Simple Copter Mini VTail Review

finalby Ben Warren

Intro

Everyone one who is a listener of our show knows that all of the hosts are fans of the Simple Copter range of multirotors. Myself Bobby and Chris all own one of the original larger models such as the Simple T copter or the Simple Vtail. These multirotors are all approximately in the 600mm range meaning they have a distance of about 600mm diagonally across the motors.

In the last 12 months the mini multirotors in the 250mm size range have taken the RC hobby by storm. These smaller quads and tricopters are a lot of fun to fly in smaller spaces, they are perfect for flying around your local children’s play-area, through the swing sets and round parks in and out of the trees etc. In fact, they can be flown just about anywhere. Adding to their popularity is the fact that due to the small size they are not as intimidating to fly and they are also not as expensive to build.

But don’t be fooled, these things can be crazy fast as the power to weight ratio is through the roof! So if you are new to multirotors you may want to be careful how you set these mini multirotors up.

What we are going to review in the following article is the Simple Copter Mini Vtail.
Matt Hall, owner and designer of Simple Copter, has done a great job creating this mini quad copter which has some very nice design features.

Design Features

  • Very low parts count
  • Zip tie mounted motors for easy breakaway in a crash
  • Zip tied landing gear for easy break away in a crash
  • Unique shape for easy orientation
  • Recessed protected Flight controller

Here you can see the simplicity of the frame assembly:

20140707_201328 20140707_205820

Specifications

  • Approx 300mm in size diagonally motor to motor
  • Designed around the Sunny Sky 2204 2300kv motors running 6×3.5 props
  • 12 amp esc, were using the Emax esc that running the BLHeli Firmware.
  • KK2.xxx Flight Control board

So now its onto the wiring and motor mounting.
This frame is designed around the very popular Sunny Sky 2204 2300kv motors. These motors come with some X mounts that screw to the base of each motor. When you do this make sure you use thread locker!! I recommend using Red.

Once all your x mounts are mounted to the motors i then solder the bullets to the motors. this will help you when you locate the ESC.

This is what I do when soldering bullet connectors onto motors and ESC, because I am a cheap skate and I don’t have a fancy soldering tool like Bobby has: Drill a hole in allbulletssome wood the same size as the bullet. Insert the bullet and you have a nice simple free holder whilst you do your soldering!

I normally do this in threes so you can do one motmotorsor or ESC at a time.

Repeat 4 times until you have all motors complete, and don’t forget the heat shrink!

Now you can actually mount the motors to the frame.

mountedmotor

Note how i have the wires from the motors pointing towards the inside of the frame, this just helps make the wiring neater when connecting up the ESC.
You will need to decide where to mount your ESCs so that you can route the wires for the motors and the main power harness.
I rough everything out and then hold the ESCs in place with some double sided tape or a shot ofsolderesc hot glue.

Once you know where the ESCs are going, you can cut the wires that lead to the motor to the correct length and solder on the bullet connectors. You can use the same trick for the ESC bullets as you did for the motors.

This is where i decided and how i decided to mount the ESCs.
escposit
Be warned, DON’T cut the motor wires as these are often the ceramic coated wires that are actually apart of the winding’s of the motor. It is virtually impossible to remove the coating to be able to solder to them. Some motors have silicone wires coming from them that are normal multi-strand wires that are easy to solder, but the smaller motors tend to have the actual motor windings coming out. Be very sure what type of wire you have before you cut them.

Now you can secure the wires to the frame to make them neat and tidy. Another important thing to note here is how you restrain them.

ziptiesTo take advantage of the break away zip tie motor mounts you need to make sure that the wires from the motor them selves are not tied to the frame with zip ties. Only zip tie the wires from the female bullet connector back to the ESC.

The reason for this is that we want the motor to break away from the air-frame and not be restrained by the motors wires. If you secure the motor wires then the motor wont be able to break free from the frame and you risk the wires being pulled out of the motor, or wound into a knot while the motor is still trying to spin.kkboard

I also took this opportunity to mount the KK2.1.5 flight controller and make the ESC connections nice and tidy and secured.

Next thing to tackle is the main power distribution to get power to all four ESCs.

There are several ways you can choose to do this:

  • You could eliminate the problem by using a 4-in-1 ESC
  • You could use a 4 to 1 connector that allows you to plug all the ESCs into one plug
  • You could use a power distribution board
  • Or you could solder up all the wires you have into a simple harness.

Each of the options have their pros and cons and they depend on cost weight space and soldering skills. But all of them require some sort of soldering.

The least amount of soldering would be the 4-in-1 ESC. These only require you to solder on your favorite battery connector and the bullet connectors for your motors. The only problem with this is that you may not have enough space to install it. I actually think there would be enough space in the MiniV in question to use one of these boards. They do how ever weigh a lot more than individual ESCs and are rated at 20 amps per ESC, which is overkill for these motors that really only need 12 amp ESC. And of course if you ever blow up one ESC it means that you loose all 4! Bobby uses on on his OPQ quad copter and its a neat simple solution, and so far very reliable.

Next for the least amount of soldering would be the power distribution board. This involves a small printed circuit board that provides nice simple traces for you to solder your ESC power leads plus a pair of leads to connect to your battery. You can also buy these power distribution boards that have bullet connectors already soldered on so all you have to do is solder bullets to your ESC power leads and it makes them very easy to remove or swap between models etc.multiplug

Next up is the 4 in 1 power connector, this involves soldering a set of bullet connectors up so that you have 4 female bullets all soldered together to connect all the ESC in parallel to your battery. Its easier to explain in a photo!!
But you still have to solder bullets to your esc power leads.

wiring1Lastly is a a simple power harness, which is what i decided to go with. This involves cutting and splicing all the main power leads from the ESC into one pair of power leads that you can install your battery connector on. I often use this method on smaller multirotors as it is the lightest option, i can better manage the wires and run them where I want. It is also the cheapest solution as you don’t need to purchase anything else, except maybe a little additional wire.wiring3

Notice how i also included into the harness some additional connectors. I included a male JST connector to allow us to connect the main battery to the KK board so it can monitor the pack voltage. I also included two additional female JSTconnectors so wiring4there is a convenient way to power future additions such as FPV gear or LED’s for night flying.

Once you have the ESC mounted, the motors mounted, and the power harness all sorted out, the next thing you need to move onto is the flight controller and receiver installation.
Luckily all your soldering is now done so you can put the iron away.

First thing i will mention regarding the KK2.xx series of flight controllers is that i highly recommend flashing them with new firmware such as that available from Steveis or RC911.
These very smart guys have re written the codeadapter for the KK2.xx series of FC to make it perform WAY better than it ever did with the factory installed firmware.

The self level feature works a lot better and RC911 has incorporated a self level mixing mode which means you can still perform aerobatics but still keep the self level mode at the same flashingtime! The further you move the right stick away from center the self leveling gets weaker and the acro mode gradually takes over. This makes it super easy to learn how to do flips and rolls. This mode is very comparable to the Horizon mode if you are familiar with MultiWii based flight controllers.

I wont go into detail here about how to flash the firmware but I will link at the bottom to Steveis Blog on RCGroups where you can find the latest version of his firmware and also his excellent manual that explains how to set it up. I will also link to where you can find out more about the RC911.

Matt uses the Steveis firmware on all his models so that is what we are using on this review model. I have used the Steveis firmware on my Simple T and am now trying out the RC911 firmware which is proving to be great fun doing flips and rolls whilst flying FPV with the safety net of the self leveling when you release the right stick!

Another added benefit of switching over to the Steveis Firmware or the RC911 Firmware is that they also greatly increase your options of how you connect your receiver.

With new firmware you can use a Futaba Sbus receiver with one wire hook up. A more traditional PPM sum receiver such as the ones available from FrSky, you can even connect a Spektrum satellite directly to the board or any DSM2 / DSMX capable satellite receiver.
lemonrcMy personal favorite is to use a Lemon RX Satellite receiver and connect that directly to the board for a very simple light weight solution.

You do need an additional converter cable to use a satellite only as the voltage from the KK board is too high without and will fry the satellite. These converter cables are available for a few bucks from many sources.

Once you have the receiver hooked up in which ever way best suites you you can then start programming the FC to suite the frame and your flying skills. Matt Hall has produced an in depth build video showing exactly how he builds a MiniV, and how he programs the FC,  so I wont go into too much detail here. Be warned, you may need a cup of coffee as its over an hour long!!

Wrapping it Up

I know its a bit of a cop out but i decided not to record a flight video for 4 reasons.

  1. I am not a very good pilot. I may know how to design and build and set up these things but i am not a very good at flying them.
  2. I have no idea how to edit videos.
  3. I don’t have a camera to record a flight with in the first place.
  4. Matt has already produced a demo flight video and he is by FAR a better pilot than I am and can truly demonstrate the capabilities of this awesome little quad!!

Whilst you are on Matt’s YouTube Channel check out his other flight videos, he really is an impressive Multirotor pilot.

Should you purchase one? YES!

If you are interested in trying out the hot new craze of mini multirotors then you can not go wrong with the Simple Copter MiniV. Its a very cost effective way of trying out this size machine.

Performance is obviously heavily influenced by the choice of motors, esc and flight pack but i cant see why you would want to spend 3 times as much on one of the other popular frames just to go to carbon fiber. These frames are USA made, very nicely thought out very good value and easily to repair if you do happen to break one.

Value: 10/10
At the price that Matt at Simple Copter is charging for these frames there really isn’t much point in trying to do it yourself. Especially not if you value your hobby time at $10 an hour or more!

Thank you for reading my first official RCTS review!!

Ben Warren
(Token Brit!)

Steveis Firmware and manual in first post here:
http://www.rcgroups.com/forums/member.php?u=367321

RC911 Firmware can be found in first post here:
http://www.multikopter.co.uk/forum/topic/1714-kk2-firmware-by-rc911/