Thursday, February 9, 2012

Y6 MultiWiiCopter: Overview

After years of suspending cameras up in the air from a kite, I have finally taken the plunge into aerial photography from a multi-rotor copter. I've been keeping an eye on these for a few years, and a number of different players came into the market, like MikroKopter, CineStar, and Droidworx, as well as open source project copters like AeroQuad, MultiWii, and Arducopter. Last last year, I ran into a site through google searches that mentioned the Scarab carbon fiber copter, which gained my interest immediately. The site is MultiWiiCopter out of Australia, and currently offers a number of multi-rotor copters for sale in quad, tricopter, Y6, and hexa configurations. The prices were very reasonable comparatively to others in the market. I began my research by looking through RC forums, and watching videos. Unfortunately, MultiWiiCopter is new to the market in 2011, and there isn't a ton of available resources on these copters. The best resource that I did find was the Scarab forum thread on There were other folks who were starting their Y6 build at about the same time, which helps if you have questions. I took the plunge, and went with a Y6, which is a six engine copter with 3 boom arms.


Carbon SCARAB YSiix vs - full ARF - Electronica - Roll Gimbal for APS-C Mirrorless Camera Class

Being that the kit would come from Australia, I had to wait a couple weeks after I ordered the product for it to show up at my front door. I was packaged neatly and securely. One of my first complaints about the MultiWiiCopter is that there wasn't any type of inventory list. I was missing pieces, but didn't discover this until during the build. There were still a few missing items, and considering that most of the parts are Metric and small, it's not easy to find replacements in the states. I notified Quinton at MultiWiiCopter, and replacement parts were shipped out immediately, and arrived less than a week later. Unfortunately, they did not send enough of the missing parts that were necessary to complete the build properly, and I ended up placing a separate order for the parts so I knew that I would have what I needed. An inventory list would be appreciated to eliminate having to wait mid-build for parts to arrive, and discover that you can't move forward on your build until you purchase them and have to wait for international shipping. One of my biggest complaints with the MultiWiiCopter site, is the shipping options. This really can't be helped since they are in Australia and I'm in the U.S., but for some parts, the shipping cost can be triple what the actual parts costs based upon weight. I ended up removing some spare parts I was going to purchase from my cart to get the weight down enough to get the air mail option, which was still $10.

Example: I am missing 2 of the 12/3mm*21*M2 shafts that hold the bottom deck to the top deck. I was going to order a set of these which come in a pack of 8. The cost is $4.95 for a product that is 79 grams. The cheapest shipping option for this item alone is $10. If I added any of the other missing parts, the weight pushed the cheapest shipping option to $24.95. It was just a bit frustrating to have to spend additional money for parts that should have been included initially, and pay the international shipping rates. Would be nice to have a domestic supplier for some of these parts as well.

* Spread your parts order apart with multiple smaller orders to try and get the cheaper ail mail options to show up in your cart. I will inevitably have to order replacement props and other things, and will order the missing 20mm shafts.

The parts are beautifully cut from carbon fiber decks and boom arms that give the copter a mean and professional look. All of the wiring is hidden by running them through the boom arms. The red CarbonBird motors give a nice contrast to the black carbon. The brains behind the copter is a PARIS Sirius 600 board, as well as an additional Paris board for operating the Gimbal. The PARIS boards use the MultiWii Arduino shield boards, which com pre-soldered and ready to go.

My other concern about the MultiWiiCopter that I purchased is the poor documentation that is available. Considering that I am a newbie, I wanted to ensure that did things properly. Since I purchased the most expensive copter they sell, I was hoping for some detailed documentation specific to my copter. Some of the instructions were outdated based upon the parts that I ordered, there were obvious gaps in the details, or they were generic based upon all of their copters. I will address some of these gaps as I document my build. I must say that Quinton from MultiWiiCopter was always responsive to my questions through e-mail, and the forums helped clear up some of the issues. I just feel that they could stand to have a professional documentation writer, and maybe some online tutorials specific to each of the copters they sell. Again, if you have experience putting these together, you may not have the issues I had. Use the Forum to ask others who went through the build for your specific Scarab.

If you are interested in building a Scarab MultiWiiCopter, here are some resources to get you started in your research:
I plan on getting a ton of flight time in before I ever hang a camera off the Y6 Copter. In the meantime, I have been practicing with a Quad-rotor copter which is much smaller. The Blade mQX is more of a toy, but still challenging to fly, and will give me the practice I require before putting my new copter at risk. The Blade quad was able to bind to my existing Spektrum receiver, and scares the heck out of my dogs when I fly it in the house.

Radio, Telemetry, etc...

I upgraded from a Spektrum 6 channel transmitter to a HiTec Aurora 9 channel transmitter. The Aurora got fantastic reviews, and the touch screen is a nice addition. I also purchased a Quanum Telemetry system from HobbyKing. This device allows you to monitor the battery levels and warn you when they go below configured thresholds. I also purchased my prop balancer, and Lipo Batteries and Charger from HobbyKing. I only ordered from this site as these were the recommended parts from Unfortunately, I did not check the reviews ahead of time, but should have. I had to order my parts in 2 separate orders, as one item was backordered. The main order listed everything in stock, however took over a month to arrive. Regardless of what shipping options you choose, the parts are coming from a warehouse in China, and will take weeks to even get processed. The site claims to have a US store, but rest assured that everything comes from China and will take forever to arrive. I still do not have my back-ordered part 47 days after the initial order. Shipping is very expensive as well, which offsets the cheaper prices. Seems like many people use HobbyKing for RC parts, and are okay with waiting extended periods of time for delivery. I cannot recommend them and will be trying to find alternatives for parts in the future.

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