Team BlackSheep Discovery Pro: Building A $3000 Quadcopter

Be A Responsible Enthusiast

Back when I wrote Nvidia Shield Review: Tegra 4-Powered Handheld Gaming, I had no problem taking the handheld console out to my front yard and flying Parrot’s AR.Drone 2.0 around the cul-de-sac. And while I was eager to start flying TBS’ Discovery Pro as soon as I finished building it, this time was different. The AR.Drone is a $300 multi-rotor. I was in for more than 10 times that on the Discovery. It could fly farther, its motors are capable of doing more damage, and I certainly didn’t want any of my neighbors thinking I was peeking in at them. So, I waited for a nice clear day and took the quad to a local park with plenty of space to learn the nuances of FPV flying without putting anyone at risk.

Source: Team BlackSheepSource: Team BlackSheep

Really, that’s a great place to wrap any hands-on discussion of multi-rotor hardware. The build process is engaging, the software-based configuration afterward can be challenging and flying from the virtual cockpit rewarding. But the freedom to enjoy this hobby is accompanied by an obligation to respect it. High-flying craft with high-resolution cameras are easy to abuse. Abuse is countered by regulation. And heavy-handed laws have a habit of transcending the good old fashioned common sense a responsible hobbyist should be using anyway. Hearing about pilots flying multi-rotors up to peer through high-rise windows or near commercial aircraft is aggravating; those lapses of judgement affect the rest of us who want to enjoy the hobby responsibly.

Team BlackSheep does a good enough job compiling complementary components and documenting the build process that any PC enthusiast well-versed in searching online forums should surface from a weekend’s worth of work with a functional Discovery Pro. Still, this isn’t the quad-copter you want to start with. It’s a roughly $3000 collection of parts that I’m sure I’ll crash at one point or another. Get your feet wet on the more mainstream side of the spectrum, learn how to fly proficiently and then sink big bucks on top-shelf gear. Given the rate at which TBS introduces upgraded components and fresh recommendations, you’ll end up with an even better setup than what I put together—perhaps for less money, even.

Check out the following album for more pictures of our build.

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  • 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?
  • cangelini
    @quadcopterhq: Thanks! I'm getting about 8 min. in the air and seeing around 17A of draw, which seems higher than it should be. Need to do some weight-shedding. The main reason I'd stick with the GoPro is for the 30-pin connector that feeds video into the system for switching sources mid-flight. I'd love to compare more turnkey solutions, though.
  • Pretty hard core build when you have solder everything on... for the cost i would expect something a little less... hard core (lack of a better word)
  • videobear
    Reviews of cars, now quadcopters. Tom's use to be a site for computer homebuilders. It would be nice to see more material focused on that, and less on side issues.
  • Darth_Indy
    Yours is the first article about drones that actually talked about responsible use of the drone. Thank you. Advanced drones are not lightweight toys any more, these things are getting heavy (think bowling ball and greater) and with this additional weight it means that collisions with a plane or someone on the ground could result in serious injury or even death. Flying one of these bigger drones over crowds of people or into shared airspace is not just a bad idea, it's potentially dangerous (sorry for the rant, I have a friend that had a near miss this year and safety must be discussed honestly).
  • Jacob McIntosh
    These drones are awesome, but how long will it be before the FAA steps in?
  • Bondfc11
    Southpark is on it!
  • 119632 said:
    Yours is the first article about drones that actually talked about responsible use of the drone. Thank you. Advanced drones are not lightweight toys any more, these things are getting heavy (think bowling ball and greater) and with this additional weight it means that collisions with a plane or someone on the ground could result in serious injury or even death. Flying one of these bigger drones over crowds of people or into shared airspace is not just a bad idea, it's potentially dangerous (sorry for the rant, I have a friend that had a near miss this year and safety must be discussed honestly).


    Quick ground all aircraft, destroy all satellites, shoot down all balloons and burn all the kites.
  • CaroH
    What is the legality limits on use of this copter for hobby purposes? Are there altitude restrictions, or requirements to keep craft in line of sight?

    It would be bad if this article encourages people to break the law.
  • 1816014 said:
    What is the legality limits on use of this copter for hobby purposes? Are there altitude restrictions, or requirements to keep craft in line of sight? It would be bad if this article encourages people to break the law.


    It would depend on the laws of your country/state same goes for RC helicopters and planes.
  • shrapnel_indie
    Where I live, the FAA has put a ceiling on how high they can be flown: 400ft. It may be a good idea (here in the States) to check with the FAA for the rules in your area, or with the equivalent agency within your country.