Beginner’s Guide to FPV Drone Builds


Welcome to the world of FPV (First Person View) drone building! Building your own racing or freestyle drone from scratch is an incredibly fun and rewarding hobby. In this beginner’s guide, I’ll walk you through all the steps and components involved in assembling your first custom FPV drone.

FPV drones allow you to fly from a first-person perspective using a camera and video transmitter mounted on the drone and video goggles or a screen. This gives you the exhilarating feeling of actually sitting in the pilot’s seat.

Building your own drone gives you full control to choose the parts that fit your budget and desired performance. You can build a basic starter drone for under $200 or customizable high-performance racers for $300-$500+. The building process also allows you to fully understand how drones work and be able to diagnose and fix issues.

In this guide aimed at complete beginners, I’ll cover:

  • Overview of drone components and tools
  • Frame selection and parts considerations
  • Electronics and motors
  • FPV camera and video transmitter
  • Radio transmitter and receiver
  • Flight controller and ESCs
  • Wiring everything up
  • Drone assembly and setup
  • Maiden flight tips

Let’s get started!

Key Takeaways and Components Overview

Here are the key points we’ll cover in this guide:

Components Needed

  • Frame – Provides the chassis and layout for all components
  • Motors – Spin the propellers to provide thrust
  • Electronic Speed Controllers (ESCs) – Controls motor speed
  • Flight Controller – The brain that handles flight control and stabilization
  • Propellers – Generates the actual thrust from spinning
  • FPV Camera – First-person view camera
  • Video Transmitter (VTX) – Transmits camera video feed
  • Radio Transmitter – Allows manual control input to the drone
  • Radio Receiver – Receives transmitter signals and passes to the flight controller
  • Battery – Provides power to all electronics
  • Power Distribution Board – Safely distributes battery power
  • Assorted hardware – Screws, standoffs, zip ties etc.

Tools Needed

  • Soldering iron and accessories
  • Hex drivers
  • Wire cutters/strippers
  • Multimeter (helpful)
  • Zip ties
  • Double sided tape/mounting foam

Building Steps

  1. Frame selection and assembly
  2. Mounting electronics
  3. Wiring components
  4. Software setup and configuration
  5. Radio linking and calibration
  6. First test hover

Drone Frame Selection

The frame is the foundation for all drone components and the first part you’ll need to choose for your build. Different frames have different attributes in terms of size, materials, and layout that are optimized for various purposes. Here are some things to consider when selecting a frame:

  • Size – Drone frames come in sizes from ~3-7″. Smaller drones are more agile, larger ones carry heavier payloads. A good all-purpose size for beginners is 5″.
  • Materials – Carbon fiber is the most popular offering stiffness and durability at a light weight. Plastic and wood frames are cheaper but not as rigid.
  • Layout – Most common are H-frames or X-frames. H-frames have a central plate with 4 arms. X-frames have a top and bottom plate connected by standoffs. X-frames tend to handle crashes better.
  • Replaceable arms – Look for frames with replaceable arms so you can easily swap a broken arm without replacing the whole frame.

Some good starter frames to consider in the 5″ size include:

  • GEPRC Phantom – A simple and durable budget carbon fiber H-frame.
  • Diatone GT-R349 – An X-frame design made from strong injection molded plastic. Has lifetime warranty on the frame.
  • iFlight Nazgul5 – High quality carbon fiber X-frame that can also run 6S batteries for more power.

As a beginner, an inexpensive but well-reviewed plastic or basic carbon fiber frame is recommended to start – they will be the most forgiving to learn on. Advanced carbon fiber frames can be considered later once your skills progress.

Electronics and Motors

Let’s go over the key electronic components that give your drone flight capabilities.

Electronic Speed Controllers (ESCs)

The ESCs control the speed of each motor. Most drones will have 4 or 6 ESCs, one connected to each motor. Important ESC features:

  • Amp rating – Make sure ESCs have a high enough max amp rating to handle your motors. For common 2207 or 2306 sized motors, 30-35A ESCs are recommended. Higher kV motors may need 40-60A rated ESCs.
  • Size – 20x20mm to 30x30mm size ESCs will fit most 200-300mm sized frames. Larger ESCs can have more amp capacity.
  • Firmware – Many ESCs now run the BLHeli32 firmware which offers excellent smoothness and performance for FPV drones.

Some good budget ESC options include the Racerstar RS30Ax4 30A BLHeli32 ESCs or the Diatone Mamba F40 40A ESCs.

Brushless Motors

You’ll need 4 brushless motors for your drone, one mounted in each frame arm. Things to look for when selecting motors:

  • Size – Common sizes for 5″ drones are 2205, 2206, or 2207. The first two numbers denote the stator width in mm (22mm) and the second two denote the height (5mm). Larger motors are more powerful.
  • kV rating – This determines how fast the motors spin per volt supplied. Lower kV like 2400-2700kV offers more torque and efficiency. Higher kV 2800-3300kV yields more top speed. 2000-2500kV is a good range for 6S setups.
  • Stator material – Copper offers the best performance. Avoid cheap ferrite/iron motors.

The iFlight Xing 2207 2450kV motor is a great performing and reliable option for your first build. The Racerstar BR2205 2600kV is also good on a budget. Make sure to get clockwise and counter-clockwise rotating versions.

Flight Controllers

The flight controller PCB board serves as the main computer and brain of your drone. It will contain gyros and accelerometers to stabilize and level your drone. It also handles all user inputs and controls the ESCs and motors. Key features to look for:

  • Processors – F7, H7, H20, and F4 are common processors, with F7 being the most popular for performance and value currently.
  • Sensors – Look for boards with a gyroscope, accelerometer, and barometer built in for optimal stabilization and flight performance.
  • Size – 36x36mm to 60x60mm are common sizes that will fit most frames. 20x20mm nano controllers are also available.
  • ESC and receiver ports – Ensure your flight controller has enough connection pads for your ESCs and receiver. Many have dedicated ports.

The Matek Systems F722-SE is an excellent flight controller for your first build, with an F7 processor, great sensors, and plenty of ports.

FPV Camera and Video Transmitter

To be able to fly from a first-person view, you’ll need a camera and video transmitter:

  • FPV Cameras – 600TVL to 1200TVL resolution is standard. Sony CCD sensors offer superior image quality over CMOS. A wide 170-180° FOV is recommended. RunCam Swift Micro is a top choice.
  • Video transmitters (VTX) – Transmit analog video from the drone at 5.8GHz. Variable 25-1000mW power. Make sure to get a compatible receiver for your goggles or display. Popular options are the Rush Tank Mini and Eachine TX802.

An integrated camera/VTX combo unit like the RunCam Nano 2 saves weight and space.

Radio Transmitter and Receiver

You’ll need a radio transmitter/receiver system to be able to control your drone:

  • Transmitter – The handheld controller you’ll use to fly the drone manually. Should have ergonomic controls and support the protocols your receiver uses. The FrSky Taranis Q X7 is an excellent starter transmitter.
  • Receiver – Mounted on the drone itself and gets signals from the transmitter to relay to the flight controller. Choose a receiver that matches your transmitter – common protocols are FrSky, FlySky, TBS Crossfire, ELRS, and Spektrum. For the Taranis Q X7, an XM+ Mini receiver is a good match.

Having a proper radio system is key for maintaining control and safe manual flight. Invest in a good quality set from a trusted brand.

Batteries and Power

FPV drones are powered by high-capacity, high-discharge LiPo batteries. Here are the key components:

  • LiPo Batteries – 14.8V 4S 1000-1500mah batteries are common for 5″ builds. Make sure your ESCs and other components can support 4S. Batteries with 45C+ discharge rates are recommended for the power demands of FPV flying. Popular options are CNHL Black Series or Tattu R-Line batteries. Always use a dedicated LiPo battery charger.
  • Power Distribution Board – This PCB safely splits the main battery power to distribute to your ESCs and other electronics. Having a built-in 5V/12V BEC is convenient for powering things like your flight controller and receiver. The Matek Systems PDB-XT60 is a great choice.
  • Battery Strap – Secure your battery to the frame with a hook and loop strap. Make sure the battery orientation provides proper center of gravity on your drone.
  • Battery Alarm – Optional but highly recommended. Plug it in to your balance lead and it will audibly alert you when your battery is getting low so you can safely land. The Bixler Lipo Alarm works great.

Proper battery maintenance and handling practices are essential for performance and safety. Follow LiPo safety guides and don’t discharge batteries below 3.5V per cell.

Wiring Everything Together

Once you have all your components, it’s time to wire everything together. This can look intimidating to a beginner, but just take it one step at a time:

  • Use the user manual for your flight controller to determine where motors, ESCs, receiver etc. should be connected. Following instructions carefully here is critical.
  • Neatly route wires from the arms to the center electronics bay. Cutting to length and using zip ties helps keep wires secure.
  • Ensure exposed wire tips are tinned with solder to prevent frayed strands. Tinning your pads on the flight controller also helps.
  • Double check all connections match the intended ports on the flight controller before powering up. Motor order and directionality is crucial.
  • A multimeter can be used to check for shorts or connectivity issues before plugging in batteries.

Take your time with the wiring process and don’t rush it. Check motor directionality with the props off first. Following best wiring practices will save you headaches down the road.

Drone Assembly and Build Tips

Here are some tips for the physical drone assembly process:

  • Build your stack and wire up electronics first before installing in the frame if possible. This makes it easier.
  • Use nylon standoffs, foam spacers, or gummies to isolate and mount boards. Vibration dampening is important.
  • Ensure all screw lengths are appropriate to avoid shorts. 3-5mm standoffs and M2 and M3 hardware are common.
  • Mount battery on bottom plate towards the front to achieve the ideal center of gravity. Soft-mount the battery with foam.
  • Balance propeller pairs across diagonals. Check each pair’s weight is within 1g if possible.
  • Add felt stick-on pads to bottom plate to avoid battery scratches and for landing grip.
  • Take photos of your build process and wiring. This gives you an easy reference if repairs are needed later.
  • Do a bolts/props on and off dry run first to make sure nothing is binding or impaired. Check props for proper tightness.
  • Verify in Betaflight that all motors spin correctly as arm and throttle up using motor test mode.

Following careful assembly practices ensures you end up with a solidly built platform that won’t vibrate itself apart in flight.

Software Setup and Configuration

While not as daunting as the wiring, you will need to configure the drone’s software and settings properly after building the hardware:

  • Installing firmware – Use ImpulseRC, Betaflight Configurator, or Cleanflight to flash latest firmware to flight controller. Keep it updated.
  • Radio setup – Bind transmitter to receiver and calibrate. Set correct modes for switches and channels.
  • ESC calibration – Do ESC calibration procedure to sync all ESCs. Needed for arming and proper response.
  • PID tuning – Tweak PID controller values to dial-in flight performance and handling. Start with baseline tunes.
  • Receiver configuration – Ensure channels, endpoints, and modes are properly assigned for your transmitter. Test controls respond correctly.
  • Failsafe setup – Set failsafe thresholds so drone disarms if connection is lost. Critical for safety.

While not required, a flight controller configuration tool like the Betaflight Configurator makes software setup much easier with point-and-click menus.

Maiden Flight and Tuning Tips

Once built and configured, it’s time for the exciting first flight! Follow these tips to get in the air safely:

  • Pick a wide open area – Fly at an empty soccer field, baseball diamond, or parking lot with no people around for your first flights.
  • Check connections – Do a last look-over of all wiring, prop direction, battery voltage etc. Make sure everything is secured down.
  • Hover low first – Keep initial hover attempts low, just a few feet off the ground to test basics. Land immediately if anything seems off.
  • Fly in Acro mode – For beginners, Acro mode will feel more responsive and intuitive than Angle/Horizon modes. It forces you to learn to fly manually.
  • Tune PIDs incrementally – Make small PID adjustments one axis at a time. Increase values slowly by increments of 5 initially. Record the values that felt best.
  • Check for vibrations – If the quadcopter shakes, ensure props are balanced and there are no loose motors or mounting hardware.
  • Add expo – Add a small amount of Expo (20-30) in your transmitter for smoother stick feel on your first flights.

The most important thing on maiden flights is taking off slowly and methodically to avoid crashes or flyaways. Patience is key – you’ll get the hang of flying in no time!


Building an FPV drone from scratch is deeply satisfying and gives you full control of your machine. By following this guide as a beginner, you can confidently choose components, assemble your first quadcopter, and progress into a capable pilot.

The building process will teach you invaluable electronics, practical, and troubleshooting skills along the way. Start with inexpensive components to allow room for learning. As your skills improve, you can move on to more advanced frames and components to go faster and pull off incredible acrobatics.

The FPV drone community is welcoming, so don’t hesitate to ask questions in forums. Building and flying drones is an incredible journey, and it all starts with making your first custom FPV racing rig. Enjoy the thrill of FPV flight!