Donut 3" - Build a Cinewhoop for under $200

By Whiffles on Jul 30, 2019

27  2,760  20

You've probably heard the term "Cinewhoop". Traditionally it's a 3" ducted quad capable of carrying a GoPro Hero7 Black at a low 10 degree angle. More recently the term "Cine" has been applied to a number of RTF quads ranging from 85mm to 3". They all focus on their HD capability, but none compare to the stabilization of Hypersmooth (only available on the Hero7 Black). This is what really offers that cinematic style footage. Now there's also ReelSteady Go which applies a similar stabilization algorithm to previous GoPro models, but Hypersmooth is what popularized this style of build.

Now a traditional Cinewhoop isn't cheap. The most popular frame, the Squirt 2 commands a high price. This build is my attempt to build a Cinewhoop at a budget price, yet still offer the same cinematic style footage. It weighs in at 217g dry and 443g AUW with an 850mah 4S battery with a GoPro Hero7. I'm running the 3500kv motors.

Top down view


This is a moderately challenging build and does require a lot of fine soldering. With the proper tools and a lot of patience you can pull through. I highly recommend a flux pen, good 63/37 leaded solder and a quality soldering iron. Here are the tools and supplies you'll need. I've included direct links to my gear below.

  • Soldering iron
  • 1.5mm and 2.0mm hex drivers
  • Industrial Tweezers
  • Wire cutter/stripper
  • Scissors
  • Heat gun or lighter
  • Ruler and cutting mat
  • Multimeter

Additional Supplies

  • A variety of heat shrink tube sizes
  • Blue Loctite
  • Zip ties (small)
  • 63/37 leaded solder
  • Liquid soldering flux pen


The frame kit comes with everything you need except for enough 6mm M2 screws to mount your stack. In fact, it's only one screw short. The stack doesn't come with hardware so I recommend buying an M2 screw kit. I linked my kit below. Other than that you don't need to purchase any additional hardware.

Frame Assembly

This frame is really easy to assemble. You don't need the ducts or any of the TPU parts just yet, so save those for the end. To start you only need the base plate and the arms. Use the included gold screws to mount the arms on top of the base plate. Screw the black standoffs above to hold everything in place.

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Now this is where things start to get a little tricky. Mount the motors onto the arms using the included screws. It's helpful to use blue Loctite to ensure the screws don't vibrate out. Once you've done that it's prudent to do a little wire management. I used zip ties to direct the wires across the bottom plate. You want the wires to follow the arms, but not all the way to the standoffs. They need to drop down off to the side so the ducts don't pinch them later. The zip ties help hold them in place so you can solder them to the ESCs.

Once you're ready to solder you need to remove the flight controller from the stack. Do this by unscrewing the nylon nuts on top and unplug the FC from the 4-in-1 ESC. Now you can mount the 4-in-1 ESC to the frame using the aforementioned M2 screws. Make sure the battery tabs point toward the rear of the frame. The front has the camera mount tabs.

Before soldering it's a good idea to flux all the motor tabs then apply a ball of solder to each tab. The pads are really close together, so you may accidentally bridge them. To fix that just apply some flux and slice through the middle with your iron. Now if you're right-handed start with the rightmost pad and solder your motor wires to the pads one at a time. Cut each to length as you go and be sure to give yourself a little slack. Again, if you accidentally bridge the pads just apply some flux and be patient. This can be a tedious process.

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Power Connector

Congratulations! You've just completed the most difficult part of the build. Now you can solder the power leads. Everything you need is at the bottom of the Mamba container.

  1. Solder the wires to the XT30 connector first and make sure you've got the polarity correct. Add shrink tube to cover the joints.
  2. We want the battery lead to come up to the side of the battery between the ducts, so measure the wire and cut it to length. Keep in mind that one wire should be cut a little shorter than the other to allow the wires to run to the side.
  3. Flux and add solder to the battery pads on the 4-in-1 ESC and solder the wires to the pads.
    • Use a steady hand and be very careful not to accidentally bump the components on the board with your iron.
  4. Solder the capacitor on top of the battery leads.
    • The striped side is negative.

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Wiring Diagram

The flight controller doesn't come with instructions, nor are there labels on the pads, so it's crucial to reference the wiring diagram. For this build you'll need to use just about every pad on the left side of the board. Refer to the diagram below. These pads are really tiny, so don't apply too much solder and use plenty of flux. I found it easiest to solder the wires to the little grooves on the sides of the pads.

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Binding the Receiver

Now that you've got power you can add the receiver and bind it. I used the FrSky XM+, but you'll need to choose a receiver that matches your radio.

  1. Solder 3 wires to the 5v, GND and SBUS pads on the receiver.
    • I borrowed some wire from the camera. It's got enough to spare.
  2. Solder these wires to the 5v, GND and SBUS pads on the flight controller.
  3. Add your flight controller to the stack and re-connect it to the 4-in-1 ESC. Don't secure it with the nuts just yet.
  4. Bind your receiver
    • Be sure to double check that you don't have continuity between your main battery leads and use a smoke stopper if you have one.
    • Hold the bind button on the receiver while you plug the main battery in. (It's helpful to clamp this button down with tweezers to free your hand)
    • Put your radio into bind mode and make sure you're bound.
  5. Now that you're bound you can add some shrink tube to your receiver and tuck it under the flight controller. Now secure it with the nylon nuts.

I had a hard time finding a place to mount the antennas. The arms are parallel to each other. Ideally we want the antennas to be at a 90 degree angle from one another, so I found a nice solution. The 30.5mm stack mount holes are perfect for a couple small zip ties. Just tighten them at a 45 degree angle toward the rear of the quad and you're all set! Secure the antennas to the zip ties with shrink tube.


Next we can add the camera. First you'll want to screw the side plates to the camera and mount it onto the frame to measure the wire. Remove the purple wire and connect the wire harness to the back of the camera. Cut the wire giving yourself a little slack to adjust the camera angle. Refer to the wiring diagram for wire placement. You'll use the first three pads.

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Video Transmitter

Now for the VTX! De-solder the 5v out and GND wires from the board because we won't be using those. Give yourself enough slack to mount the VTX just behind the camera on the top plate. You'll want the antenna to point toward the rear of the quad. Again, refer to the wiring diagram to solder the wires to the flight controller. These will be the 4 remaining pads between the receiver and camera wires.

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Camera Configuration

Now that you've wired the camera and VTX you can adjust your camera settings. Plug in your quad and check that the video feed is functioning. Then, using the included joystick you can plug into the wired connector behind the camera. Mainly all you want to do is disable the camera OSD. We'll be using the OSD provided by the flight controller instead. Press and hold the up button to access the OSD menu. Disable each option and save.

Finishing Up

Once you've added the ducts it'll be difficult to reach the USB port, so I recommend a USB extension to avoid removing the ducts later on. If you don't have one you should skip ahead to the Betaflight Configuration section below and configure your quad before the final assembly. You may also want to put the props on before adding the ducts. The motors can be tricky to grip with the ducts in place.

  1. To finish up slide the ducts over the standoffs being careful not to squish the motor wires. You may need to adjust the wires to get a good fit.
    • Make sure the ducts are right-side up so you can screw them onto the tips of the arms.
  2. Remove nuts and washers from the SMA pigtail and fit it through the TPU antenna mount. Put them back to secure it to the mount.
  3. I recommend getting some very wide shrink tube (~26mm) to cover the VTX. That way you don't need to tape it to the frame and it can float above the flight controller. That'll give you more flexibility with your battery strap.
  4. Screw the top plate into place with the TPU components for mounting the antenna and camera.
  5. Screw your SMA antenna onto the pigtail.
  6. Add a battery pad to the top to prevent battery ejections and slide a battery strap under the top plate.

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Betaflight Configuration

If you don't already have them, you'll need to download Betaflight Configurator [Download] and the BLHeli Configurator [Download].

  1. First go to the Firmware Flasher and choose "FURYF4OSD" as well as the latest stable release of Betaflight.
  2. Click "Load Firmware [Online]" and then "Flash Firmware" to update your flight controller. Once complete, click "Connect"
  3. On the Ports tab
    • On UART1 click Serial RX for your receiver.
    • Set the UART3 Peripherals to "VTX (SmartAudio)".
    • Click Save and Reboot
  4. On the Configuration tab
    • Under ESC/Motor Features select DSHOT600
    • Under System configuration set PID loop frequency to 8 kHz.
    • Under Receiver choose your receiver mode. For the XM+ choose "Serial-based receiver" and "SBUS"
    • Under Arming set the Max arm angle to 180 (Only if you keep the accelerometer turned on)
    • Under Other Features enable: Airmode, OSD, Anti Gravity and Dynamic Filter
    • Under DSHOT Beacon Configuration enable the beacon
  5. Go to Power & Battery and choose Onboard ADC for the Current Meter Source
    • Click Save and Reboot

To complete the remaining steps you'll need to apply lipo power to your build:

  1. On the Receiver tab ensure your pitch, roll, throttle and yaw are being applied correctly. Adjust your transmitter and Channel Map as needed.
  2. On the Modes tab
    • Assign an Aux switch to arm and disarm your quad.
    • Assign another Aux switch to enable Horizon or Angle mode if you need them.
    • Assign the Beeper and "Flip over after crash" to a 3rd and/or 4th switch. I like to assign them both to a single 3 point toggle switch.
  3. On the Motors tab enable the motor test and apply a small amount power to check the rotation of each motor. Take note of any that need to be reversed.
  4. Disconnect from the Betaflight Configurator and open BLHeli Configurator
    • Connect and Read Settings
    • Flash all ESCs to the latest firmware available.
    • Reverse the motor direction of any motors that need it. (The numbers correspond to the same numbers in Betaflight)
    • Save and reconnect to Betaflight Configurator to test the motor direction.
  5. On the OSD tab
    • Check all of the features you want and arrange your OSD as desired.

And that's it! The default Failsafe settings are generally fine, but make sure they work by arming your quad, applying a small amount of throttle and turning off your transmitter. It should shut down after a short moment.


The biggest challenge was soldering the tiny pads. I found it worked best to rest my wrist on a flat surface to steady my hand. The more steady you are the better. You just want to avoid bumping adjacent solders causing them to flow together. Other than that I spent a fair bit of time finding a place to mount the receiver antennas. It wasn't the most difficult build, but it did require some patience.

In terms of motor heat, between the HQProps and the Gemfans I found the Gemfans to run cooler. The motors do tend to get hot on these ducted builds, but with very low d-term values on the Gemfans they're coming back reasonably warm, but not burning hot.


Part List


Donut" 3 Inch 140mm H-type Frame Kit 3D Printed + Carbon Fiber for RC Drone FPV Racing 75.5g

Flight Controller

MAMBA F405 Mini MK2 Betaflight Flight Controller & F25 20A 3-4S DSHOT600 FPV Racing Brushless ESC (4 builds)


4 x GEPRC SPEEDX GR1408 3500KV 3750KV 4100KV Brushless Motor for RC Drone FPV Racing (4 builds)


2Pairs HQ Prop Duct 3 Tri-Blade 3" Cinewhoop Propeller For FPV Racing


2Pairs Gemfan 75mm Ducted Props PC 3-Blade Propeller CW CCW 5mm Hole for 1408-1808 Motor Cinewhoop Cinedrone

FPV Camera

Foxeer Arrow Micro Pro 1/3" CCD 1.8mm M8 Lens 4:3 600TVL PAL/NTSC FPV Camera with OSD Black/Blue/Red (7 builds)

FPV Transmitter

AKK Race VTX 25mW/200mW Switched 5.8Ghz 40CH Smart Audio FPV Transmitter Raceband Support Pit Mode For RC Racing Drone


Aomway MINI-2.5 5600-5950MHz 5.8GHz 2.5dBi SMA/RP-SMA RHCP Mini FPV Antenna For FPV Racing Drone (2 builds)


Frsky XM+ Micro D16 SBUS Full Range Mini Receiver Up to 16CH for RC FPV Racing Drone (1136 builds)


4Pcs XF Power 14.8V 850mAh 4S 70C Lipo Battery XT30 Plug


TATTU 14.8V 850mAh 75C 12.58Wh 4S XT30U-F Plug Lipo Battery for RC Racing Drone


Gaoneng GNB 14.8V 750mAh 80C 4S XT30 Plug Lipo Battery for RC Drone (2 builds)


FrSky Taranis X-Lite Pro 2.4GHz 24CH ACCESS ACCST D16 Radio Transmitter Longer Telemetry Range for RC Drone


FatShark Dominator HDO 4:3 OLED Display FPV Video Goggles 960x720 for RC Drone (64 builds)

HD Camera

GoPro HERO7 Black Action Camera (30 builds)


Suleve™ M2CH2 M2 Carbon Steel Allen Bolt 4-16mm Hex Socket Cap Screw Metric Assortment Kit 180pcs

Misc Parts

1m PVC Heat Shrink Tubing Black 30/40/46/50/60/70/86mm Wide For Lipo Battery

Battery Charger

ISDT Q6 Lite 200W 8A MINI Pocket Battery Balance Charger for 2S-6S Lipo Battery (11 builds)

Soldering Iron

Hakko FX888D-23BY Digital Soldering Station FX-888D FX-888 (blue & yellow) (11 builds)


Wowstick 1F+ 64 In 1 Electric Screwdriver Cordless Lithium-ion Charge LED Power Screwdriver From XIAOMI ECO-System


10Pcs XT30 Male to XT60 Female Adapter Battery Connector for RC Drone FPV Racing


GEPRC 90 Degree L Type Right Angle Micro USB Transfer Extension Module Cable Female to Male for RC Drone


Dahle Vantage 10682 Self-Healing 5-Layer Cutting Mat Perfect for Crafts and Sewing 18" x 24" Clear Mat


XT60 Plug Parallel Charging Board For ISDT D2 Q6 T6 Lite Charger (2 builds)

Misc Supplies

Kester 24-6337-8800 50 Activated Rosin Cored Wire Solder Roll, 245 No-Clean, 63/37 Alloy, 0.031" Diameter (4 builds)
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Sign in to comment

SimJen   6 days ago  

Great writeup, its inspired me to build one.
I've just bought one of these frames, and another Tyro79. Looking to put the Tyro hardware in mine and run 4s 650mah CNHL cells as my other Tyro freestyle rig.
Hopefully will be good enough to fly with a Session 5.

Whiffles   5 days ago 

I'm not sure how well those Tyro79 motors will work. They're pretty big and the kv is really low. You generally don't want lower than 3500kv on one of these 3" ducted frames on 4S. The ideal motor is 1407 3600kv.

Whiffles   5 days ago 

It may just work with a 6S battery though.

SimJen   5 days ago 

Yeah, i'll give it a go. If it's not powerful enough to lift the gopro then I'll put a Split 3 in it to make a lightweight cinewhoop.

catSupremacy   20 days ago  

flight footage?

Show 1 more comment
rixx   12 days ago 

sample video please. :)

Whiffles   11 days ago 

I just added a sample video above.

catSupremacy   11 days ago 

awesome thanks!

joseki   17 days ago  

Very nice article and clean build. I have quite similar build and it's working ok but I don't know anything about pid configurations and I am pretty sure that my quad would fly a lot better if I know how to tune pids. Do you have any advices what to tweak from stock settings?

Show 3 more comments
joseki   11 days ago 

I am flying in acro mode, I use angle mode only for landings.

I have "build" my quad by just moving all the parts from Diatone R349 to Donut frame. The R349 was flying perfectly and that's why I tought that maybe the issues are related to Betaflight settings but it can be also props which are causing those quirky moves.

One real example of the issue was when I was chasing mountain biker and did some consecutive turns the quad refused to do the next tight turn when at the same time I was lowering the altitude. Quad acted a bit like when trying to turn hard in angle mode and it tries to force to stabilize it. There was also quite a lot of prop wash even in mellow dives.

kwadkenstine   11 days ago 

take the ducts off , bet it flies better.
the downside of ducts is that they doo try and satibalise (sort of).
Its never going to fly like a craft without ducts. I see cini woops as tools , maby not the right tool for a chase quad.

Whiffles   11 days ago 

Do you have any footage to demonstrate the problem? It could just be that you're pushing it too hard with the ducts.

juju   18 days ago  

Any reason why not go with the full 30.5 x 30.5 Mamba F405 stack? I've seen some other guys use that instead for cinewhoops.. Asking because I just want to know what makes more sense... So far all I've purchased was the shendrones squirt v2 frame (carbon and hardware only). Starting to plan out the build now.

Whiffles   17 days ago 

For such a tight build it's always best to go with a smaller stack. There's no need for the larger one.

thumbtwiddler   20 days ago  

darn now I'm tempted even though I don't even have money

Power_FPV   20 days ago  

Clean and cheap!
Love it, looks like a very very solid build.

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