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Budget Build: GoPro video quad

Building a smooth operating GoPro video platform is easy and shouldn't break the bank.

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You don't have to spend a fortune for buttery smooth aerial video

There's thousands of aerial videos out there shot from multicopters; a few are smooth-flowing cinematic masterpieces, most are head-dizzying roller coaster rides reminiscent of an amateur storm chaser shooting his first tornado. The difference between good footage and great footage used to be measured by how much you were willing to invest in an airframe and gimbal. Anywhere from $2k-5k would get you a platform capable of those wide sweeping shots that look like the camera was on a rail. But with the introduction of the brushless gimbal, coupled with the substantial drop in pricing on multirotor airframes and electronics, smooth aerial video is quite attainable on a modest budget.

In this mini article, I'll explain what went into my budget-built video platform. Is my way the cheapest way to attain stable video? Of course not. There's countless ways to construct a multicopter for av, including scratch building your airframe and using the absolute cheapest parts and electronics available. I did, however, build what I consider to be a great compromise between price, reliability, performance, and looks. All parts were purchased by me with exception of the Yun-1 gimbal which I beta tested for FPV Model. It will be factored into the pricing later.

Jakub Heavy-Lift QUADcopter

I searched for weeks looking for the right platform. My goal was to have something capable of easily lifting a GoPro and gimbal, but still able to lift a mirrorless SLR camera and gimbal if I ever decided to haul up my Sony NEX-5R. The big question that haunted me at nights was whether to go with a hexa or a quad. If you blindly throw the question out there, you'll get a pretty unanimous reply: "go with the hexa, its more stable". But how much more stable are we talking? In my opinion, the advantages of having two additional motors and esc's wasn't worth comparing to the cheaper pricing of the quad. Plus, the brushless gimbal effectively reduces any movement on the tilt and roll axis to zero anyway. Now, in the hexa's defense, I considered the very affordable DJI Flamewheel 550, but I've read reports of premature bearing failure from the included motors and I just don't like the look of it, so I chose the Jakub Heavy-Lift QUADcopter from flitelab.com. The only real downside I see by choosing the quad, is that I can't take advantage of the Naza's ability to keep the airframe aloft in the event of a motor failure. I think I can live with it.

The Jakub QUADcopter uses fiberglass composite 1.6mm G10 plates for the center section, beefy 21.5mm carbon fiber arms, and injected Nylon motor mounts. Add in the included G10 cage and clear lexan canopy, and you have a robust platform that seriously rivals my battle-tested AD-6 in looks and performance. With regards to the landing gear (which is not included with the QUADcopter kit), I went with the Jakub 155mm landing legs and cut a simple lite-ply plate to attach the gimbal to. When attaching the legs to the frame, purchase the optional rubber isolators to help reduce vibrations transmitted to the gimbal.

On this airframe, given the target payload and flight battery of 3s 5000mAh, I chose the T-Motor MT2814-10 770kv and GemFan 12x4 wood multirotor props. I really enjoy the woodies because they're easy to balance, don't flex, and create great lift. For controllers, I went with the HobbyKing 30A UBEC flashed with SimonK (all available through Flitelab.com).

The Jakub QUADcopter includes a small power distribution board, but I went with a more robust board from VOLTair. By mounting it to the bottom of the airframe, I was able to power the esc's, Naza flight controller, and the gimbal after some mild soldering.

I went with a DJI Naza V1 because they are cheap and they work well. And since the new V2 is on the market, people are dumping their old V1's in the classifieds for even cheaper. With proper setup, the Naza is a solid controller with a functional failsafe.

Yun-1 Brushless Gimbal

Just like the multirotor market, there are quite a few brushless gimbals out there designed around the GoPro, and new ones seem to hit the market every week. Currently, you can spend around $400 for a ready-to-use gimbal, or save some money and build a kit by sourcing the motors, controller, and gimbal frame separately. Since I received a beta version of the Yun-1 for testing at the beginning of the year, I decided to use it for this build. If you have yet to experience one of these in action, you'll be amazed at the precision; the inherent mechanical latency of a servo-driven gimbal just doesn't compare, especially for the price. The only problem Ive found with this particular Yun-1 gimbal is the soft rubber ball dampers that are included; the downwash from the props can cause some minor shaking of the gimbal. I've remedied the problem by stuffing a few small pieces of soft foam between the plates. Stiffer damper balls are available though, and upgrading from soft to medium will also do the trick.

Parts Breakdown:

  • Jakub Heavy QUADcopter: $150
  • 155mm legs: $66
  • m3x8 vibration dampers for the legs: $7
  • DJI GPS plate: $18
  • DJI controller support plate: $10
  • 4x 2814 770 T-Motors: $228
  • 4x Turnigy 30a Simonk flashed: $68
  • 4x GemFan wood props 12x4: $23
  • Yun-1 gimbal: $404
  • 3s 5000Mah LiPo: $23

As listed above, we have roughly $1000 in the quad and gimbal, not including the controller. I didn't include the Naza because of the varying pricing between the Naza lite, Naza V1, Naza V1 w/ GPS, and the Naza V2. If purchasing one new, the Naza, in its many options, is available between $100 and $500. Also not included in the final pricing is the radio, since each person will have something different.

Videos

A timelapse build video that I made of the Jakub QUADcopter:

Jakub Heavylift Quad Timelapse Build (1 min 19 sec)

Below is the first onboard video shot after initial testing was completed. You can see the GoPro video was shot in two modes: 1080p wide and 1080p medium field-of-view. Medium fov completely removes the booms and landing skids from the video:

Touring the Pecan Patch. Multirotor quad. GoPro (2 min 4 sec)

Conclusion

In closing, I'll reiterate my earlier statement that my build isn't the absolute cheapest route; there's many more frame, electronics, and gimbal manufacturers out there and pricing is always dropping. But what I was able to do is satisfy my own desire for a great performing video platform that also looks good while getting the job done. I was able to build a heavy lifter that can lift much more than the GoPro and gimbal currently tucked under it's belly, should I want to run a heavier camera in the future. With the 3s 5000mAh fight pack, I'm getting around 10 minutes of flight time before the low-voltage alarm starts blinking on the Naza, informing me it's time to wrap it up and land.

Additionally, you can shave some more money off the total by buying your flight controller and gimbal used, as they tend to pop up in the classifieds section weekly. Good luck with your build, and happy filming!

Last edited by Matt Gunn; Jul 03, 2013 at 03:08 PM..

Discussion

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Old Jul 05, 2013, 01:53 PM
We can trim it out
Chubbum's Avatar
USA, CA, Santa Monica
Joined Jul 2010
90 Posts
Matt thank you for this build, i have been digging around and looking for a great entry level platform, i was kind of leaning towards the Phantom, but your setup here looks to have plenty more room for expansion. Just the option for using heavier cameras is awesome. Thanks!

Erick
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Old Jul 05, 2013, 03:00 PM
out of focus
New Zealand, Gisborne, Gisborne District
Joined Jul 2009
171 Posts
And the Jakub frames are awesome. I have the Jakub six heavy and build quality is superb. Realy nice piece of kit and lots of room for expansion.
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Old Jul 05, 2013, 05:13 PM
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dapple63's Avatar
Joined Jun 2005
1,033 Posts
It is impressive. It is still a bit above my budget, but I am doing fine with the equipment I have. Still, if I had to start from scratch...
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Old Jul 05, 2013, 05:42 PM
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United States, CO, Arvada
Joined Nov 2010
14 Posts
This is an awesome article, thank you.
I have a DJI Phantom (which I really like) but wish it could carry more weight. I'm using a Fat Shark Attitude, H3 2D Zenmuse gimbal (on the way) and GoPro3 Hero black.
Sounds like this setup could carry it with no problems.
Now you ave me thinking ...if I were to damage my Phantom I might be able to use parts to build this rather than rebuild the Phantom.
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Old Jul 05, 2013, 06:48 PM
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Joined Jul 2009
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Thanks for the replies, gents. It's definitely a platform capable of carrying more than its current payload. This is why I'm running it on 3S 5000mAh. If I step up the payload weight, I will switch to 4S 5000MAh. With the current motor/esc/prop configuration on 4s, I could easily haul up an EOS-sized DSLR. But my Sony NEX-5R will be the next camera onboard.
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Old Jul 06, 2013, 10:28 AM
yin
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Joined Apr 2013
10 Posts
This is a really good deal: http://www.hobby-wing.com/hobby-wing...otography.html

I dont have this one or any experience with this company, but this sure looks like a much better deal than the phantom for a beginner... THen again, I must admit, that I have had to use the 'return to home' feature on the phantom a few times. Thing is, you will definitely out grow the phantom in a matter of months which is normal. At this point I am building my own FPV/ video setups...but it is a pain in the ass [but so is everything that is fun in the end].

Hopefully have some of this stuff done soon!

Cheers to all.
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Old Jul 10, 2013, 12:35 PM
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what flying times do you get with this set up?
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Old Jul 10, 2013, 12:40 PM
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Alex, I'm getting about 10 minutes of mixed hovering and forward flight.
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Old Jul 11, 2013, 12:30 PM
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Joined Jul 2013
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I have the same setup and was thinking The same. Reuse the naza, gimbal, gopro, receiver and transmitter and buy the rest of this setup for aboyt $500
Quote:
Originally Posted by colorado68 View Post
This is an awesome article, thank you.
I have a DJI Phantom (which I really like) but wish it could carry more weight. I'm using a Fat Shark Attitude, H3 2D Zenmuse gimbal (on the way) and GoPro3 Hero black.
Sounds like this setup could carry it with no problems.
Now you ave me thinking ...if I were to damage my Phantom I might be able to use parts to build this rather than rebuild the Phantom.
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Old Jul 11, 2013, 03:38 PM
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United States, UT, Cottonwood Heights
Joined Mar 2012
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Cool Thread, I didn't even know this was a Jakub frame, but I'm loving mine.
I've got the ipower 2814Q's with 11x4.7 slow fly's, dji 30 amp optos being powered by 4s 4k zippy's, naza, 200mm quadframes lg, and an rctimer gimbal being run by the martinez board carrying gp3b. It's for sure heavy, mine weighs in with 2 batts, gimbal camera, vtx right around 106oz. I have my timer set on my radio for 11.5 minutes when I fly 2 batts and I could still go more but don't want to wear them out early.
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Old Jul 16, 2013, 04:54 PM
as the name says!
AirplaneFreak100's Avatar
Barbados
Joined Sep 2012
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what size props do you have on that?
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Old Jul 16, 2013, 04:56 PM
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Matt Gunn's Avatar
United States, OH, Parma
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tstrike View Post
Cool Thread, I didn't even know this was a Jakub frame, but I'm loving mine.
I've got the ipower 2814Q's with 11x4.7 slow fly's, dji 30 amp optos being powered by 4s 4k zippy's, naza, 200mm quadframes lg, and an rctimer gimbal being run by the martinez board carrying gp3b. It's for sure heavy, mine weighs in with 2 batts, gimbal camera, vtx right around 106oz. I have my timer set on my radio for 11.5 minutes when I fly 2 batts and I could still go more but don't want to wear them out early.
I have the same cloverleaf antennas. What transmitter are you using, and how's your range?
matt
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Old Jul 16, 2013, 05:21 PM
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United States, UT, Cottonwood Heights
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Quote:
Originally Posted by webdr View Post
I have the same cloverleaf antennas. What transmitter are you using, and how's your range?
matt
I'm using the immersion 5.8 600 down to a 5.8 uno and an 8 inch foxtech monitor. The range is farther than I care to fly away from myself, although I was getting a ghosting from the gopro live feed when the bg gimbal was turned on, I moved stuff around and so far the bench test looks good. I also just installed some 11x4 gemfan wood props, just feels way over propped for a quad this size but the 10's I tried weren't enough. Thinking of swapping out to some higher kv motors and running 9'' graups but I loose a lot of flight time.
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Old Jul 31, 2013, 03:45 PM
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Joined Jul 2013
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Longer flights

Quote:
Originally Posted by webdr View Post
Alex, I'm getting about 10 minutes of mixed hovering and forward flight.
Hi,

What would you change on your set up to obtain flights over 10 min? Still with the purpose to carry a GoPro?

Regards,
Nils
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