While most FPV pilots have probably heard of conformal coating, there are a lot of people out there who haven’t. Today we cover — pun intended — what it is, how to do it, and why?
The goal of conformal coating a quad is to make it water resistant. It’s a thin chemical layer that goes on top of your electronics to protect them from liquids and various gunk that would otherwise cause a short circuit. Unlike DJI drones, which have their electronics encased in a plastic shell, the electronics in FPV quads are pretty exposed — which is fine under normal circumstances, unless you crash into a puddle, mud, wet grass or snow. Then there’s a good chance that something will fry. Another example is if you’re filming some water sports and there’s a chance your quad will get splashed and drop out of the sky.
To prevent this from happening, we take some time to conformal coat everything except the motors. They don’t need conformal coating. Motors can run underwater just fine. The bearings will need re-oiling depending on how long they spend underwater, but otherwise, there’s nothing there to short circuit.
Once you’re all coated up, you can do things like this without a care in the world.
During this shoot, I’ve actually crashed in the snow on my second flight. If I hadn’t conformal coated, I probably would’ve been out of a quad and wouldn’t have been able to continue the shoot.
What is conformal coating?
Nasty chemicals. Do not inhale the stuff. There are a lot of different types of conformal coating solutions, based on different chemistry. The best ones are the silicone based ones from MG Chemicals. You can find it in some hardware stores or on Amazon. You can get it in liquid form, where you apply it with a brush or in aerosol form where you just spray it on. I use the spray on stuff as it’s less of a hassle to apply but probably not as good. Depending on where you are in the world another good option (the one I use) is Plastik 70.
But if you want to go all out, you can grab the Deep Designs waterproofing kit. Instead of a chemical coating, this kit puts your electronics in small water tight sleeves.
How do you apply conformal coating?
Depending on the type you get, it may vary, but it’s mostly the same. First, you clean your electronics with some rubbing alcohol and a soft brush. If it’s a fresh build, you can skip this step. Then you take your brush/pen/spray can and apply the conformal coating. Be careful not to get it inside the USB connectors though. Then let it dry for a while and apply another layer. You can check on your work with a UV light as most them have a UV element in them. Once that dries, up you’re done. Assemble the rest of the quad and you’re good to go.
As for removing conformal coating, acetone is the easiest and best way to do it. If you’re too lazy about it, don’t worry, you can just solder through it. It’ll smell bad, and you’ll need to re-apply it if you want the quad to be water-proof again.
Why should you conformal coat your quads?
Why not? For the peace of mind and the ability to fly in rain and snow. It’s a pretty logical thing to do and a pretty easy thing to do that will save you some headaches if you ever do have an unfortunate crash into a puddle.
Now that’s an extreme example that has no practical purpose, but c’mon. How cool is that? And of course, if I missed something or if there is something to add, let me know down in the comments!
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