking to build your mini quadcopter:
- Basic Tools
- Advanced tools
- Professional Tools
- Spare ones (Replacement Parts)
The list is actually divided into four categories namely Basic, Advanced, Professional and Spare. I have been flying and building drones for the last five years or so. So, I am afraid my lists might not be exhaustive but I am working hard on improving my list of Professional tools for my loyal readers. Typically, even if you get your hands on the basic tools mentioned in this list, they should be enough to help you out in getting started with building your first mini quadcopter.
Everything that we are going to tell you here is not going to be essential but we aim to make the process of building your own drone as easy as possible.
Basic and Fundamental Tools (Replacement Parts for Drones)
These are the suggested set of tools that should always be a part of your repertoire when you set out to build your quadcopter. I hope that you will definitely have some of these tools in store.
Soldering Iron and Accessories
It is certainly one of the most important tools for you. It is used to melt the solder wire and make connections among components on the electronics circuit board. This will be used quite frequently while you build your drone and once you go for its repair and maintenance.
You should get a soldering iron with a fine quality tip. As far as I am concerned, I generally am in favor of the pencil and chisel tips which tend to be really helpful when soldering small pads on FC. There are a few people out there who opt for the bevel tip since it is helpful while soldering slightly larger areas such as XT60 connectors and PDB pads.
Ensure that you have sufficient quantity of solder wire to accomplish your tasks without any hindrance.
You should also get a sufficient amount of soldering flux or soldering paste that prevents oxidation and renders the process of soldering easier.
Solder suckers or de-soldering wick can be really handy in removing already applied solders.
Allen Keys Set (Hex Screw Driver Set)
These are renowned as Hex drives and prove to be exceptionally handy in tightening or loosening the hex screws in quadcopter components such as chassis and motors. If you have a set of different Allen keys with you, it will make life remarkably easy and comfortable for you. Metric sets ranging from 1.3mm to 4mm can be really useful for propeller adapters, frame screws and motor screws.
A Set of Screw Drivers
A set of screw drivers can be really useful for tightening and loosening screws on multirotors. Both cross-slotted and single-slotted tools can be handled using these drivers.
Hex Nut Driver/Wrench
The hex nuts that are typically used on mini quadcopters are M2, M3 on the chassis and M4, M5 on the motor or propellers. So, if you find a nut driver or wrench for nuts ranging from M2 to M5, all your basic needs should be fulfilled. Quite often, I tend to make use of pliers to carry out a variety of tasks involving these nuts.
These are also known as side cutters and can be used to cut zip ties, electrical and magnet wires etc.
You can make use of pliers for gripping components while you are working around with other sets of tools. It can obviously be used as a wrench for tightening and loosening nuts.
If you are working with electrical components and wires, then you ought to have electric tape in your tool kit. These help you in holding parts and components in their desired locations and can also be used for masking purposes.
This one is just way too obvious, eh? All you must have a pair of scissors at home, isn’t it?
If you were thinking to throw away your old toothbrushes in the waste bin then you better stop. They can be more than handy in a number of ways. I use these things a lot while flying my quadcopter to wipe off dirt from propellers, motors, gaps etc. However here I have added new toothbrush, incase you cant find the old ones.
This is a very crucial instrument for those looking to build multirotors since it is used to determining the value of voltage, resistance and current in a circuit. In addition, it is extremely handy for testing for short-circuits and troubleshooting purposes.
The multimeters designed for rookies are not that costly such as this one by BG. Having said that, they are not sophisticated enough to measure motor current draw since they have not been designed for such intricate tasks. In order to measure high value of current, an appropriate power meter is required.
A heat source is required to shrink heat shrink tubes. A lighter can be your best friend that is low cost and will help you a lot in the heat-shrinking tasks.
You can cut off heat shrinks and protective casings of wires using a utility knife or a box cutter or a hobby-knife.
Advanced User Tools
The following tools will make the process of building and repairing a multirotor all the more easier.
Soldering Helping Hand
Soldering becomes so much easier with the soldering helping hands. The tool tends to hold your desired component in place so that it does not lose its position while you work on it. A magnifying glass can also be extremely useful if you decide to carry out some precision work.
This tool is used to hold small components and wires and prevent them from moving. You can also use it to short out boot pins on flight controllers.
I actually do not use the wire strippers since I do it normally with scissors and cutters. Having said that, wire strippers tend to provide more refined and accurate results.
Hot glue gun with additional glue sticks
Hot glue is very strong, easy to apply and provides good results. It can also be removed easily as and when required. If you are into DIY mods and building multirotors, you’ve got to have one in your bag.
This could be a nice alternative to hot glue if it turned out be to less tough and against your requirement. These glues are rated in accordance with the time they take to stick on the surface on which they have been applied. For instance, 5 minutes, 15 minutes, 30 minutes etc. The longer the amount of time it takes to stick properly, the stronger and more adhesive it will be in the long run.
Also called as the hot-air gun, this device is exceptionally useful when it comes to heat shrink tubes. You can also use a lighter but a heat gun is a more sophisticated device that tends to provide the required amount of heat consistently and does not leave behind unwanted burn marks. Depending on the power of the heat-element, a hair dryer can also serve the purpose.
Liquid Electrical tape
It comes as a thick paint that tends to become a water-resistant coating upon getting dried. It protects naked electrical wires and solder joints. It does a good job in preventing short-circuits and go a long way in increasing resistance to water in the power distribution board, exposed integrated cameras and FC. They are a better option as compared to the dry tapes because of their better adhesiveness. Moreover, they can also be removed rather comfortably.
Sand Paper/File Set
This tool tends to give you refined and smooth edges on material such as wood, fibre glass, carbon fibre etc. When you get extremely sharp edges in carbon fibre frames after cutting, you can make use of the file set to prevent against any declamation once a crash takes place. You can also make use of a needle file to widen holes in a carbon fibre chassis.
It is easier to test and troubleshoot ESC and the direction in which the motor is rotating with the help of a servo tester. It is also a handy tool for testing out motor thrust.
LiPo Battery cell meter
The LiPo voltage checker determines the voltage of the battery pack and is a good tool for figuring out the voltage per cell in your battery pack.
A vernier calipers or a digital ruler is a useful tool for measurement purposes upto 0.1mm.
It is recommended that you purchase a digital scale that is capable of measuring up to 1Kg with a precision up to 0.1g.
ISP Programmer/AVR Programmer/USB to Serial Adapter/Arduino Uno
These are remarkably efficient tools for programming ESC, OSD, FC etc.
If you are into flying large sized quadcopters of size up to 8 inches, 9 inches, 10 inches etc., this tool is a handy one. The mini quadcopters with sizes 4 inches and 5 inches do not require their propellers to be balanced more often than not.
Professional Builder Tools
These tools are meant for the drone geeks out there or if you actually build mini quadcopters or multirotors for a living.
A miniature drill or a hand or model drill will be useful if you require to drill holes in the drone’s frame. You can also make use of a knife or a cutter to carry out jobs a lot more quicker.
This tool is capable of measuring high value current and power and is quite frequently used for testing the power rating of motors or measuring the powers of multirotors.
Motor Thrust Station
This is an extremely efficient tool that is used to measure the current draw, thrust, power and rotations per minute in motors, propellers, ESCs etc. !
Multiple Arms Third Hand/Soldering Station
In addition to using this tool for soldering purposes, you can also use it for holding your quadcopter while you carry out its photo-session. You can go through our review of the 6 Arm Soldering Station by Realacc.
You can use this device to measure electrical signals and keep track of undesired noise.
Adjustable Power Supply
This tool can be used to test certain electronic equipment. As a matter of fact, you can also build one of your own with the help of a modifiable voltage regulator if you do not want to spend a lot of money on a sophisticated device. Having said that, such devices do not provide typically a lot of voltage to test out motors. If you are looking to carry out some high current applications, then you can consider converting a Server/PC PSU for it.
This is a handy tool for those who like to do a lot of things by themselves.
Rubbing Alcohol and Wipes
These can be used to wipe off areas before you apply adhesive strips to them. These can also be handy if you want to clean any grease and oil on soldering pads before you set out soldering.
This tool can be useful while you carry out soldering tasks. The fumes that are emanated while soldering are not good for one’s health. Flux fumes can be especially harmful for some people. The older rosin flux in cored solder, in particular, can be very dangerous and can cause breathing issues. You can also get your hands on a small sized fan that can keep the smoke away from your respiratory organs.
RF Power Meter
This device can be used for testing and measuring radio or video transmitter’s output power.
Dremel Tool Kit
This kit includes a number of handy tools for cutting, drilling, polishing and a plethora of other purposes.
You will be required to use spare parts in your quadcopter every now and then. If you have additional spare parts in store, you will not have to go through the excruciatingly painful moments of waiting for the items to be shipped. For instance, whenever I am building a new mini quadcopter, I always have 5 ESCs and 5 motors in spare so that as soon as one of them fails, I have a few in the backup.
The items related to the FPV industry generally tend to have an extremely short life. This implies that the manufacturers and retailers do not keep them in stock in bulk quantities. Moreover, since most of the parts and components are manufactured in China so you might have to wait for weeks before they get shipped to your place.
This list of spare parts will help you a lot while you build and repair your multirotor.
Fundamental and Must Have Components
- Propellers: Propellers are not going to stay with you for a long time, trust me! So you will surely be needing lots and lots of them.
- Zip Ties: Zip ties with width ranging from 2.5mm to 4mm are the ones that I use most frequently. Just to give you a perspective, I ordered about 500 cable ties last year and my stock is about to get exhausted.
- Silicon Electrical Wires of different gauges: The kind of wire you need is dictated by the amount of current that you want to be conducted through it.
- Heat shrink tubes: Heat shrink tubes for varying sizes such as 2mm and 3mm for motor wires and power distribution while 20mm and 25mm for ESCs.
- XT60 and JST Connector Plugs (Male and Female): These are used for LiPo battery packs and Do It Yourself Power Adapters
- Servo Extension Wires: FC and Receiver can be connected using these wires.
- Adhesive Velcro or hook and loop tape: It is handy for protecting the parts on the chassis such as LiPo, receiver, Mobius/GoPro etc.
- Spare Frame Parts: Arms, body plates, screws, washers, nuts etc. can be useful whenever your frame goes through a crash or accident and ends up breaking down.
- Additional Nylon Lock Nuts: M3 nuts are meant for the frame while M5 ones are used for the Propellers.
- LiPo battery balance plug: Here’s why you should have a balance plug in your reserves.
- Receiver antennae
- Battery straps: These will be needed in spare since your battery velcro straps can get damaged in crashes.
- Pin header: It can be used for creating connection points on your Printed Circuit Board such as FC or Power Distribution Board.
It’s Good to have the Following Spare Parts
- Replacement motors and ESCs: These components are not that fragile but once they get damaged, it is not easy to get them repaired. So, you should have a few of them in your backup.
- Loctite (thread locker): The propeller adapter’s side screws, motor screws and frame screws can be glued using the Loctite glue.
- Gold bullet connectors (banana plugs): Plugs of size 2mm and 3mm can be used for motors and ESCs, 4mm for batteries and XT60. However, if you often solder the motor and ESC together, then you will not be requiring them at all.
- Nylon lock nuts for M3, M4 and M5 threads: These can be handy while you mount propellers or can be used on the frame.
- Hex or cross slotted bolts: A number of motors and frames make use of the M3 8mm and 10mm bolts. You will be needing them in spare since there is always a probability that they might break or get loose due to undesired vibrations.
- Anti vibration FC mounting pads/vibration absorbing foam: You can make use of this sticker pad to mount your FC and build a camera mount using it.
- Screws and bolts of different sizes and types
- Additional soldering iron tips
- Double sided tape: This can be used to hold together components that do not require to be removed easily and also absorbs vibrations.
- Servo leads (3 jumper cables): These are used in the Receiver, FC, On Screen Display etc. It is always judicious to have an extra one for the ESC as well.
- M3 Nylon standoff kits: This kit generally incorporates nylon screws, bolts and spacers. These are handy while mounting FC and Power Distribution Board stack in the chassis.
- Spare micro/mini USB cable for flight controller and camera
- SMA connector: These connectors help out when you break one on the Video Transmitter or you require a different angled connector.
- Magnet wires: These can be used to construct LC filter and circular polarized antennae etc.
- Coaxial Cable RG316 or RG402: These are used a lot for making antenna for FPV gear and transmitter and receiver.
- Rapstrap: This is a reusable, elastic, strong cable tie.