I did a thing. After reviewing the new FullSpeed TinyLeader 2s-3s brushless whoop (review here) I learnt to fly around the heavier weight which has come about because of it's larger motors and better FPV system. I still think that 1103 motors like on the TinyLeader and Beta75x are better suited to a lightweight 2" propeller like my ultralight build here rather than the 40mm props (1.6") as we see so commonly on the brushless whoops now. I decided to put my money where my mouth is so to speak and prove it rather than just hypothesing.
Since my objective was to retain that character of the Tinyleader I knew I wanted to keep the canopy and FPV system as this is one of the defining advantages of the TinyLeader. It would have been much easier to lose these in favour of an AIO cam andjust use one of the emerging frames from FlexRC (Mira95 to launch shortly), Tomoquads or even the Lil Bandito. The problem is however the canopy and camera mounting means there needs to be a lot of chassis in front of the centreline of the quad as you can see from the frame image below. Note - front of quad is at the right of the image.
Rather than tell you the frames I tried that didn't work I'll tell you what did - the trusty Eyas X2 Elf from Banggood which coincidentally was the first micro I built a year and a half ago. Rather than tell a bring story I've captioned the images below to let you know my though process and the outcome. FYI the X2 Elf frame is available from Banggood for less than $10 ($7 at time of writing). It requires minimal modifcation as you'll see below. Click on any image to embiggen.
As you can tell the Tinyleader frame has front motors spaced much further apart than rears which allows you to keep propellers out of view which was obviously a consideration for the TinyLeader HD in particuar. This frame shape is know as a 'deadcat'. In a stroke of skill (read:luck) The X2 Elf frame has a slight deadcat to it mean this will keep props out of view too.
After test-fitting I found that full 2" props are bit of a push with connectors and cameras screws. Luckily the Gemfan Hulkie 1940 1.9" is an excellent propeller and fits perfectly with no fouling.
I love the new 2s brushless whoops - I have the TinyLeader (review here), the Mobula7 (review here) and the Eachine Traschcan (review here) but feel they are pushing the limits of this design and result in some odd flight behaviour in propwash - yaw twitches where betaflight seems to freak out. Without so much as touching the tune the move to the new chassis has completely solved this.
There is so much more thrust and efficiency on this quadcopter now which was not unexpected - this behaviour is typical when you go from an over loaded prop to one with the correct load. I'm up by about 30 seconds of flight time and have much more power and control now - I can pull out of dives much later and the 'point and shoot' flight characteristics of the ducted frame is gone - it is now much more like a conventional micro where you can bank and slide through corners rather than being more yaw-based.
Size comparison to the Leader 2.5 (review here)
Test flights so fare have been using a GNB 2s HV 300mah 80c which is now available at banggood. This is a really good battery and gives me around 3 minutes of flight as below coming down at around 3.75v per cell rested. Although the TinyLeader can run 3s I believe these motors are too high in kV for this with this larger prop size. Conversely I intend to try with 1s (for science!) but will realistically just run a betaflight throttle scale if I want to tame it down for small areas.
As you can see from the DVR footage above there are no props in view on this new frame which stays true to the TinyLeader Design (and all Fullspeed Leader designs actually). This is good news for the regular TonyLeader but great news for the HD TinyLeader in that HD footage will be very clean.
That's it for this mod session, it was easier than expected given the frame but is not for noobs. It has been very rewarding though and intend to keep the TinyLeader in this configuration. Thanks for reading and if you found this helpful please share this blog using the FB link below or with whatever platform you use. Product links are affiliated and help me keep tinkering and sharing like this article.
To those of you that choose to upgrade the vtx in your hawk 5, like I did with the AKK infinite VTX/DVR (in this walkthrough here) I've updated my recommendation for the powersupply. Previsouly I relied on the flight controller's 5v BEC circuit that also powers the receiver and of course the board itself. I've now updated this recommendation to use the VBAT (or VCC) power supply instead assuming of course your VTX can take up to 24V as most modern full-sized VTXs can, including the AKK infinite I installed. This is because the BEC struggles at higher output making the video feed noisy. Over the longer term this is likely to irreversible damage the BEC rendering the flight controller pretty well useless but not before having random failures as a result of the compromised BEC. Picture below is using the power supply from the original VTX - the flight controller's 5V BEC:
So long as you have a VTX that can accept higher voltages, please use the VCC pad to provide power to your VTX alongside the ground pad next to it. This will bypass the flight controller BEC completely and leav you free to use any and all functions on the VTX. This can be clearly seen circled in the image below and on the quad itself
This is a simple change but will clean up your video and place less stress on your BEC. In hindsight this is maybe why some people are struggling with the stock VTX - it may not be the vtx at all, rather that power that is supplying it that is the issue.
My original Hawk 5 VTX install/walkthrough guide is here and other bang for buck modifications I made to the hawk 5 are here.
The Emax Hawk 5 is arguably the best bind and fly quadcopter going as I found in my initial review but can also be greatly improved with a few budget modifications as I wrote about in my blog on bang for buck improvements. I do however see a number of people complain about the stock Emax Hawk 5 vtx however mine has been functioning well. That being said, you cannot adjust setting in betaflight OSD via smart audio or tramp telemetry which is a let down on a 2018 quad. In the interest of sharing I've removed the stock VTX and replaced with one of the larger VTXs currently available (the AKK Infinite VTX/DVR) to prove it can be done.
The VTX I chose is the AKK Infinity DVR VTX. This is very similar to the HGLRC VTX/DVR that was reviewed here. As the name suggests this is a smart audio VTX in 30.5mm VTX with a built in DVR. I chose those for 2 reasons: First it's big. If I can fit this in you can fit anything! Secondly I like the DVR for recording breakup-free footage. For me I like the nimbleness of the Hawk 5 and don't want to weigh it down with a HD Cam. Other key features of the VTX/DVR:
Just quickly I used the following tools and parts in the instructions below:
Please note all the pictures below relate to the install of the AKK Infinite but install should be identical or at least nearly the same for others. I had to remove the buzzer and relocate the receiver for this VTX but depending on the size of the VTX you install you may need to do only one or neither. Follow picture left to right then down. All pictures will enlarge if you click on them.
What did I learnt from the install?
Firstly I can appreciate how Emax has made the most of the space with compact components. If I were to do this again I'd consider a smaller vtx to see if I could get away with removing less components, possibly an AKK FX2 ultimate mini half board or even an AKK nano 2, nano 3 or Oscar's backpack which may allow you to keep the buzzer AND receiver in place. That being said I'm really pleased I installed the DVR unit for extra functionality and did manage to retain a proper SMA antenna mount.
Set up and flight performance
I'm pleased to say that on the very first power up it functioned as expected. All Ineeded to do was to allow smart audio as a peripheral funtion on UART 6 in betaflight and smartaudio (VTX channel and power control through OSD) was fully funtional.
For video signal performance please see below for goggle DVR recording comparing the stock VTX on 25mW and 100mW compared to the AKK Infinite VTX running 25mW, 200mW, 600mW, 1000mW. A quick spoiler: 1000mW was unstable. This is likely because of the load the VTX and DVR units place on the 5v flight controller BEC (which also supplies the camera). 2 solutions here - run at 600mW or below or power the VTX from the VCC pad (picture below) instead of the 5V supply used by the stock VTX. This gives the VTX full access to battery power which is fine since it is rated up to 26v. For me I'll run 200mW maximum since I don't like to overload BEC circuits since it can make weird things happen - FC brown out, flickering OSD etc.
Update December 2018: I now recommend using vbat/vcc to power the vtx as covered here.
Overall for me video performance was comparable. The AKK VTX does however offer greatly improved functionality:
I'd definitely recommend changing the VTX for a different unit that supports Smart Audio if your VTX is not working as well as you'd like, but as you can see above it does take some planning and work. Even if it is working well some of the extra features that can be had on more modern VTXs may be worth the jump especially if you are confident with this type of work. Even if you aren't confident this guide should hopefully help you. AKK tend to make a good budget VTX with a lot of features but you can subsitute your favourite model here easily enough.
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