I have decided to piece together a bang for your buck freestyle build to coincide with the summer in the Northern Hemisphere. My objective for this build was not to build the cheapest quad but the best value. This means parts will be from recognised brands with a good track record of performance and reliability with a good degree of future proofing. To be clear, this is not a $99 build, it is more like $150-$170 but will be more reliable AND outperform any pre-built quad and will easily hold it's own against something double or triple the price - I like to think of it as the Sweet Spot.
This Sweet Spot Quad will be split into 3 parts:
For each key component I'll show you what I chose, a cheaper option and a more premium option with price indication and justification. Let's get straight into it!!
I'll cover this quad over 3 blogs. This first part will cover the build walkthrough, the second the software (betaflight/blheli32) setup here and the last part the flight review.
The Hobbymate Comet Kit is a premium 5" quadcopter that is currently available as a kit for $180 but will soon be available as a bind and fly version. Update: it is now available as a pre-build pnp or bnf with xm+ or r-xsr receivers. In the days since the Holybro Kopis 1 was released there have been some excellent ready to fly models (along with some not-so-great models) available including the Emax Hawk 5 (review here) and the HGLRC Batman (build here) which have been standouts because they have been well balanced, well built and good value for money overall. Since this is a kit, this particular blog is to walk you through the build and then software setup including a betaflight 3.5.1 cli diff.
The Hobbymate Comet from HobbyCool.com (or Amazon) is a kit the consists of higher quality parts than even the HGLRC Batman at only a fraction of the cost. Infact when bought on their own the parts come to $257 which is clearly much more than the $180 the kit costs (or even the $200 PNP kit). The Electronics are rated 6s from the factory (unlike the Hawk 5) and come with motors suited for either 4s/5s operation (2500kV) or 6s operation (1800kV). I'm especially excited that this include a genuine airbot ESC and flight controller. More details on the parts below:
Extra parts and recommended for the build
Firstly you will need extra parts for this build. I've used the following with links to Hobbycool as they tend to have the sharpest price:
And tools/sundry items:
On with the build
Captioned images below should walk you through the build process and I've noted anything tricky as I've gone through. Click on images to zoom.
So the Emax Hawk 5 has been out for a couple of months now and it has really captured the imagination of community. This is because it was an EMax-USA driven initiative that started as a way to sell more parts (Magnum stack, LS motors, Avan props) but ended up so much more. Where the Hawk 5 separates itself from all other bind and flys that have come before (except perhaps the holybro kopis) is that is more than the sum of it's parts - the development that has gone into matching the components, developing a strong, stiff yet lightweight frame and then tuning the whole package means it is a bind and fly that is genuinely competitive for racing out of the box. Listening to HyphPV and Sean Taylor in various channels they both believe this is a bonafide racer which is high praise coming from them.
I'll try keep this review brief because there has already been a lot said about this quad but I'll try to address the aspects that struck me as peculiar or aspects I don't thik have been well covered.
I think the component choice looks solid but unspectacular however the way that this comes together in for flight is super impressive.
Rather than going through the setup step by step in boring text, I've screen-grabbed all the relevant tabs from betaflight below. In short this quad includes custom filters setup, PIDs and rates so that you have an excellent tune right out of the box. This perfectly matches the specfic frame geometry, weight, motors and props that are used. Confident tuners will no doubt be able to adjust to their specific feel but I can say that I've come across no better custom tune in any quad yet, it is comparable to the babyhawk R (my review here) which makes sense - it was tuned by the same team.
Early flight performance
Wow. I had preconceptions that the 2206 low kV motors would be underpowered but was completely wrong. This is a fast, highly manouverable quad that is well tuned. To date it is the quickest quad I've flown and objectively has been found to hit over 100mph consistently. More than that though it corners well thanks to the 'grippy' props and light weight. I won't carry on here about flight but it felt well and truly locked in, the best quad I have flown.
In terms of FPV the signal was excellent on 25mW which is what I'm limited to on racing. There was absolutlely no sign of electrical interference or noise on my go-to channel (F2 - 5760MHz) at any throttle level. Just as importantly the image from the foxeer arrow micro pro is surprisingly good. This camera is a surprisingly good improvement over the micro arrow 1 or 2 and the micro swift 1 or 2 - I believe the presets were greatly approved on. I've actually ordered 3 more of these cameras to replace my others with because so far have not been a fan of the newer CMOS cameras.
One thing that felt unfamiliar to me were the way the props delivered power and the noise or the lack thereof. Additionally they pull a lot of current -I peaked at 110A on a 1500mah 4s pack. My guess is that in order to take advantage of the relatively low kV motor they went with a VERY agressive propeller with a distinct geometry. After swapping over to a HQ 5x4.8x3 which is stilla fairly agressive prop the Hawk 5 felt much more familiar and predicable to me with a power delivery and audible feedback I'm much more familiar with. I didn't feel I lost anything in speed or grip but peak current draw dropped off to 97A, i.e. 10% improved efficiency at high throttle. I need to note that props are a personal thing and this is my preference. You may find you like the stock Avan Flow props much more, I'm more of a HQ/Dal guy.
Lastly I'll say the efficiency on this is very impressive, again probably down to their choice of motor.. Everyone flies differently so will get different flight times depending on what they are doing but this I founf that even with my most tired 4s 1000mah pack I was able to get 3 minutes of flight which outperformed my lighter Floss 2 build which hand 'only' 2205 motors. On a good 1300mah I got 4 minute sof hard flying and from 1500mah about 4.5 - 5 minutes.
If you are looking for a 5" bind and fly quad quite simply this is the one to get. $250 sounds like a lot compared to other cheaper ones but as I've said before this is so much greater than the sum of it's parts. The clever choice of components, lightweight frame and wonderful tune make this a great quad and it shows - at the time of writing it is always in and out of stock depending on where you shop. Since so many have sold there is also a very big community - more people to solve problems and enhance. For example customs canopies, go pro mounts and recommendations for budget meaningful modifications and customisation is much more readliy available than for less common quads that tend to come and go. I'll bet this quad will be around and supported well for a long time.
Support is great - as you can see above all parts are available from many retailers so replacements are not just available but commonly available.
I can't speak to reliability yet since I haven't flown enough but since they haven't gone with the very latest and leading edge technology and hardware, that means there have been time to iron out the bugs. I'm expecting few problems but will certainly report back if there are.
Lastly I'll make a note again on the efficiency. In the race for power with bigger motors and steeper props this often gets forgotten but EMax seems to be going down the path of optimised efficiency and it shows here. The rhetoric from them is the the LS and newer RSII series are motor were not developed for all out power but more for efficiency which is what racers have really been demanding - making sure that on fast tracks that they still have battery left at the end. This is a benefit to the racer of course but for the casual pilot more efficiency = longer flight time = more stick time for learning and more of the the fun part of FPV... actual flying!
In summary this is a great model and comes highly recommended from me. Of course I'll be looking to improve where I can do so effectively and cheaply and will write about this where it's meaningful. Gearbest kindly supplied me this model and I'd encourage you to purchase from them as per the link below. Using this affiliate link comes at no cost to you but will help me to continue making and publishing reviews like this and recommendations for improvement.
Updates! I've new written a blog on bang for buck upgrades and also a comprehensive walkthrough on a VTX upgrade to allow DVR, smart audio, great power options.