Team BlackSheep Discovery Pro: Building A $3000 Quadcopter

Flight Control: DJI's Naza-M V2

So, the FrSky controller transmits a signal through ImmersionRC’s hardware, and that information is fed into DJI’s Naza-M V2 autopilot system—the computer, if you will, responsible for “taking the stress out of multi-rotors” by self-leveling and holding altitude. As with all of the other components in my build, there are alternatives to the Naza, many of which Clym discussed in his introductory piece. But DJI’s offering is considered to be the easiest for getting flying faster. I lack experience with MultiWii, KK2, ArduPilot or any of the others, so I’ll have to trust the community on this one. DJI sells a couple of other models, including the A2 and WooKong-M. But TBS is sticking with the Naza family for its Discovery Pro kits.   

The box includes a main controller, a power management unit, an LED block with USB connectivity and a GPS. DJI spells out the purpose of each component in its documentation. But in brief, the PMU takes a 7-25V input and outputs 5V at up to 3A. The LED conveys system status through a series of red, yellow and green blink codes, additionally hosting the microUSB interface used to attach your PC. Naturally, the GPS fixes on satellites to triangulate your position. Should the radio lose contact (or you simply get into trouble and manually trigger it), a failsafe mode engages—the quad hovers for three seconds, and if you haven’t regained control, returns to the spot where you established satellite lock and started the motors. A multi-rotor flying under 20m ascends before making the journey automatically. A quad above 20m maintains its altitude and flies straight back before hovering for 15 seconds and then landing itself. Sound like useful functionality to have on a $3000+ aircraft? It is. Just don’t lean on it as a crutch. Twenty meters isn’t very high, and your quadcopter will plow into any tree, building or pole in its way if you aren’t clear of obstacles.

Of the configurable components in TBS’ Long Range kit, the Naza-M V2 is easiest to set up. DJI’s Assistant Software is superb. Although it includes pages of options, each setting is explained in sufficient detail for the neophyte to understand what it does and why it’s important. Some of the controller’s capabilities, like the Low-Voltage Alert and Intelligent Orientation Control, are eschewed by many enthusiasts. But the Enhanced Failsafe, Flight Limits and Command Sticks Calibration features are utilized universally.

Despite DJI’s excellent work, don’t be discouraged if some of the software’s fields just aren’t intuitive. For instance, input gains vary depending on frame, motors, propellers, and weight. Determining optimal settings would be daunting to a beginner. However, there’s a more experienced pilot out there with your exact hardware who already spent a weekend experimenting. Do a little sleuthing and you’re sure to find balanced gains to get you started. TBS suggests figures that cover the Discovery Pro and its own 900kV motors; my upgrade to 1000kV powerplants threw those numbers off, though.

Chris Angelini
Chris Angelini is an Editor Emeritus at Tom's Hardware US. He edits hardware reviews and covers high-profile CPU and GPU launches.
  • blackmagnum
    Sunbathers beware! On another note: 3k dollars would build an awesome gaming machine, but getting some fresh air is all good.
  • firefyte
    The page title is a bit off "Buikding And Flying..."
  • Shankovich
    A company in Toronto called DreamQii made one that's around $1000 for the kit and is modular. A much better deal IMO, and it comes with a sturdier gimbal. Can you guys review that one? Kinda want one but not so sure about the whole thing.
  • Bondfc11
    The radio in the photos is a dead match for the JR radio I use for flying my helicopter.
  • g-unit1111
    Pretty sweet but if I had $3,000 to spend money on something, this would be like last on my list. :lol:
  • qlum
    I have looked at quad copters quite often but every time I look I come to the same conclusion: To expensive for something I will get bored of pretty soon anyway.

    Anyway the last time I was nervous about something I did was when I had to solder a serial connection on a bricked router. It was a first for me but all went far far smoother then I ever expected.
  • geof2001
    please follow up with some video and first flight commentary
  • d_kuhn
    Soo... while this looks like a very cool drone, if you're looking at your first buy you might want to look a bit more modest... like the DJI Phantom 2 Vision+... $1300 buys you a nice quadcopter with a stabilized camera. That's a lot less $$$ to lose when you auger in on your maiden flight.
  • desert_beagle
    great article.. just expecting the delivery of my TBS Disco + Taranis today.. yes, it's expensive, but it's a lot of fun.. )
  • quadcopterhq
    Really great overview of what it is like to build your own custom quadcopter, one of the most coherent and in-depth ones I've seen so far. To be honest, all the work makes me want to just recommend buying an off-the-shelf ready-to-fly option like the DJI Phantom! Of course, this model is much more capable and for any pro the customization is necessary (and enjoyable potentially too) to be able to get the video results required.

    What kind of flying time does the rig have? And could you attach a larger, heavier camera if you swap in a different gimbal or are you limited to the GoPro line?