Must-have tools for your flight bag

Written by Adam Bennet How-To As seen in the FALL 2019 issue of Park Pilot

>> If you make your way through the flightline of any model aircraft event, you’ll almost certainly find a plethora of tool boxes, plastic totes, and ammunition boxes housing every tool imaginable that could be used to repair a broken or malfunctioning aircraft. Drone pilots aren’t immune to those problems and, as such, they shouldn’t overlook the need to have a few tools in their flight bags when they’re out at the field. Let’s take a look at a few obvious and not-so-obvious items you might want to bring along for your next flight. Hex Drivers/Nut Drivers: This is the no-brainer section of this article. No matter what my plans are, if I’ve got my flight bag, I’m going to have a set of drivers with it. A nice set of hex drivers is present if I need to open my frame to repair or replace a component. Nearly every frame on the market today uses M3 hex screws for assembly, so you’ll want the appropriate-size driver on hand. A nut driver might seem less obvious, but it could see as much—if not more—use than your hex drivers. An 8 mm nut driver was my primary prop nut tool for the first two years that I was flying. I’ve since graduated to using a ratcheting wrench; however, I still keep a standard nut driver in my bag, just in case.

Portable Soldering Iron: Many of us have nice soldering stations on our workbenches that we love using. We take our time to meticulously solder each component with care, and we hope that the rigors of flight won’t cause a solder joint to come loose. Unfortunately, a loose joint does happen from time to time. If you’re at the field, a portable soldering iron can be a handy tool to have. There are a few types out there and they all have a couple of things in common: they’re small and they run on battery power. In fact, they’ll run on battery power that might be plentiful at a flying field. Many of them come wired with an XT-60 connector and will run off of a 3S or 4S LiPo battery pack. They’re quick to heat up, and can make short work of a repair so that you can get back into the air. After the soldering iron has cooled down, it can easily slide into a side pocket or even a travel toothbrush container for protection! Spare Wire/Wire Cutters: In most cases, if you need to resolder a component with your portable soldering iron, you likely won’t be using the original wire. In fact, it’s probably the wire that failed and not the joint. Having some spare wire on hand can save you a lot of hassle and headache at the flying field. It will be important to have a few strands of different wire gauges as well because your power leads aren’t exactly the same as an ESC connection. I like to keep a small amount of 14 American wire gauge (AWG), 18 AWG, and 22 AWG. In a pinch, that will usually keep me in the air for the remainder of the day; however, examine your own setups to see what components could be in the most danger of a propeller strike or other calamity and plan accordingly. Although a pocket knife might do the trick, small wire cutters are a great tool to have so that you can make clean cuts to your wires and your repair job is as strong as possible. Electrical Tape: I sometimes refer to vinyl electrical tape as the Swiss Army Knife of quadcopter tools. It’s not only been used to secure components to a frame, but it’s also a great way to insulate components from the frame! A couple of layers wrapped in between an ESC and the carbon-fiber frame can prevent an electrical short from causing unwanted and irreversible damage to expensive components. Additionally, electrical tape can tidy up a build that has been brought back to health at the field, where time didn’t allow for cleanliness.

A good set of hex drivers and nut drivers are invaluable for building and maintaining your drone.



A portable soldering iron, such as this TS-100, is a great addition to your flight bag and can fit nicely inside a toothbrush travel case.



A small multimeter is a must if you want to make sure your repair work doesn’t cause even bigger problems!



A small multimeter is a must if you want to make sure your repair work doesn’t cause even bigger problems!



Electrical tape can cure a lot of ills at the field, so make sure to pack an extra roll or two.



Stashing away a small pair of wire cutters can end up being an invaluable precaution in the event that field repairs are necessary.

Multimeter: None of the repairs you do at the field will matter if you’ve created a short in the circuit. Pick up a small, inexpensive multimeter to keep on hand to make sure that your components are safe from a power surge. In your pit area, lighting might not be the best, and without the typical tools on your bench, you might not be as confident in your soldering skills. It’s also possible that you have a problem in an area that isn’t visible without complete disassembly! Having a multimeter on hand can save you from doing more damage than what was caused by the initial crash, and get you back in the air sooner. Just as everybody has a different flying style, they will also have different needs for their flight bag repair kits. The tools I’ve included here are the ones that I use, but you might have your own list that you use most at the field. Drop me a line and let me know about your must-have tools!







I don't fly drones and I don't hang around drone flyers. It would have been helpful to title this piece more specifically so that I and others like me don't waste our time on it.

You forgot the most important items...spare parts for EACH model that you plan to fly. Spare prop(s), screws/nuts/bolts, control arms, etc. can be kept in plastic bags labeled with the plane name. These, along with the necessary tools to install the parts makes for quick returns to the sky. BTW, for soldering correctly one should take one's time and have a good light source...things most of us don't have during a few hours at the flying field.

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