TweakerQX : the best 180 frame + the best mini quad electronics

more pics on flickr

PART 1 : CONCEPT


The 200qx has to be my all time favorite quad. It is by far, one of the most adored and revered multirotors ever released by Blade (along with the Nano QX). A quick search of the web reveals pages and pages of modifications, upgrades and FPV conversions. By my count, there are more than ten 200qx-specific 3rd party upgrade frames, including one authorized by Horizon Hobby, plus tons of hop-up parts from Rakon, Microheli, and Blade. With the new 3d firmware update, the 200qx could easily be the 3D heli flyers’ gateway drug to the multirotor world.

Placed next to the Blackouts and QAV250’s, the quad itself is underwhelming. Even when compared to the new crop of 180 quads, the 200qx looks a bit like a weakling. While its power train (2s, 6a ESCs, and 1306 3100kv motors) is not exactly built for pedal to the metal racing, they definitely aren’t gas guzzlers either. The 200qx was designed very economically, bringing its total mass down, which in turn increases flight times and makes “emergency landings” a little softer. Of course, laden with larger batteries and FPV gear, one quickly overrides the designers’ intended configuration.

What makes the quad so special is its guts. The Horizon Hobby team must have put an inordinate amount of work into tuning the little guy, because its one of the most locked in machines available. As anyone who’s built their own quad can tell you, flying a perfectly tuned quad is amazing, but getting it to that point is a nightmare. HH has done all the work for you. The quad tracks very well, making it a great stepping stone from brushed quads to more serious machines. At the same time, it is super easy for more adventurous fliers to swap out the frame for some carbon, toss on a FPV cam, and go zipping around.

The 200qx’s plastic frame, is of course one of its largest shortcomings (immediately followed by the motors’ pathetically thin shafts and equally dinky propellers) The upgrade options are great, especially the Armattan 180. While the carbon frames are incredibly sturdy, you trade the plastic shell’s protection and enclosure for a more durable, but more exposed system.

A repaired 200qx, from 6 months ago
A repaired 200qx, from 6 months ago. Not too shabby!

My last stock frame lasted all of 2 weeks, until an overzealous friend thought he could manage his first FPV flight on 100% manual mode. A little bit of gorilla glue worked wonders, but form is just as important as function, and I wasn’t a fan of alien yellow gunk around the 200qx arms. I picked up a Armattan Morphite frame, but the super-exposed design braved 2 flights outside before I decided the dirt and grime wasn’t worth it. Eventually the electronics got torn off, and the parts went their separate ways.

A few months went by, school started, and I ran across Andy Shen’s TWEAKER 180 frame. Andy has been designing for Lumenier and GetFPV (read QAV series, Danaus) for a while now, and his work is both precise and practical. While I wasn’t a big fan of his Danaus (I never got the whole propeller guard thing) the Nerf Disc-shooting BLAST variant of the QAV400 was amazing, and I’ve been watching for a new quad ever since the 180’s started taking off.

The new QAV180 and 210 are built off of Andy’s original designs, but I decided against the Lumenier branded models  because of the weight (almost 20g more than the Tweaker, though a bit of that might be the included PDB) and decided to go straight to the source.

One of the distinct advantages of Andy’s quads is the quality. In addition to being well designed, the quads are cut out of extrememly high quality carbon fiber, the same as used for GETFPV’s QAV lineup. I’ve only seen such matte, 3k grade material used in a few places – Lumenier, Red20RC, and MyRCMart. If you’ve ever seen the Blackout, Zuul, or similar frames, they are all cut out of the same crap you find on most Chinese ZMR250 quads. And the Tweaker is only $45 – how could I resist!?

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67.4 grams, as packaged

TLDR:

Weighs 67g, only ~10g more than the stock frame
High quality CF
Low Cost
Won’t support the 200qx motors, but that’s a good excuse to switch to higher quality, more shielded motors. *** Turns out the stock motors do indeed fit! Awesome coincidence. I’ll stick with them for a while before switching out.

PART 2 : Parts


goodies-from-rotorgeeks_21340162986_o
Free Stickers 😀

My new favorite place to shop (after Hobbyking, MyRCMart, Banggood, and EBAY) has to be Rotorgeeks. Though they are in Canada, they have a very reliable $5 post through USPS, which arrived in just 4 days. I was dreading paying a few dollars extra for tax (California’s only flaw) but the Tweaker 180 was out of stock almost everywhere. Rotorgeeks had a few in stock ($50 shipped) and sent me tracking just a day after payment.

sunnysky-1306_21240253800_o
Note the short, crappy magnet wire. Replaced with far higher grade silicon wire stolen from Naza servo cables.

For motors, I went with the SunnySky 1306 3100kv. I’m usually a big fan of the RCX motors, and I purchased a set of the new 3200kv versions, but shipping from china always takes ages. The SunnySkies are usually top notch, but their 1306 motors don’t use silicon wire, there’s just some pathetic heatshrink over the extended motor magnet wire. First thing I did was cut those down and solder some decent 30awg silicon cable on. *** The motors and FPV cams from MyRCMart arrived, just under a week after being posted. Still have to decide between these and the SSkies.

The famous Rakon Heli 200qx
The famous Rakon Heli 200qx

I picked up the 200qx off of RCGroups for around $130. Used machines aren’t always the best bet, but this was a good value (Rakon frame + a few batteries) and I was planning on replacing the motors anyway. The frame in question, by Rakon Heli is absurdly popular among 200qx owners, and combined with the Phoenix Flight Gear frame, probably makes up more than 80% of 200qx mods (though people are finally seeing sense and switching over to polycarbonate frames) The frames’ popularity intriuges me – other than smooth looks, the Rakon doesn’t have a lot going for it. It is expensive, flimsy, and built with innumerable tiny self-tapping screws – absolute crap. I’ll be switching out for the Tweaker (probably ~1/3 the part count) as soon as possible. Perhaps the onlygood thing about the Rakon is a decent resale value for the frame, canopy, and 200qx motors.

PART 3 : Build


Ajay makes sure no one stabs themselves with screwdrivers while tearing apart the Rakon frame
Ajay makes sure no one stabs themselves with the screwdrivers

Monta Vista PhysEng Club just had its second meeting, and what better way to start than with the 200qx! The club, however inexperienced, made quick work of the shoddy Rakon frame. There was a little difficulty unscrewing the motors (one of the things the 200qx is infamous for) and unplugging them. Sorting that out left us to reassemble the components on the Tweaker. We didn’t have the original electronics housing/structure/tier from the 200qx, so we just moved the Rakon’s over with the help of a few zip-ties. Important to note, the 200qx motors need 5-6mm of vertical to mount. The Tweaker is just 3mm thick. Luckily I kept the spacers from my old Armattan 180qx, which doubled the height and gave the motors plenty to hold on to.

Instagramming a TweakerQX in progress
Instagramming a TweakerQX in progress

The ESC-Motor wires are a little longer than necessary, and wrapping them around themselves brought them down to a manageable length. The Tweaker, unfortunately,only supports up to 4″ props, so no efficient/powerful Gemfan 5’ers here. Since we didn’t have a cutting jig, I just went with the stock props and the guy flies great – 8 minutes and 50 seconds on a beat up 35c 1000mah from Xtreme (the stock props are crap – consumables almost designed to make HH more $$, but they are efficient). The new 1000mah 25c Zippies(got 7 for $35 shipped!) from Hobbyking arrived just in time, for once. Dry weight(less LEDs and landing gear) comes up to just under 150g, perfect!

Next up is switching the Zippies over to XT30, and installing FPV!

Part 4: Flight


Positively tiny with the GoPro strapped on!
Positively tiny with the GoPro strapped on!

Its amazing! Flies super smooth, no wobbles, even with the larger bullnose props(loads of power). It is quiet, responsive, and flies for 9 mins with the stock props. Pretty much perfect, but I’d give anything to get my hands on a 3s version. FPV is going to be a blast!

Aand… no it’s not. Within the first few test flights, the 200qx motors quickly started wobbling themselves loose from their mounts. I decided to swap them out for the RCX motors for something a little more secure and powerful. Turns out the 200qx control system isn’t a big fan of the 3200kv motors. Anyone who is thinking of upgrading, do not buy the RCX motors. The 200kv bump (or maybe even more, who knows how accurate the Blade and RCX ratings are) threw everything off. The quad barely made it off of the ground, and was quivering like crazy, until I hit throttle cut to keep it from veering into the ground or a nearby bush. No bueno.

Now I’m stuck with a dilemma – scrap the 200qx electronics and just put in a Naze32. Or try out the 3100kv Sunnyskies tomorrow.

I put the Sunnies on and things still didn’t get any better – so it had to be the props. Switching over to the 4″ standard props instead of the bullnose made everything better again. The Sunny’s shaft is only 4mm, so I added a little heatshrink to get it to the props’ 5mm. The PIDs are still a teensy bit high, but its definitely flyable.

Update: With my luck, I managed to break the back left prop 3 times. Now I’ve got to wait for more props :/


ShenDrones (read more about and buy the Krieger, Tweaker, and Andy’s other designs)

The Tweaker 180 (on RCGroups)

200qx (on RCGroups)


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