Published February 14, 2017
Most serious drone enthusiasts agree that building a drone is infinitely more satisfying than buying a ready-to-fly vehicle. There is no better time to get into drone building; the number of customization options is larger than ever before. Nothing beats the thrill of piecing together your own drone, watching it whir to life, then piloting it wherever you want to explore. The process is, for the lack of a better word, cool.
Some customers don’t consider custom drones to be a viable option; they are wary about starting something that they might be unable to finish. This is a baseless fear. The price of a custom drone is comparable to pre-built kits, and — using online tutorials — most newbies can build a drone from scratch in one weekend. Being able to choose components gives the user absolute control of performance specifications and cost.
Choosing to build your own drone is a wise investment. Enthusiasts who decide early on to build their own UAVs will gain the experience and knowledge necessary to fix, maintain, and customize their vehicles. Since such owners have complete control over every component of their drone, they naturally learn how to repair or replace malfunctioning parts as needed. They are also more capable of cleaning (since they know how to disassemble and reassemble the vehicle) maintaining, upgrading, and troubleshooting problems. Hobbyists who choose to build their own drones eventually become experts.
Customization is where the real fun is at. Advanced users often customize their drones with a wide range of add-ons and modifications that give them new capabilities:
- Longer range: Owners can use a Wi-Fi range extender and/or a modified antenna to drastically improve the range their UAVs can travel. These methods can easily improve a vehicle’s range by 50% or more.
- Improved battery life: The simplest solution to keeping a drone in the air for longer periods of time is to upgrade the battery. Some modifications focus on decreasing the weight of the drone to improve battery life. Some users even remove propeller guards to lose some weight — though this can be dangerous (and not recommended for new users).
- Smoother video: Users who are serious about photography or videography should absolutely invest in gimbal stabilization for drone cameras. A gimbal is a support that prevents cameras from swaying. Compare camera footage with and without a gimbal, and the improvement is obvious. The necessary parts to make this upgrade can be found here.
- Autonomous flight: A GPS module is a necessary add-on for a world of other features using autonomous flight. A return-to-home function is an example of this.
So how do you get started on a custom-built drone? A basic drone requires seven parts: a frame, motors, electronic speed control, a flight controller, a battery, a power distributor, and a remote control. Multirotor drones will also require propellers. Click here to browse for all the parts needed to get started. All of the necessary tools to put these components together can be found here.
It is easy to find components to build a drone within any price range, but it’s important to determine what your needs are before planning which parts to buy. The size of a drone doesn’t necessarily determine how expensive the components will be. The complexity of a drone will determine how expensive it is to build. Additional features like a high-quality camera, a gimbal, and a GPS module will cost extra.
Choosing motors also depends on your needs. If a drone is only going to be piloted indoors, inexpensive motors will suffice. If a drone will be used outdoors, in windy weather, it is highly recommended that high-power motors are installed. These are a few examples of the considerations you should make during planning.
For advice on how to construct the vehicle, there are many videos online giving every step of the process — regardless if you are looking to build a multirotor or a fixed wing drone.There are also many online forums and groups online for drone enthusiasts. It is highly recommended that you become active in a forum. From troubleshooting tips to new mod ideas, one can find a lot of useful information online.
Not sure if you should build or buy your next drone? For casual hobbyists, the wide range of pre-made models offer features that can suit most needs. However, those who want more control over specs and customization should definitely opt to build their own drone.