Crafting a Sub-250g Cinewhoop for Full-Sized Action Cameras: My Journey

2022 Update

In 2022, FPV drone manufacturers recognized the demand for lightweight Cinewhoop models, sparking a wave of development. While the industry evolves, I value my creation and encourage fellow pilots to embark on their unique design journey.

I embarked on a mission that seemed like a daunting challenge: building a sub-250g cinewhoop capable of carrying a full-sized action camera. It was a challenge with multiple requirements:

  1. Must weigh under 250 grams.
  2. Must accommodate a full-size action camera while staying under 250 grams.
  3. Must feature a 3-inch frame.
  4. Must be ducted for safety.

It was a tall order, and many fellow enthusiasts in the hobby expressed skepticism about the feasibility of such a project. However, I was undeterred and determined to give it a shot.

Designing the Frame

My first step was to design a lightweight carbon fiber frame. I reached out to Nick Heppner at CNC Madness to discuss the cost of getting the frame cut. Fortunately, he offered an excellent price, and I opted for a 4mm frame. For inspiration, I looked to the Diatone 339 frame, a 3-inch toothpick-style frame.

Version 1

Once I had the frame, the next challenge was selecting lightweight components. I decided to go with a combo stack to keep everything neatly integrated:

  • Diatone Mamba 1105 5500kv Micro Motor
  • GEPRC Prop Guard – 3″ (4pcs)
  • RunCam 5 Orange – HD 4K Action Camera
  • Gemfan Hurricane 3016-3 (2CW+2CCW) – 1.5MM Hub
  • FrSky XM+ SBUS Mini Receiver
  • RunCam Nano 2 – 14×14 700TVL CMOS FPV Camera
  • GNB 650mAh HV 3S 60C LiPo XT30 – Long Type
  • RVS Cityzen 5/7 Parts – 3D Printed GoPro Session Mount

The frame itself weighed just under 15 grams. With all the components, I was close to the 250-gram mark. It felt like a mission accomplished, but there was a hitch. The Mamba 1105 5500kv Micro Motors ran excessively hot during a hover test, prompting me to seek larger motors.

A Motor Dilemma

Finding larger motors that wouldn’t exceed the weight limit was a challenge. However, after some research, I discovered the FLYWOO NIN 1404 ULTRALIGHT – 3750/4850KV MOTORS, which were significantly lighter than traditional 1404 motors at approximately 8 grams each. The result was impressive, with stable flight and minimal jello, and slightly exceeding the weight limit at 250 grams due to the larger motors.

Back to the Drawing Board

Undeterred by the setback, I set out to design a new frame that would shave off those extra 15 grams.

Version 2

The next frame I designed had to be smaller and feature a stacked camera mount. Drawing inspiration once again from the Diatone 339, I centered the FC stack, positioned the lipo strap in the middle, used 30mm M3 screws, and even created a custom lightweight TPU mount.

With determination burning brightly, I had the new frame cut by CNC Madness and eagerly awaited its arrival.

Achieving the Goal

After three months of hard work and dedication, I achieved my goal: a cinewhoop weighing in at 250 grams, ready to soar with a full-sized action camera. The video footage showed barely any jello, which could easily be fine-tuned or adjusted through camera settings. I was thrilled with the results.

The cinewhoop offered flight times averaging between 3 to 5 minutes, performing best in calm indoor conditions. It was a testament to the potential of custom-designed frames and the support of companies like CNC Madness in the FPV community.

Sharing the Experience

If you’re interested in building your own, you can download the frame design here. You might also consider reaching out to Nick at CNC Madness to inquire if he can print the Travis Bevan X Frame Design if it’s still available.

I believe that sharing my experience can help others in the FPV community create something even better. My perspective on FPV has shifted since I started this journey. Now, building my own designs is more thrilling than simply ordering a pre-designed frame.

Have You Designed Your Own Quad Frame?

If you’ve ventured into designing your own quad frame, I’d love to hear your story. Did you draw inspiration from existing designs? How did your project turn out? Please share your experiences and insights in the comments below; your story could inspire others!