The idea of a free-style build never really crossed my mind until I ran across the Smooth Operator, and I was immediately sold. This is really unique design from the guys at Catalyst Machineworks A lot of time and planning goes into this build before getting started as this is a unique design with the flight controller and 4-in-1 ESC mounted beside each other instead of stacked. Other things you'll notice right away are the slammed deck with only 13mm clearance between top and bottom plate, the rear arms a full 12mm higher than the front and front end crash resistance of frame and HD cam due to tpu mounting blocks. I'm used to race quad builds where you have a top and bottom plate, a few standoffs and maybe a camera mount, it's a little overwhelming when you open the package and there are over 2 dozen parts!! Fortunately, CMW has done an in-depth 2 hour build video. Parts list:
Frame - Catalyst Machineworks Smooth Operator with GoPro mount
Motors - BrotherHobbies 2306 2450kv R5 Deadpool Edition
Flight Controller - BrainFPV Radix
4-in-1 ESC - Hobbywing X-Rotor 4 in 1 40A
FPV Camera - Runcam Eagle 2 Micro
VTX - TBS Unify Pro V3
HD Camera - GoPro Session 5
VTX Antennae - Lumenier AXII Stubby
As you can see, the 4 in 1 ESC is in the centre of the frame, with the Radix flight controller in the rear. Because the Radix is designed to sit on top of the Hobbywing ESC, I had to design a custom cable to connect them. You can also see that the rear arms sit on top of spacer blocks, and are 12mm higher than the front arms. This is so that the rear motors are running through clean air instead of propwash.
The only thing I'd do different is to go with the new 45 amp ESC instead of the 40 amp I'm using. It's only rated for 5S, whereas the 45 amp will do 6S. Oh, and Catalyst is the innovator, not me. The components are designed to be mounted like this. As the build goes on, you'll see there's only 13mm of space between the top and bottom plates so they have to be mounted this way.
Motors are installed and connected to the Hobbywing ESC. The Smooth Operator uses the same front and rear arm braces as the Catalyst Merica frame. Love 'em or hate 'em, they make this frame super strong
GoPro TPU mounting block and front half of the top plate are installed. This is the most finicky part of the build, getting the frame, arms and blocks lined up to insert the 3M X 30 screws. Session mount is fastened front and rear to the TPU blocks for vibration reduction and shock absorption in a crash.
Here's a view from the bottom looking up. In order to make all the electronics fit, there are cut outs in the bottom plate. The R-XSR receiver sits on the bottom of the ESCs in the middle section and the Unify vtx sits on top of the flight controller in the rear. There's a 1mm thick plate that goes on top of this to protect everything. I still have a couple things to do such as installing the Hellgate buzzer, but here it is all buttoned up and ready for a test. Sexy little beast, eh?