Frame and Hardware
Firstly, choosing a frame with lighter parts such as lighter screws and smaller carbon pieces is key. Many frames can weigh upwards of 150g adding unnecessary weight. Unless you are constantly smashing your drone into walls, you won’t need extremely thick carbon. After flying for over 6 months with many crashes, not once have I broken a piece of carbon on my frame with 5mm arms. This is provided I have not crashed directly into very hard surfaces like concrete many times. Even if you are crashing into hard substances frequently, increasing the thickness of arms is not necessarily the best move. Using a 5mm arm gives a much lighter weight, and chances are if you crash head-on into a wall, even a 6mm or 7mm arm would break. Additionally, buying replacements for thinner arms is more economical than buying thicker ones due to the smaller amount of carbon used in manufacturing. In conclusion, the performance and flight time improvements outweigh the potential increase in durability with a thicker arm. Secondly, hardware is another thing that makes a frame heavy. Check over your drone and remove screws that are unneeded and consider upgrading your screws to a lighter material. For example, titanium screws are much lighter than steel ones and provide almost the same amount of durability. Another great way to reduce weight from screws is to use only 2 or 3 screws on the motors instead of 4. 4 screws are excessive for a motor and reducing each motor to at least 3 can save you a few grams without compromising much durability if any. A great lightweight frame to check out would be the QAV-S JohnnyFPV edition as it is lightweight, yet durable. This frame also provides a unique HD camera mount which is very weight effective. HD camera mounts will be discussed later in this article if you would like to learn more about saving weight with them.
Another great way to save a few grams is to use a smaller size electronic stack. Oftentimes, frames support 20×20 and 30×30 stacks, so it is very easy to swap out your 30×30 for a 20×20 and save a few grams. Additionally, running the power cable of the drone to the side (as seen in the picture above) rather than out the back can shorten the length of the cable thereby saving some weight. Additionally, check your gauge of wire, as you may be able to get the same performance from a thinner wire and save some weight. GetFPV has a great selection of these different sized stacks and wires to choose from if you are looking to upgrade.
Upgrade your stack here: FC / ESC Stacks
Reducing weight is also possible through the choice of motors. For example, I upgraded my Diatone 2207.5 motors which weighed 32.5g to the T-Motor F40 pro IV motors which weigh only 30.8 grams to reduce weight and increase performance at the same time. Although this weight reduction was not much, it added up to almost 7g savings with the four motors. As seen with this example, the weight reduction caused no compromise and instead also increased the performance of the drone with the higher quality motors. Motor changes can be a great weight savings because they are multiplied by 4.
Check out the T-Motor F40 Pro IV here: T-Motor F40 PRO IV 1950KV/2400KV Motor
Props don’t have much weight variation, but with four of them on each quad, the weight can add up. One of the main downsides to a lighter prop is reduced durability, however, in the case of a crash, most polycarbonate props will bend or get broken no matter the thickness (of the common props sold today). Polycarbonate props have great durability for their weight, but cannot sustain many crashes, so it is better to buy lighter ones as the heavier ones will probably sustain similar amounts of damage in a crash. The lighter weight not only contributes to better flight performance and flight time but also makes the motors much more responsive as they have a lighter load to spin up. Some great lightweight props include the Ethix S series of props.
Check out the Ethix S series props:
Although lightweight batteries are often more expensive, they also provide great performance. A simple way to decrease weight with batteries is to buy smaller capacity batteries, which improves flight performance and efficiency, but not flight time. To improve flight performance, efficiency, and flight time, a more expensive battery is needed. If you can afford a more expensive battery, it is worth it to invest in them as they last longer and provide better performance and efficiency.
Here are some lightweight batteries that also offer great performance:
Battery grip is often overlooked as a way to save weight, but the brand Ummagawd has created a great lightweight solution. They have a battery grip that holds the batteries on great but is also very lightweight. This is worth looking into as it is a cheap way to save some weight.
Battery grip: Ummagrip Lite Universal Sticky Pad (Blue)
3D Printed Parts and HD Camera Mount
3D printed parts often weigh quite a bit, and things like arm protectors can be taken off to save some weight. The main weight of 3D printed material found on many drones is a 3D printed HD camera mount. This can often weigh 20–30 grams which is quite a price to pay for just a mount. A great alternative is an HD camera foam mount which is used on the QAV-S JohnnyFPV edition frame I discussed earlier. This foam wedge weighs close to nothing and can save you a good 20 grams. I have also stuck this HD Camera foam wedge to some other drones, so you do not need the specific frame for it to work. Just make sure there is a good spot for a battery strap to go under the top plate to secure the HD camera.
Antennas are not the best way to reduce weight as they don’t weigh much in the first place, but some antennas such as the AXII 2 series from Lumeneir, can save you a couple of grams and increase your antenna’s performance at the same time. They are an expensive upgrade for the weight saved, but there is no compromise in the process, and instead, you gain performance.
Check out the AXII 2 series.
There are many ways to reduce weight on your FPV drone some being better than others, but all contributing to the same cause. Reducing weight has great benefits including better flight performance as well as increased flight time. I hope some of these ideas helped you reduce weight on your drone! Happy flying!