Lumenier QAV500v2 Quadcopter Build & Review

Back in October, I built a new medium-sized quadcopter based around the HobbyKing SK450 Deadcat frame and the KK2.1.5 flight controller. I wasn’t very impressed with the results, so decided to transplant the components on to a Lumenier QAV500v2 frame. In this review I will be building a QAV500v2 quadcopter using SunnySky X2212 980KV motors, AfroESC 30A speed controllers and the new Naze32 r6 flight controller. Read on for the full specification, build photos and maiden flight video.

Specifications

The QAV500v2 frame kit is manufactured and sold by Lumenier, a popular multirotor company based in the USA. This model supersedes both the previous version 1 of the QAV500 frame and the QAV540G. The latest design offers numerous refinements, such as the ability to add a ‘plug and play’ Lumenier 3-axis camera gimbal, different motor arm options, and a stiffer carbon fibre frame. Flight times between 15 and 25 minutes are achievable, depending on the combination of motors, propellers and motor arms used.

Primarily sold in a do-it-yourself kit format, the QAV500v2 offers hobbyists and professional aerial photographers alike a flexible platform to add their own choice of components to. I purchased my frame kit, arms and landing legs from HobbyRC, a UK-based online hobby store, who provided me with a quick and professional service.

The QAV500v2 frame is sold as a self assembly kit in two separate parts. In addition to the frame kit, there are several different types of motor arms available, which must be purchased separately. For this build, I am using the 500mm CNC’d aluminium arms, which give the quadcopter a 500mm diagonal wheelbase. If landing struts are needed, these must also be purchased separately. The build specification of the QAV500v2 as reviewed here was as follows:

  • Lumenier QAV500v2 Quadcopter Frame with 500mm aluminium arms (via HobbyRC)
  • Lumenier QAV500v2 Delrin rib landing gear kit (via HobbyRC)
  • Lumenier QAV500v2 board camera mount (via HobbyRC)
  • 4x Sunnysky X2212 MkII 980 KV motors (via Radio-C)
  • 4x Graupner C-Prop 10x4” propellers (via local dealer)
  • 4x Afro 30 amp speed controllers re-flashed with BLHeli firmware (via HobbyKing)
  • Naze32 revision 6 ‘acro’ flight controller using Cleanflight software (via HobbyRC)
  • Turnigy Nano-Tech 5000mAh 4S 35C lithium polymer battery (via HobbyKing)
  • ImmersionRC EzOSD and 5.8GHz video transmitter (via HobbyKing)
  • Sony 960H CCD Effio-V 800TVL FPV camera (via SurveilZone)
  • ImmersionRC 5.8GHz video transmitter (via HobbyKing)
  • ImmersionRC SpiroNet V2 antennas (via HobbyKing)
  • FrSky Delta-8 Hitec compatible 2.4GHz control receiver (via HobbyKing)
  • Hitec Aurora 9X Radio Control Transmitter (via local dealer)

I also tested the following propellers when setting up my QAV500v2 multirotor, but settled on the Graupner C-Prop propellers listed above:

  • 4x Graupner E-Prop 9x5” Propellers (via local dealer)
  • 4x HobbyKing 10x4.5” Slow Fly Propellers (via HobbyKing)

Depending on the size of motors and batteries that are used, the flying weight of the QAV500v2 will vary from approximately 1.3kg to 2kg, keeping it well under most national regulatory limitations for first person view flying.

Unboxing

The frame parts were provided by HobbyRC, and were well packaged inside both the original Lumenier product packaging and additional ‘brown box’ shipping packaging. The delivery service provided by HobbyRC was fast, with the parts arriving the next working day after the order had been paid for.

Lumenier QAV500 frame kit unboxing.

The contents of the frame kit package are shown in the photo above. The frame kit included the power distribution board and matching carbon fibre plate, the two upper section plates, an optional GoPro mounting plate and an accessories pack. The accessories pack contained a copious supply of nuts and screws, an XT60 battery pigtail lead, stickers and vibration bobbins. Also included with the frame kit is a Pololu 12 volt step down regulator that can be soldered to the power distribution board.

The Delrin landing legs and FPV camera mounting products were provided in separate Lumenier branded plastic bags, while the aluminium arms were carefully wrapped in foam sheet packing material inside the frame kit box.

Design & Assembly

The original Lumenier QAV500 introduced the ‘clean/dirty’ frame design concept, whereby the motor arms and ESCs are mounted on a sub-frame which is isolated from the main frame by vibration dampening bobbins. This design is continued with the new QAV500v2 and allows the flight controller, auxiliary electronics and HD camera (or gimbal) to be isolated from the motor arms.

Lumenier have provided a great power distribution board (PDB) with the QAV500v2 frame, which makes connecting the various electronics components easier and cleaner than on a multirotor without a PDB. Several pairs of solder pads around the PDB are available for connecting components to directly the battery. Additionally, there are two auxiliary regulated voltage outputs provided by Pololu step down regulators (one 12 volt regulator is included with the frame). This makes connecting mixed voltage components such as 5 volt board cameras and 12 volt video transmitters very straightforward. There are also two battery connection points, should there be a need to connect a second battery (e.g. for safety redundancy). Unlike with the competing TBS Discovery quadcopter frame, there is no provision for an integrated OSD on the power distribution board.

Assembly of the QAV500v2 was a straightforward process, thanks to the well written instruction manual and high quality kit parts. The ‘dirty’ subframe is assembled first by installing the four ESCs, arms and motors. Curved carbon fibre side-walls and a top plate complete the subframe. The main ‘clean’ frame is then assembled using aluminium posts and attached to the ‘dirty’ frame with six orange rubber bobbins. Various components such as the flight controller, OSD and cameras are then installed on the ‘clean’ frame.

Lumenier QAV500 ESC installation.

I started the build by soldering the four HobbyKing ‘Afro’ brand 30 amp electronic speed controllers to the power distribution board. Cut outs in the frame provide ample cooling for the ESCs and allow large capacitors found on some models to protrude through slightly. The cavity in the ‘dirty’ frame is not especially large, with these Afro ESCs being very close to the maximum height available.

Four strips of red tape are placed over the LED connection pads on the PDB. These pads are provided for future use by Lumenier to connect LED equipped side-walls. As carbon fibre is conductive, it is important to insulate these pads to prevent any short circuits on the PDB.

Lumenier QAV500 dirty frame assembly.

Flipping the PDB over, I soldered on the XT60 battery cable provided in the kit, and added three male JST pigtails to the PDB (not included with the kit). The Pololu step down regulator was soldered to the PDB with the included 2.54mm header. Two of the JST connectors will provide power to the FPV camera and OSD components via the Pololu step down regulator. The PCB manufacturing quality on the power distribution board is very good, featuring high quality solder masking that makes soldering components on very easy.

Lumenier QAV500 arm installation.

The next step was to attach the four SunnySky motors to the 500mm aluminium arms and then attach the arms to the PDB. Visible in this photo are Graupner 9” propellers which happened to already be attached to the motors (scavenged from a previous build), however these were ultimately replaced with Graupner 10x4” C-Prop propellers.

The QAV500v2 is unusual in that Lumenier offer several different size and material options for the motor arms to pair with the frame. Choices for the arms include the standard 500mm CNC aluminium (for a 500mm size multirotor, measured diagonally from motor shaft to motor shaft), 500mm G10 arms, 520mm G10 arms, or 540mm CNC aluminium arms. These different arm choices allow more flexibility in the motor and propeller selection, whilst keeping the propellers out of view of the HD video camera. Depending on the arms used, propellers between 10” and 12” are possible while staying out of the HD camera’s view.

Lumenier QAV500 top plate installation.

Next I connected the four motors to the ESCs, and fastened the carbon fibre frame plate to the arms and PDB. As recommended in the instruction manual, I directly soldered the motor leads to the ESCs, rather than using bullet connectors. Just visible in the photo above are the thin carbon fibre side-walls which must be carefully bent slightly and slotted in to position.

The wiring between each ESC and motor is routed through a channel in each aluminium arm. I was using 18 AWG size wire and found it a tight fit - using anything larger probably would have prevented the ‘dirty’ frame from being screwed together. The motor wires were attached to the aluminium arms using zip-ties.

Lumenier QAV500 wiring.

As these ESCs, motors and propellers had been taken directly from my previous SK450 build, I already knew that they were wired to provide the correct motor rotation direction. If I had been using new ESCs and motors, I would have needed to test the direction of each motor before soldering in the previous step. I used a servo tester to confirm each motor was functioning as expected.

The front and rear of the QAV500v2 frame is equipped with white and red LED strips, which are very bright, and help with orientation when flying line-of-sight.

Lumenier QAV500 delrin landing struts.

To complete the ‘dirty’ frame, I added the four Delrin landing ribs and the six vibration isolating bobbins. The legs are attached by replacing two of the four motor arm screws with longer screws, while the bobbins are secured with nuts and ring-lock washers. As recommended in the instructions, I have applied thread-lock to all screws throughout the assembly process.

Lumenier QAV500 lower frame assembly.

With the ‘dirty’ frame section finished, I added some nylon cable braid to the JST and ESC cables to keep the build looking clean. This also provides a little protection for the thin wires in the even of a collision or crash.

Lumenier QAV500 top plate.

Starting the ‘clean’ frame assembly, I attached the twelve aluminium posts to the base of the frame. The four nylon posts in the centre (not included with the frame kit) are for the Naze32 flight controller to be attached to, using nylon screws. The top plate is simply screwed in to the posts that have been attached to the bottom plate.

Unlike the ‘dirty’ section, the upper frame has no carbon fibre parts and is surprisingly flexible until it has been assembled. It is important to pay close attention to the illustrations in the manual at this stage, so that the two plates are orientated correctly.

Lumenier QAV500 Naze32 soldering.

As the FunFly Naze32 flight controller is supplied unassembled, I had to solder on three sets of 2.54mm pin headers. In the latest version 6 of the Naze32, the unusual receiver connector mounting design has been replaced with standard headers, which made assembly easier.

When working with printed circuit boards I like to use a flux pen (and subsequently a flux remover) to get the best possible solder joints. The vise pictured here is the PanaVise PV201, one of my all time favourite workshop tools.

Lumenier QAV500 ready for flight.

To finish the QAV500v2 build, the ‘clean’ section is attached to the ‘dirty’ section via the six bobbins. At the root of each motor arm is a movement limiting post - visible in the photo above - which prevents the ‘clean’ section moving too far away from the ‘dirty’ section in a crash (which could tear or damage the rubber bobbins).

The various flight components were then mounted to the frame, using a combination of normal cable ties and ‘re-usable’ RapStrap cable ties. The Naze32 is connected to the FrSky Delta8 receiver in PPM mode. The EzOSD GPS unit is mounted on the top plate, in front of a HobbyKing receiver antenna mount and the 5000mAh 4S Nano-Tech battery. The EzOSD current sensor and ImmersionRC 5.8GHz video transmitter are mounted to the rear of the ‘clean’ frame. The finished QAV500v2 build with the 5000mAh 4S battery and GoPro camera on board tipped the scales at 1.73kg.

The GoPro Hero 3 camera (not pictured) is attached to the front of the ‘clean’ frame on a small optional pedestal plate. To maximise the vibration isolation on the camera, I placed some self-adhesive foam over the plate. The GoPro is then secured in place using a Velcro strap (not included). Alternatively a Lumenier or 3rd party camera gimbal system can be mounted in this area.

I am using the superb Cleanflight software with my Naze32 rev6 board, so after completing the build I proceeded to set up the receiver and flight controller using my PC. Whilst I calibrated the ESCs, receiver throws and enabled PPM mode, I did not change the default PID values or the rate/exponential settings for the initial test flights.

Flight Performance

For the maiden flight I was slightly apprehensive as I had been told in a local model shop that the Naze32 flight controller is only suitable for small racing quadcopters, and that I should be using something more expensive such as the DJI Naza M. I shouldn’t have worried though, as the Naze32 did a superb job of controlling the aircraft, even when using default PID values.

Whilst it does lack more advanced features such as GPS position hold as standard, the Naze32 is a very capable and affordable flight controller. The new rev6 board also includes a barometer as standard for automated altitude hold mode. GPS and sonar are two features I may add to this quadcopter in the future using the expansion connectors on the Naze32 board.

It was immediately apparent that the 9x5” Graupner propellers did not provide enough lift, so I swapped to using HobbyKing 10x4.5” Slow Fly propellers for the maiden flights. The video below shows the maiden flight of this QAV500v2 build:

Flying the QAV500v2 is great fun, and quite easy in comparison to the twitchy and fast small racing quadcopters I often fly. The frame is rock solid and unlike the HobbyKing SK450 I was using previously has no arm flex whatsoever. Reviewing the maiden flight footage I was disappointed to see that there was quite a lot of camera vibration in the footage. This is my fault though as I had not balanced the propellers and the Velcro strap holding the GoPro camera had worked itself loose just before take-off.

Since making the maiden flight video above, I have switched to using balanced Graupner C-Prop 10x4” propellers which have made a significant improvement to the camera vibrations.

With this configuration, mixed flight times of up to 15 minutes are possible. With the longer arms, 12” propellers and a larger battery, flight times of up to 25 minutes are reported. The video below shows a battery endurance test with the QAV500v2 using the Nano-Tech 5000mAh 4S battery:

Following on from the maiden flight day, I have re-flashed the ESCs from their standard SimonK firmware to the popular BLHeli firmware and enabled OneShot mode with the Naze32. I’ve also added some open cell foam (purchased from eBay) to the Naze32 board to protect the barometer from the wind. I’m confident that after some custom PID tuning this quadcopter will fly exceptionally smoothly, so keep an eye on the Aerial Adventurer YouTube channel in the coming weeks for some more videos from this aircraft. Adding on the optional Lumenier gimbal system to the QAV500v2 would produce an excellent aerial photography multirotor.

Conclusion

Overall I was very pleased with the Lumenier QAV500v2 frame kit. The power distribution board and aluminium arms were of the highest quality, whilst inclusion of extras such as the Pololu voltage regulator and the orientation LEDs really set this frame apart from the less expensive 450-550 sized quadcopters. The upper ‘clean’ section of the frame provides ample space for the flight controller, battery and other accessories.

Building the QAV500v2 was a straightforward process, thanks to the high quality instruction manual and accurate manufacturing tolerances on all of the components. The various arm and leg options make it easy to customise the QAV500 build to your particular needs. The ‘clean/dirty’ frame design works well, with the vibration bobbin mounts improving the quality of HD video footage. An optional plug and play camera gimbal accessory offers a way to achieve beautiful stabilised footage.

Competing in the same space as the Team Black Sheep Discovery and Flying Cinema CineTank Mk2 drones, the Lumenier QAV500v2 offers its own set of design features and advantages to multicopter pilots. If you are looking for a ‘do-it-yourself’ 500mm sized quadcopter frame, I can thoroughly recommend the QAV500v2.

More Information

Page last updated: