Currently where I live it is winter and so it gets dark early meaning I don't have as much time to fly my quad. On the other side of the world it is too hot to be outdoors during daylight hours. Should this limit us to simulators? Nope. I've got a build here that will allow you to see better at night and is very quiet so as not to upset the neighbours.
First of all the build needs to be based around a very light micro quad; 3 inches or smaller. This is because anything larger will make too much noise and will be travelling too fast to fly in you local neighbourhood and to avoid objects at night. Lightness (and the right choice of props) is key to making this quiet but more on that later.
How to see in the dark
Without putting to fine a point on it, it is the improvement in cameras that have made this build possible and practical: it used to be that the only good night cameras light the runcam owl were very large, even the more recent runcam eagle micro was too big for a lightweight quad. However now that we have the foxeer toothless nano 2 (and to a lesser extent the caddx baby ratel) we have MUCH better night vision. There are many good review on the toothless 2 nano at night, particularly the one by Nick Burns that I based this choice on. I've also included DVR from a day flight to show that even though you gain performance in low-light, it doesn't sacrifice daytime performance.
You can simply slap this cam on an existing build and have a night flier as is but to really make it discrete to fly at anytime read on...
Shhh! Keeping it quiet
The best way to minimise noise is less weight and more blade area. I think the best candidate therefore is a toothpick style build but changing twin blades out for triblades. In my case I've taken my modified Eachine red-devil (article here) and have used the gemfan 2540 props. In hindsight following completion of this article I think the Happymodel larva-x would be a reasonable although slightly heavy candidate - slightly larger 1103 motors, the right sized vtx and canopy to start plus a handy on-board DVR. Of course the camera has been swapped out for the Foxeer Toothless 2 nano. A word of warning, make sure you choose the starlight 2.1mm lens when ordering as this lets more light in that the 1.8mm lens I chose.
If you prefer to use a ducted quad you need to get a little more specific, namely a Happymodel Mobula 6 moved over to a mobula 7 frame with gemfan 1636 4 bladed props and the larva-x canopy. Here the mobula 6 running gear allows you to stay light, the mobula 7 frame allows for larger, quieter props and the larva-x canopy allows for the nano sized cam. I'd recommend against 2s as it starts getting too heavy even on the 40mm props if you want to keep quiet.
Extra piece of mind
Although unnecessary for my needs, you may wish to increase the control range, If you don't want to spec any money you can use this hack but adding a discrete receiver will be the most reliable option. If FRSKY I strongly recommend the XM over the heavier diversity XM+.
Depending on the VTX you are using you may also want a nice safe transmit power, say 200mW. Not an option if you are using the onboard mobula 6 unit but if you want to upgrade the Rush Tank Tiny I reviewed here is excellent and can go up to 400mW.
How to find it when you crash?
Finding these little quads at night are actually easier at night but you need to be sure you have enough LEDs. Luckily the board used on my quad has enough LEDS to easily spot but if you need extras I'd recommend one of these little lightweight LED sets. You may wish to consider a buzzer as well since d-shot beacon on these little motors is not very loud. With that said I definitely think the lights are a lot more effective, easier in fact that finding a downed micro quad in daylight.
So there you have it, a fairly simple formula for making a little quad that can extend your flying hours. Good news of course is that this is not limited to the night - these camera also look great during the day and having a light, quiet quad makes flying around people more realistic.
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