This page is regularly updated as new products come out. This page was last updated January 26, 2020.
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If this will be your first time ordering from Banggood, you should know a few things.
Let’s be honest: this is going to be a controversial category. For one thing, there are lots of great frames out there, so I’m going to offend somebody by leaving out their favorite. But the whole point of this page is to help you narrow down your options, so I’ve picked just a few that I think are great.
When I first made this List, I struggled over whether to include “clone” frames. On the one hand, original frame designers deserve to be compensated. On the other hand, some people just don’t have the money to buy a premium frame. Today, I’m glad to say that you don’t have to compromise on price to get a high-quality, first-party frame. Manufacturers have released high-quality frames, priced to compete with cheap “clones”. Based on this, I’ve pulled all the “clone” frames from this list; and I encourage you to support these manufacturers with your business.
Freestyle is like dance. The goal is to move the quad through the environment in interesting, exciting, and beautiful ways. A freestyle quad may have power, but raw speed is not its end goal. Freestyle frames are usually larger and heavier than frames focused on racing. They’re simpler to build, since the pilot isn’t focused on shaving every single gram of weight that they can. Freestyle frames are always designed to carry a High-Definition camera such as a GoPro.
If this is your first build, you should definitely buy one of the “freestyle” frames on this page. A “racing” frame may be too challenging for a novice because the electronics will be harder to install.
QUALITY FRAMES AT AFFORDABLE PRICES
NEVER BUY CLONE FRAMES AGAIN?
The CL1 is a basic, affordable frame for freestyle racing. It features interchangeable arms so you don’t have to pull out all your electronics when you break an arm. It’s fairly roomy, which helps if this is your first build, and you haven’t yet figured out how to cram ten gallons of electronics in a two-gallon frame.
The TBS SourceOne is the first totally open-source, community-designed frame. Literally. It’s got a github repo! A community of contributors are working right now to improve the frame, and every so often a new version is “released” and the product in stores is updated.
Accessories for the SourceOne are plentiful. You can buy them from the TBS store, or you can download the .STL files and print them yourself. Heck! You can cut the whole frame for free if you’ve got a carbon fiber cutting machine. How’s that for a bargain?
The Xilo Phreakstyle was designed to take a beating. Its camera side-plates have carbon fiber bumpers that extend forward of the front standoffs, protecting the camera, but also protecting the top and bottom plates, which usually take the brunt of a crash. Arms are interchangeable with only a single screw removed. There are two full 30mm and 20mm stack locations, center and aft, for all your electronics.
The links above go to either the normal-height or the slammed-deck version. The slammed-deck version will be a little tighter to build, but will give more centralized mass and better handling.
I’ve been flying the Stingy V2 since September, 2019. That’s all I should need to say, to be honest. Not only has it not broken, but all of the electronics are still original, including the camera. Any frame that can deliver smooth video after this much abuse is a winner in my book.
The Stingy is a low-deck design, but there’s still enough room for a 2-high stack of FC and ESC in the front, and vTX and receiver in the rear. The arms are thick enough for individual ESC’s if you prefer. Four standoffs per side add rigidity.
The “forged carbon” edition was originally 100% forged carbon. Forged carbon is weak, and it broke. But people loved how it looked! So XHover now sells the frame with a forged carbon top layer, but the internal layers are regular (strong) carbon fiber.
LIGHTWEIGHT, BUT NOT FRAGILE
Kabab FPV (Bob Roogi) re-defined racing frames with the Floss, finding ways to shave weight without compromising durability (too much). The Glide is his entry into the freestyle arena.
Freestyle pilots often focus so much on durability that they forget how much weight affects the way a quadcopter flies. Lighter quads are more nimble, accelerate better, and fly for longer than heavier ones. The Glide comes in under 100 grams. Compared to some other frames, that’s like saving the weight of a whole GoPro Session!
The link above takes you to FPVCycle.com, which is Kabab’s own store. By shopping at FPVCycle, you ensure 100% of the purchase price goes directly to the guy who designed this frame.
The goal of a racer is to go fast and finish first. Racing frames are built as light and aerodynamic (thin) as possible. They’re also more compact and difficult to build.
Durability is a challenge for racing frames. If the racer crashes out, he’s not going to win the race. But additional strength usually equates to additional weight. The best racing frames strike a fine balance between these considerations.
One defining characteristic of today’s racing frames is the Stretched-X motor layout. These frames have the motors farther apart front-to-back than side-to-side. It’s hard to tell whether this offers any legitimate benefit, or whether it’s just another fashion trend. Enough top racers are flying Stretched-X that maybe there’s something to it.
Racing frames are more likely to use an under-slung battery. They can usually carry a GoPro if need be, but may be designed with the GoPro as an afterthought, rather than a necessity.
All of the “racing” frames on this page are intermediate to advanced builds. If you’re a beginner, you should buy one of the “freestyle” frames above and enjoy racing it. You won’t be as competitive as someone with a purpose-built racer, but you’ll still have a great time.
In freestyle, everyone’s opinion is equal. But when it comes to racing frames, only results matter. The Five33 Switchback was designed and flown by the 2019 MultiGP National Champion, Evan Turner. That earns it a place on this list. (The fact that he’s from my home town of Knoxville has nothing to do with it!)
The Switchback comes in a 55 grams in its lightest configuration, but it still has tough 5mm arms. It supports both 20mm and 30mm flight control stacks (not all 20mm ESC’s can take the harsh treatment of racing). The proprietary design allows for one-screw arm swaps, while still keeping the arms wiggle-free.
One limitation that might sway you from the Switchback: it only takes “nano” sized cameras. Like… the ones used by Tiny Whoops. Evan prefers the Runcam Racer Nano 2.
PUREBRED RACING MACHINE
CATALYST MACHINEWORKS ‘MERICA
The ‘Merica continues Catalyst Machineworks’s tradition of innovative, no-compromises racing frame design. The frame is light enough for responsive acceleration and cornering. Obsessive design means light weight without compromising durability. Perfectly-centered mass distribution gives amazing handling.
What really sets the Merica apart from other, similar frames, is its modular 3D-printed “pod” design. The flight controller, receiver, camera, and video transmitter all install in the “pod”. The FC connects to the 4-in-1 ESC and motors using a wire harness. For a racer with a full stable of quads, this is a life-saver. Break an arm? Break a camera lens? Just take an un-damaged “pod” and un-damaged “base” and mate them together. Want to try 6S low kv motors on one quad and 4S high kv on another? No need to re-build a whole new quad. Just build a new “base” and install your existing “pod” on it.
Be warned though: Catalyst’s builds are not for beginners. If you select the wrong parts, they won’t even fit inside the Merica’s pod. So do your research (Catalyst publishes lists of suggested parts). Or if you want, you can even order a bind-n-fly model pre-built by Catalyst!
PROVEN BY PROS
HYPERLITE FLOSS TEAM EDITION
The Hyperlite Floss Team Edition has been proven by Team Pyro-Drone pilots, who are winning some of the most prestigious races in the world. It’s incredibly light, for nimble handling and fast acceleration. Light frames are often fragile, but not the Floss. It’s been refined over years of race experience to remove the weak points. (You can’t win a race if you crash out).
The main disadvantage of this frame is that inexperienced pilots will find it challenging to build. There’s very little room to place your electronics. Correct part selection is crucial. And you need to be a fairly tidy builder or the whole thing will just be an ugly mess of wires.