THUG are a small independent designer and manufacturer of racing drone frames based in the UK. Despite being a small (single man) outfit they have had some innovative designs which are both functional but look good. Their newest addition to the family is the Thug Team Elite 240 HDPE frame with 3D Printed Nylon Pod. This is our (my) first Thug frame so here are my thoughts on the build and flight performance.
For a full review of the frame and design of the frame itself please check out my other post on my first impressions of the frame.
Lets get building!
The first think you notice when starting your build is that the ESCs (KISS 24A in my case) will not fit on any of the arms without protruding. This is because the HDPE thickness is only 12mm thick and similar in width. With a small ESC you might get away with it but majority will have to mount the ESCs in the pockets in the fuselage like I have done.
There are some ventilation slits on the base of the frame below the spaces where the ESCs sit although airflow will probably be limited. Having said that, i’ve not had any problems with ESCs overheating and i’m running KISS ESCs 🙂
Second thing you will notice when installing the PDB and FC is that the space you have is rather limited. The height is restricted by the Pod (which is pretty low profile) and for the PDB you have a recess into the HDPE base plate. I chose to keep the PDB as low as possible (down in the recess) to reduce the overall height and keep the stack comfortably in the pod.
For my build I had to cut a 2mm notch out of the side of the HDPE for my power cables to exit the side, no big issue and we have been assured that as long its not the ‘grand canyon’ of modification to the base plate that Thug should still stick to their warranty for the base plate.
In hindsight an integrated FC / PDB setup for the elite would have made this bit of the build an absolute doddle!
The Pod also comes with no cutouts for power cable nor the FC USB access. Again this is not a big problem and is a good idea as it means that there are no predetermined layout for your build. It was easy enough to add these cut outs simply using my soldering iron to melt / cut the holes I needed in the Nylon printed Pod. I set my iron to ~330 C which seemed perfect for melting but not burning the Nylon.
Installing the final parts in the pod was simple. Theres a nice space and mounting holes for an HS1177 type camera, I put a Runcam Swift 2 in there with no issues. There is also plenty of tilt available in the cam cut out. My IMRC Tramp VTX and TNR patch fitted nicely in the back of the pod using some double sided foam tape. The antenna has a little hole out the back which works perfect with a pig tail.
The closing up is easy, pod bolts to the base plate using 8x M3 bolts, just watch you don’t crimp any cables in between. I had a slight issue that I couldnt get the pod to fully close at first, but turns out one of the spacers in the nylon pod wasnt fully seated due to some excess bits of nylon in the hole. After cleaning it up it went on perfect.
A GoPro session also fits nicely on the tilted surface which has a nice big cut out for 20 or even perhaps a 30mm strap to go through. I chose to under mount my LiPo for this build to keep it out of the way of the props. However it would also fit on top. Personal preference really. Here is the finished article:
I also created a time lapse of my build which is cooooool, check it out.
So there’s one last thing to do now she’s built and that is to crash.. ahem.. maiden it. The initial maiden day went alright, it flew well, fairly stable and predictable on default KISS tune. However I had a few issues with oscillations on hard turns. I tried to tune it out with the PIDs but it was a bit of an awkward behavior as it only manifested some of the time and not others.. Nonetheless I took it through its paces and did some FPV racing with it.
Compared to my QAVX it felt heavier, but I found this was very predictable in comparison, where the QAV X, especially in windy conditions, can be a little ‘twitchy’, the THUG just felt like it was locked and would continue through any obstacle until you told it to do otherwise. I think this is a result of the larger motor distance and also the slightly increased mass.
Additionally I felt that it handled bounding off the race gates a little better than the QAV X, it seemed to recover more easily, probably a result of the extra weight and momentum.
Bye Bye KISS
I wasnt happy with the way the KISS FC was performing so took a punt and loaded the latest Betaflight onto the KISS FC. What a difference! Immediately on stock PIDs it was stable and fairly locked in. With a little further tuning the Elite is now a mean lean racing + freestyle machine!
With the X Nova motors and RaceKraft props, she has a similar punch as my QAV X racer, however it’s less floaty which for me is a good thing. Here’s a short video of some further thrashing!
Unfortunately it didnt take me long to crack the pod, but I would add that this happened during a hard landing.. through a tree.. from altitude.. on its head.. Lucky I actually managed to repair the pod using my soldering iron. By heating up along the crack and melting the plastic I was able to weld it shut again. It left a few marks but I found a solution for that also!
The Pod is made from Nylon which just so happens to take to being dyed quite well! Using some RIT Powder Dye (costs a couple of quid off ebay) and some hot water, the pod can be changed to whatever colour you like.
I chose a stealthy black look because it matched the base plate, but also as it would cover up the battle scars! It now looks bad ass and just needs some LEDs to finish it off.
To round things off my final thoughts are that this frame is innovative and well designed. The base plate is very robust and Pod is fairly robust. It flies excellent if you’re not looking for a super floaty / low weight build. Motors and components are well protected. And it looks awesome in the air! A thumbs up from me 🙂
- Unique looking design – I think it looks awesome
- HDPE Base is robust and comes with a lifetime warranty
- Motors are recessed and well protected by the frame
- HD Camera Ready – The pod already has a nice platform for the HD camera and space for a strap to secure it
- Internal Space – It’s pretty optimised, you can fit the standard kit in there with little extra room
- Battery Mounting – Option of top or bottom mounted battery. Would have been nice to have had a strap supplied.
- Pod Mounting – The design of the way the pod mounts is great, very strong and clever (yet simple) way of doing it.
- Weight – Its about 30~40g heavier than a 4mm QAV X with a pod, however this is a 240.
- Price – At £75 it is a pricey frame, but you have to keep in mind that the base comes with a lifetime warranty, for me this is worth it!
- ESC Mounting – There’s no space on the arms for ESC mounting so they have to be squeezed into the pod. Not necessarily a bad thing but would be nice to have the choice.
- Internal Space – It can also be fidgity to get everything packaged inside if using a separate FC / PDB. It fits but it has to be low profile.
- Motor wire position – The positions / pod cut outs for the motor wires is directly where you are likely to have a prop strike should they bend, i’ve already sliced some silicon wire.