So you just finished your build or got a brand new drone in the mail and are ready to fly. Did you secure your RC receiver antennas?
These little antennas love to get sucked into our props. Accidentally clip the ends off, and you likely will see a big drop off in flying range. Most ARF quad manufacturers do very little to secure the receiver antennas, and you will have to do something if you built your own racer.
Thus, we want to make sure our antennas are secured well away from our spinning blades!
There are various aftermarket antenna mounts available, but most of these are unnecessary or might not work for your frame. Instead, you can safely mount your RC receiver antennas using a few zip ties and some heat shrink.
Materials needed for receiver antenna mounts
The materials are pretty straightforward and likely already at your workbench. If not, all of the items here can be found EXTREMELY cheap.
- 2x ~6”-8″ (0.15m) zip-ties – you can get a 100 pack for $4.59 on Amazon.
- ~1ft (0.3m) small diameter heat shrink – various size options available.
- Heat source (lighter, heat gun, etc.)
- Cutting tool (scissors, clippers, knife, etc.)
Finding an antenna mounting spot
So first, we need to find a good mounting location for our zip ties. This is going to be dependent on your frame and receiver location.
You want to look out for a few things:
- Make sure your mounting area is away from the prop arc. Bend the zip tie around to test where it can reach.
- Don’t mount your zip ties in a location that makes getting to your flight stack difficult! Before attaching anything, make sure you can still easily get to components after disassembling your quad. We find mounting the receiver and antennas to the top plate works well on many frames. You can set the top plate aside for more workspace.
- Give your antennas plenty of room! Make sure that the antenna ends are mounted away from your quad and not tucked inside. Trying to cram your antennas into the flight stack or not giving them adequate reach from the frame can lower your flying range! Therefore, you need the mount to be relatively close to your receiver.
Additionally, there are a few schools of thought on how much of the active element (the silver antenna tips) to cover. If you fear that even after mounting your zip ties that they may fall victim to your props, covering them with heat shrink won’t impact performance.
However, If you want a bit more flexibility and easier inspection for clipping or degradation, you can leave the tips exposed. Clear heat shrink is probably the happiest middle ground.
You want something that looks like these examples:
Building the RC receiver antenna mount
After you figured out where to place your zip ties, secure them to your quadcopter. For the purpose of this demo, I’ll attach the mount to a random quad arm I had lying around.
The antenna should be lined up with the zip-tie after the tie has been secured to your quad. You will then slip the heat shrink over both the zip-tie and the antenna.
Mark the heat shrink where you want to cut it. A sharpie works well here, and should still be easy to identify on dark heat shrink.
Remove the heat shrink and cut it at your mark. Don’t cut the heat shrink when the antenna is under it, as you risk snipping the tip of your antenna off! Considering this is exactly what we want to prevent happening at the field, take the extra two seconds to cut it correctly at the bench!
Slip the cut heat shrink over your antenna zip-tie combo. When you are happy with the positioning, use your heat source to form the heat shrink into place.
If you are using a lighter, be careful not to get the flame too close to the heat shrink. You can easily over shrink the wrap and cause it to split. A heat gun makes this process easier – and they are useful for a ton of other quadcopter work.
Once the heat shrink has been shrunk – you are all set! The heat shrink should stay secured through fast racing, powerloops, and bad crashes.
Have a build tip for us?
Increasing your quadcopter’s durability through little upgrades like this can keep you in the air longer. Not to mention, buying receiver antennas gets old quickly. You can read more tips on improving quadcopter durability here!
If you have a build tip that you find invaluable, let us know! Leave a comment below or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org