Psyborgs Set Up Process for Quad Copters.


Wake up! Time to fly!
There has been more then a few new builders and pilots having trouble keeping track of setting up their quads recently with all the changes. Several have asked for a basic order or process for setting up a quad.

This will be a walk thru of setting up a quad copter. It is not a build walk thru even though parts of the build process are mentioned. It will be a generic process as the tech is moving too fast to be specific about various makes of flight controllers, esc's, and motors. More then likely there will be issues along the way in the set up process and at some point if this is received well I will do a trouble shooting article at a later date. If you are reading this for trouble shooting purposes I suggest you disconnect any thing other then the pdb, the flight controller, the esc's and the motors until you confirm the core all works as it should.

First thing to do is to read and follow the flight controllers requirements for drivers and connect the flight controller to the computer. Doing this before the build will make sure that the controller does in fact work and communicate but also lets you upgrade it and have it ready to go when the rest of the setup up is done. ALWAYS flash a new controller to the latest stable firmware.

From this point you can either build the rest of the electronics off of the processor on the bench like is the easiest way to work with the new Gremlin sized micros or for larger kits build it right to the frame where it will be easier to custom fit parts and wires. Connecting the esc's is next so pay close attention to polarities and where signal wires are attached to the flight controller.

Once the esc's have been added next will come the motors. For my builds I make sure the wires come straight off the motors and do not cross. It makes a neater build and will be less likely to get tangled and stress the wires. Most motor rotation is controlled by a jumper pad on the esc or straight thru the esc software so crossing wires is no longer a necessity.

Now it is time to power up the drive train to check motor rotation and flash esc's to current firmware. NEVER apply power from a battery for the first time with out using a smoke stopper! At this point you may have to select the protocol for the esc's to what they are flashed to from the factory in the gui. You can flash to a different protocol supported by your esc's after you have made the initial connection and know they are all talking to the flight controller.

Once you have powered the drive train and found no problems its time to do a few quick checks. You can now remove the smoke stopper from the set up. Start by connecting the flight controller back up to the computer with the usb cable. Open what ever gui you are using and connect to the flight controller. The first thing we will check is the motor directions and ensure that each motor reacts to its proper place according to the flight controller. Make sure your propellers are NOT on
your motors. Plug the battery in to the drive train and let the flight controller boot up. Pay attention to the tones the esc's make when you do this as they can give information to their status at this time.

Once things are powered up go to the motors tab and check the box that allows you to control the motors from the gui. Take a piece of paper for this step and write down the numbers we get from this part of the set up. Starting with motor number one slider raise it up to about a quarter throttle to make sure it spins up. You will also check to make sure that it is turning the proper direction at this point by either lightly touching the bell with a finger or by the tape on the shaft method.
Write down if it is correct or needs to be reversed. Repeat this process for the other three motors. Again make sure that the correct motor turns with each of the sliders.

Next we will find the minimum throttle for each motor by using the slider. I find it easier to highlight the slider and use the up arrow key to move it in small increments so I am more accurate. Use the up arrow key until the motor spins smooth and not jerky or twitchy in any way. Write that number down. Repeat that with the other three motors. Now that you have that number take the highest one of the four and add 10 points to it to account for weight of the props. This will be entered on the configuration page as the minimum throttle.

Now comes time to flash the esc's to current firmware and make any changes to motor rotation needed. Some older esc's may not be able to be flashed thru the flight controller and I will assume you have ones that can be. This step can be skipped providing you are sure all four esc's are using the same firmware AND revision. If you have ones that can be follow the on screen directions in your gui for flashing the esc's and again use the latest firmware that matches your specific esc's.

After they are flashed and the drive train reboots go back and check to make sure each motor turns. The next step is to calibrate the esc's providing you are not using Dshot protocols as this is not necessary with them. To do this you connect to the gui un powered by a battery. Go to the motors tab and check the box. Again NO props! Slide the main motor slider all the way to the top. Now you can connect the battery and listen for the esc's to play a tune. As soon as they do slide the main motor slider back to zero throttle. At this point your esc's will reboot and should be calibrated. Use the main slider and check to make sure all four motors start at the same time. If they do not go back and repeat the process.

At this point you need to open bl heli to change any wrong motor directions or to solder the jumper pads on the esc's themselves. IF for some reason you still have old esc's that use neither of these methods then you must swap any two of the motor wires on your esc's by un-soldering and reattaching them in the new positions

Now that all that works its time to connect a receiver and get that all lined out. Depending on your receiver will depend on how to connect to the flight controller so look in the flight controllers pdf manual for specifics on how to set yours up. Some are simple some require you to select a different uart in the gui to make them talk. So far I think it is only Spectrum that has to use different uart to communicate and from what I have read it is usually on uart three. Again read the pdf to determine how to connect yours up properly.

Once you have your receiver connected plug in the usb and go to the configuration page in the gui and select the proper protocol from the pull down menu on the upper left side of the page. SAVE that THEN go to the receiver tab. I go back and check to make sure it did save and then continue back on the receiver tab. On the receiver page you will be able to select the channel mapping for the receiver. I always set mt gear to TAER when I get it so its all the same. Just make sure that what ever you select matches what you have set in your radio. Next turn on your radio and wiggle the sticks to make sure things are talking and that throttle is throttle yaw is yaw and so forth. If they are not it more then likely is that you do not have the same channel mapping set between them.

The next step is to set centers and end points between the radio and the flight controller. To do this you will use the sub trims in your radio to get each channel as close to 1500 as possible. I do this for my switches on the aux channels I use as well. Not a necessity but will ensure no issues further in the process. Now you will notice in most cases you can not get things exactly to 1500 and that the numbers bounce a bit. This is due to analog electronics not being as precise as digital and more susceptible to wear. Do not worry over it as long as you are within a point or two of 1500. After this we will use travel adjustments or end points on some radios to set the minimums for each channel to 1000 and the maximums to 2000.

Some radios will be as high as 1100 and as low as 1900 to start so quite an adjustment will be needed. Some radios
you may have to use what is called extended trims to reach the proper 1000 and 2000 end points. Just make sure you get these set properly or you will have other issues later in the set up. In EVERY case remember to NEVER use the manual trims on the radio by your sticks once these are set. If your radio has the capability like the Taranis go ahead and disable them altogether to prevent accidental changes later on. If your center numbers are really bouncing around 1500and are more then two points difference you may need to set the dead zones to keep the quad from drifting from this happening. Most gui's now days have this feature older ones may not.

Now that you have your channel assignments and proper settings done we can move on to switches. Usually quad copters use receivers with six channels or more so we can use switches to do things with. Some of you may only have four channels but you can still fly with just four it will just mean you do not have certain abilities to turn things on and off.

I set Aux 1 which will be channel five to be my arm switch. This is the first one and is a must if you have the channels to use. Stick arming can actually disarm the quad doing certain maneuvers while in the air. I have a Taranis so I mapped mine to a three position switch and set it to arm high. I use the switch right above the pitch stick so Its a mere flick of the finger to disarm as fast as possible since I use the pinch method to fly. I use a 3 position as it adds a little safety net in case I
accidentally bump the arm switch. Next I set up a flight mode switch on aux two where the low position will be horizon mode (with out air mode) as an emergency mode or early learning for fpv take off and landing. The mid position will be acro mode (nothing set to the mid position). The high position will be acro mode as well but I also map air mode to the same
aux switch in the high position so I have acro with air mode. This allows me to do tricks and stuff with the high position but allows for a no bounce landing while still in acro mode in the mid position.

Finally we set up fail safe. Each receiver handles things differently. For a race / free style quad you want the quad to stop moving as fast as possible. This means probably damaging the quad but that is far better then it zooming around trying to do something else. Make sure you set it so when the link between your radio and the quad is broken the quad immediately shuts off. Test this several times with the props off by spinning the motors with radio control and then shutting the radio off. If it does anything but shut off the quad you need to go back and check settings until you can get this to work before ever trying to fly.

At this point it is time to put props on and test fly / maiden your quad to make sure things are correctly set up.

The first thing I do after powering on the quad is make sure there is ample room for the quad to move around as sometimes the stock tune does not play well with some setups or gear. Then I will step back a good ten feet or more before arming the quad in case some freak incidence occurs and it goes bonkers. the first thing I lok at are all the propellers spinning smoothly and not twitching. If they are twitching take not and remember to raise minimum throttle value another 10 points. If they are we will move to the next step.

Set your mode switch to acro with no air mode. Raise the throttle SLOWLY until you see the quad become light but not lift off the ground. Pitch forward a little and make sure the quad leans forward. tilt it back and make sure it rocks back to center. Do the same thing with Roll. Make sure right input is a right movement and left is left movement. Then you do the same with yaw to make sure left is left and so forth.

If all that is correct it is time to do your first test hop. Set the mode you want to try with on the mode switch. I suggest to stay in acro with out air mode for this. Slowly raise the throttle and watch the quad is starting to get light but stay level. If it is not make corrections gently with pitch and roll commands until it looks like it wants to go straight up. once it looks like it is sitting level apply more throttle and get it into a hover. Keep in mind that ground effect will make it move around so you have to be a little brave and get it up at least a foot off the ground to get out of that condition. Keep making gentle corrections to keep the quad level. Then gently set it back down.

Depending how smoothly that first hp went will determine if it is stable enough to start flying or if you need to change some settings. If teh quad was all wobbly with out your control inputs then some de-tuning needs to be done. If it got off the ground and followed what you made it do when moving the sticks then you can start flying. If it felt twitchy and really fast reacting with little stick movements this is normal. All you need to do is set a fair amount of expo. I do it right in the radio at first as I can adjust it in the field as I get the quad more tuned to how I want it to fly. I find setting between 40 and 60 % exponential on pitch and roll a good place to start depending on your skill, nerves, and confidence. you can always raise or lower it at any time. Besides once you have the quad all tuned you will set the expo directly on the flight controiller as that won't change once you find where you want it to be.

If this helps people and goes over well with the community I will also write up a general troubleshooting guide as well as tips for safe electronics handling and solder techniques as I see a lot of bad habits and methods in recent build videos that have high potential to create problems.

Once again this is how I do things and do not expect to debate things. I will however accept things to add if you guys think about BASIC things to help.


Gravity Tester
This may be the longest single post I've ever seen on this forum. But I know it will help a lot of people. Thanks for making this :applause:


Wake up! Time to fly!
Great write up Bill, you should sticky it if you can :)

That's up to the powers that be. This is more a quick version to help the few new guys get lined out and in the air. It needs to be re written in a better format before it can be anything official I think.

Thanks for the praise though I do appreciate the endorsement for sure.

@Snarls... you know me I tend to be long winded in my old age and like to ramble on.. I did the same back in the drinkin days of the Navy and people would buy me shots to shut me up... Wonder if I yak long enough if I can get FT to give me free stuff to shut me up... we may be on to something here mate. Maybe I should make up a sign and stand in the street some where.. "Will shut up for quad parts"


Techno Nut
Great writeup Psyborg! I'm a bit more liberal with the use of a smokestopper. I use it all the way up till the props go on and any time anything is added to the power bus. Saved the day once when hooking up the OSD and VTX went awry. I check the min throttle of the motors after every flash of the ESCs and after calibrating ESC end-points. I've seen it change between BLH versions when default parameters change.



Wake up! Time to fly!
Thanks mate appreciate the thumbs up specially from a celebrity like you with all your official testing and such. ;)

Yeah I use it after every step where electrical pieces are added. For this part it is only needed on the first power up. After that it kind of effects how motors and esc's work for finding min throttle and checking directions and such. Also would be in teh way for new soldering paduwans trying to work around it. That will all be added to the next piece for adding the other components to a build as well as the troubleshooting part.

This gives the new guys a place to start when building to supplement a video as they work thru it. Notice there really is not much detail for each section like the nightmare scenario for usb drivers....

I think once I finish it all the way thru I will try and clean it all up and take a poke at writing an actual article and put the honors English courses to use finally. See what I can remember about technical writing or find out just how lazy the interwebz have made me over the years.


Some guy in the desert
Great post to help people out!

The one thing I'm not a big fan of is not swapping wires to reverse motors. Well...sometimes.

If the ESC's have a solder pad to reverse rotation (i.e. KISS) then yes, I will wire them all straight and use the pads to reverse any that need reversing. Because it's cleaner and reliable.

However if reversing is not hardware controllable I still swap wires. It's not that much less clean (just one wire going over another and honestly most people would never notice since it's probably hidden under shrink wrap or somewhere else not obvious.) but it's more reliable. BLHeli is the most popular use case with software reversing - but they've had issues with it several times. I know several people who burned up motors or ESC's when they did a blheli upgrade and a bug in the reversing code wasn't found before the release. Even more who had things suddenly go wonky because the setting got lost between upgrades - which at least is easy to recover from...but can still suck to lose a day of flying if you forget to check it after upgrading and get to field with no notebook to adjust it.

Same with the ESC's that set rotation based on sensing the prop rotation - I know a couple people who've used those and had them suddenly swap rotation on them unexpectedly due to accidentally triggering the rotation detection routine or firmware flaking out.

So yeah, I still rely on hardware based solutions for motor reversing. If it's a jumper - great! If it's not a jumper then I'll swap wires any day before using software.


Gravity Tester
Pictures or it didn't happen. :D

I think pictures would definitely help out. One problem is that there are so many hardware and FC options that it because hard to keep pictures general. Also the firmware's update so often that if you add pics Psyborg you will have to come back and update them now and then.


Faster than a speeding face plant!
I think pictures would definitely help out. One problem is that there are so many hardware and FC options that it because hard to keep pictures general. Also the firmware's update so often that if you add pics Psyborg you will have to come back and update them now and then.

And he can never stop building, flying and crashing new copters too. :)


Obsession, not hobby
I vote PsyBorg for the FT giveaways! :applause:

Are you going to be working on photos, diagrams and videos? :D


Wake up! Time to fly!
I would like to do photos and such but as mentioned there is simply too much hardware out there. May be able to work up a few general diagrams though and maybe even a dictionary type thing that gives a short description of the major parts and what their main function is over time.

As for the write up on flashing anything I am very leery to do that. Only for the simple fact that again far to many configurations with people computers and that opens the door for hate and discontent if I write something and someone changes drivers on their computer and other things stop working.

To the suggestion that I just keep building stuff I am down with that but someone else will have to provide the "Stuff". As it stands now I rearrange the grocery list on occasion to support the quads and that's stretching things for larger stuff.

Which finally comes full circle about making videos. Starting with the broken me and the big belly from that above mentioned grocery list right down to the scary thing you guys call a face even when masked by varying colors of facial hair I think I would push more people away then attract them to our hobby....... Ohh on second thought maybe I COULD make a few DJI videos....

This all boils down this. I WANT to help people and make the hobby easier and more enjoyable. That takes time and motivation and a generally good demeanor to do consistently. Like anyone else I have good days bad days and with my other issues I have horrible days. Getting back into the hobby has surely helped lessen the horrible days. These forums also give me a way to get thru those times by letting me come here and focus on other peoples problems and not my own. This is what motivates me to be here as much as I am. It helps me which allows me to help others thus creating a good cycle and I greatly appreciate you all allowing me to be part of this in some way. I do not know what limits there are for where it all becomes too much or it actually becomes a responsibility. I do not want to say I will do things and get into a bad time and not come thru like I am currently on another side project.


Faster than a speeding face plant!
Well I dig it PsyBorg. Your posts are entertaining and informative.

Haters gonna hate. Write what you think is relevant. We have the FlyingMonkey for any real dummasses. But I get your trepidation on the flashing. The drivers are awful when they don't just work out.

Do you ever do yellow?? ;)


Wake up! Time to fly!
hehe no I do not DO yellow. Although it was yellowish the first time I tried dyeing it. I made the mistake of using that pre bleach stuff for dark hair. About killed myself having that right under my nose for so long. Never do that again. Kinda why I stay with darker colors they cover better without that bleach stuff.

Matter of fact I went back to purple from the spring neon green. spring is near over and now I can hide among the flowers or something poetically stupid hehe Only colors I have really used were the green, the purple and some red when I can source it. Gotta do it to instigate a starter conversation cause I be too old and too ugly other wise.. Works similar to putting the steak around a kids neck to get the dog to play with them type thing.


Wake up! Time to fly!
Ok I have got three write ups done that all tie together. Starting with a basic mechanical principles and hints for better building Then a Soldering tutorial with a general procedure and will do video for that when I can get a decent camera. Then a better write up for setting up a flight controller and radio gear. I also want to do several short videos for that stage as well. and finally how to do a maiden and what to look for to get started for tuning a quad (not complete yet)

What I WANT to do is have them all cross linked so at different parts in the process I can send people back to the basics for refresher if they had not seen the preceding pieces. Then to finish it all up start an on going trouble shooting thread cross linked to each part of the set up with potential issues and maybe clues what to try.

Can all that be done using the articles section? and how much a problem would it be for someone official to format it into a better presentation format then I will probably try. Or is it better to just do it in separate thread formats with a bunch of links to send people to oter parts like I want to do?