Flite Test VersaCopter

I’ve been on the lookout for a small quadcopter kit to put together for some time with an ultimate interest in getting in to FPV flying and racing. The high entry cost for a good quality full FPV setup has put me off a number of appealing options over the last 12-18 months such as the ImmersionRC Vortex. I have however finally pulled the trigger on the VersaCopter created by the crew over at Flite Test. This will allow me to put together a rig piece by piece and offers a compelling value proposition. A couple of days ago my kit arrived so over the weekend I have assembled and flow my VersaCopter.

Shopping

VC-1

Delivered from the Flite Test store (as shown above) was:

VC-2

Delivered from the HobbyKing strore (as shown above) was:

The only missing piece from this shopping list to get off the ground is a radio receiver to suit, in my case, a Taranis X9D. I already had a couple of FrSky X4RSB‘s on hand from a previous order.

Assembly

One of the reasons I was so eager to jump on this kit was the design style used. The slot together laser cut plates really appeals to my sensibilities and I was curious for a close up look at what laser cut Delrin looked like and offered structurally. I have used similar construction methods in the past for other projects but have always used acrylic (unfortunately Ponoko NZ, whom I usually use, do not offer a Derlin option).

VC-3

Assembling the VersaCopter from the kit as shown above followed almost exactly as demonstrated in the Flite Test construction videos (both the main video and the NAZE 32 video) with the exclusion of any cameras or FPV equipment and the observations as follows:

  • When installing the motor mounts on to the arm I found it easiest to start only the bolt on the side opposite the slot. This allowed full freedom for the Delrin part to stretch over the tube before adding the 2nd bolt.
  • Aligning the motors on opposite ends of each arm proved more challenging than ensuring the front and rear motors were aligned. I didn’t come up with any clever solution to this beyond align, tighten, check, repeat.
  • The supplied ESC’s seemed to include a much larger input smoothing capacitor which made their length significantly longer. This provided two problems for the installation of the NAZE 32:
    • The wires and capacitor interfere with access to the USB port through the side window.
    • The length meant it was particularly tight trying to fit the ESC between the NAZE and the rear arm, consequently the ESC is in constant contact with the edge of the NAZE board somewhat nullifying the foam isolation mounting of the flight controller.

    Ultimately the compromise was to push the ESC as far back as possible and hold the input wires down as best as possible with an extra cable tie.

  • With about 4-5mm of foam under the NAZE 32 there is not sufficient vertical space within the frame for vertical connectors. This impacts the telemetry, vBatt, buzz and serial ports. Directly wiring JST tails to those I wish to use will be required.
  • As I am using the SBus output from the receiver I had to set serial port 2 on the NAZE 32 to serialRX. I overlooked this detail and spent some time trying to figure out why I was not receiving a signal.
  • I was not happy with how secure the battery felt with just the velcro strap as such I added some Velcro dots to the top of the frame and bottom of the batteries for extra security.

Ultimately the kit went together very well and they have certainly delivered on their aim of putting together a DIY kit that looks professional and tidy when completed.

VC-4

Flying

After running through 6 batteries I can say that I am very happy with the VersaCopter and it delivers all that I had hoped. Specifically a no nonsense quad with decent flying performance, i.e. something that will allow me to practice flying with minimum fuss.

The VersaCopter was stable without making any changes to the PID tuning however for better performance I have made a few initial tweaks. The following settings have changed:

PID Controller: 2 – LuxFloat (all default PID values)
Roll rate: 0.05
Pitch rate: 0.05
Yaw rate: 0.17

On the transmitter I have set:

Roll +25 exponential (faster closer to centre)
Yaw -35 exponential (slower closer to centre)

With this setup flight times of between 7.5 – 8 minutes are easily possible with relatively energetic flying (constantly on the move, regularly at full throttle, flying square or figure 8 circuits) and approximately 10-15% left in the battery.

So far I can not report on the durability of the frame, I haven’t crashed it yet.

MultiChase Project

As a foot note there are a couple of lessons to be taken from this build for my MultiChase project.
Wiring, routing and position of electronics needs to be very serious consideration, wires are not as flexible as imagined in close quarters and all connectors and wire volume needs to be accounted for. I already knew this but this project served to reinforce that knowledge
With a 6″ propellor the difference between a 250mm and 280mm motor centre is probably fairly minor.
The laser cut plates method of construction proved very simple to put together and supported by the fibreglass plates provides a very strong frame, it is probably worth reconsidering for as an option.
Delrin looks to be a great material in this laser cut form, tough but still somewhat flexible. I will however continue with my 3D printing approach for now as that is easily available to me.

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