If you are considering your first quadcopter purchase there are a few things to think about before diving in. Some inexpensive accessories and simple modifications will make your drone flying experience much more efficient and enjoyable. The following applies to the Syma X5C but is appropriate for most small drones.
The X5C is boxed with one battery and a USB cord for charging. The battery is small and delivers around six to eight minutes of flying time, hardly enough to get used to the controls and provide practice.
Charging can take over an hour so you will spend much more time charging than flying. And if you have to drive some distance for a safe, open space to fly, six minutes in the air is next to useless. So buy a set of at least five additional batteries to provide a reasonable amount of flying time.
The single USB cable works and includes a light that goes off when the battery is charged. But charging half a dozen batteries one at a time is tedious and impractical. A charger with multiple outlets like the QuadPro unit shown will charge four batteries at once. Other units with more outlets are available. A charger is an essential purchase.
The Syma X5C comes with four spare propellers in case one breaks, which is likely. They look almost identical but are not. Two are made to spin clockwise and two spin counter clockwise. They are not labeled but close examination reveals the proper direction of spin.
The warning label on the prop is another indication. If the warning is on the left side, the propeller spins clockwise. If the words are on the right side of the propeller it spins counter clockwise. The direction of spin is indicated on the bottom of each arm of the quadcopter. Props that spin in the same direction are opposite each other. Be sure not to mix up propellers when replacing them.
Other parts likely to break are the landing skids and blade protectors. These are inexpensive and easy to replace but breakage is not significant. They can easily be repaired with a few wraps of cellophane tape—not the strongest repair but it will keep the part together and works just fine.
If you want to replace broken skids and blade protectors they come in colors which provides some advantage. More about that later.
After a number of crashes (and you will crash a lot) it is likely that a motor will break. A bent shaft or other damage will cause the motor to slow or stop spinning. If it will not come up to speed it must be replaced.
This involves taking the quadcopter apart. It’s not a difficult process and instructions are available on YouTube. Given the likelihood of this happening, it might be a good idea to buy a set of motors to begin with. They come in pairs and are differentiated by the colors of their wires, black and white for clockwise spin, red and blue for counter clockwise. The only additional tool needed is a soldering iron.
Simple Modification Shows Direction of the Drone
Because the X5C (and most small drones) does not have headless mode, it is important to see what direction the quadcopter is pointed. Red and green lights on the bottom give some indication but these are difficult to see in daylight. Colored propellers and prop guards are a better indication and are available as replacements.
It is important to know which way the drone is pointed because this determines how it responds to the controls. If the green lights are facing toward the controller, the direction lever on the right operates normally—forward, backward, left and right movement of the lever determines corresponding motions of the quadcopter.
However, if the quadcopter is turned 180 degrees with the red lights facing the transmitter, movement of the control lever is opposite to the motion of the drone—forward is backward, left is right and vice versa. This can be extremely confusing, especially to a beginner.
Headless mode solves the problem by always moving the drone in relation to the control lever movement regardless of the direction the quadcopter is pointing. But the X5C doesn’t have that feature.
So it is important to see at a glance the orientation of the quadcopter. This can be done with a simple modification using colored electrical tape. Place strips of green tape as shown on the arms of the quadcopter next to the green lights and a small strip in the center above the on off switch. Do the same with red tape on the opposite side.
This makes it easy to see the orientation of the quadcopter. As long as the green side is pointing toward the transmitter, movement of the control lever is normal—forward, backward, left and right.
If the orientation is turned this is easy to see and the control lever can be moved accordingly. This takes some practice. For a beginner it is better to rotate the drone with the rudder control on the left side of the transmitter so that the green side faces the operator.
Getting used to flying a quadcopter takes considerable practice. The accessories and modification described here will make the process go much easier. Excellent instructions are available on line for every aspect of quadcopter flight.