Before we get started, I just want to take the first sentence of this Instructable to let you know that there are no dead cats involved in making the quadcopter described in the forthcoming steps. The reason the title of this Instructable contains the "SK450 Dead Cat" bit is because that is the name of the frame we will use to construct the quadcopter - more on that later. The frame design was inspired by a quadcopter built by Bart Jansen, a Dutch artist, that featured the taxidermied body of his pet cat, Orville, as a major structural component. We will not be using dead animals as part of our quadcopter in this Instructable though.

This Instructable will show you how to build your very own quadcopter specifically designed for aerial photography/videography. Here you will also find theoretical discussions, tips, tricks, and other resources that I hope will get you well on your way to becoming a quadcopter expert.


Ask just about any quadcopter pilot why they became interested in quadcopters and you will almost certainly hear how they were fascinated by the grace with which quadcopters fly, or the beauty in their mechanical simplicity, or their usefulness as a artistic platform. Well, I am not going to deviate from this cliche here; since the first time I saw a quadcopter in flight, I was hooked, and I knew I had to try building one for myself. There is something viscerally satisfying about seeing a craft you painstakingly researched, assembled, and programmed take to the air. Attach a camera to your quadcopter (as we will do in this tutorial) and you can see the world from a perspective normally reserved for birds. I am sorry if this is all getting a bit starry-eyed, but I truly think quadcopters are beautiful crafts, and I think you will agree after building your own. Let's get to it.

Craft Design

Let's begin by taking a moment to discuss the design of the quadcopter we will be building in this Instructable because it is a bit different than the design of traditional quadcopters. Normally, a quadcopter, which, by the way, is a multirotor aircraft with four rotors, has a central body with four equally-spaced arms extending outwards. Each arm is offset by 90o from its neighbors. In other words, the craft is shaped like a perfect square.

The difference between this traditional design and the one we will be building in this Instructable is that the front arms on our SK450 Dead Cat quadcopter are angled more towards the back of the craft. See the diagram on this step for clarification. By angling the front arms back a bit, we can make sure that, when a camera is mounted on the front of the craft, the rotors stay out of shot, producing better videos.

Instructable Table of Contents

  1. Parts
  2. Attach Arms to Top Body Plate
  3. Attach Bottom Body Plate
  4. Attach Camera Mount Struts
  5. Attach Landing Feet
  6. Mount Motors
  7. Solder Battery Connector to Q Brain
  8. Mount Q Brain
  9. Mount Flight Controller
  10. Mount Flight Controller Assembly to Quadcopter Body
  11. Mount Radio Receiver
  12. Connect Radio Receiver to Flight Controller
  13. Bind Radio Receiver to Radio Transmitter
  14. Program Q Brain
  15. Connect Motors to Q Brain
  16. Connect Q Brain to Flight Controller
  17. Calibrate Throttle Limits
  18. Mixer Editor
  19. PI Roll and Pitch
  20. Self-Level Settings
  21. Receiver Test
  22. Sensor Test
  23. ACC Calibration
  24. Balance Quadcopter
  25. Balance Props
  26. Attach the Props to the Motors
  27. Tuning your Quadcopter
  28. Congratulations

First Flight

After I built my quadcopter and waited months for this year's particularly long and severe winter to end, I took my SK450 Dead Cat out in the back yard for a test flight. My first day of flying was fairly successful; I did some maneuvering, some high-altitude flying, and captured some pretty cool footage (see below). Unfortunately, the day ended with a propeller embedded in the ground and one of the quadcopter's arms snapped in half. So I need to effect some repairs on the craft and do some more tuning, a topic which we will cover in the 27th step of this Instructable.

When you first start flying quadcopters, you will crash a lot so just be prepared for that - emotionally and with spare parts.

Step 1: Parts

To make your very own SK450 Dead Cat quadcopter, you are going to need to order some parts, quite a few parts in fact. Before I list the parts used in this tutorial, I just wanted to make a note about the supplier I chose when purchasing components. I ordered all of the components used in this tutorial from HobbyKing. HobbyKing is an online retailer of a wide-range of hobby parts, including parts for building multirotor aircraft. The reason I chose to order components from HobbyKing is, quite simply, because their prices are very low. Now, I do not intend this page to be a review of HobbyKing, or of any of the products listed, but I just wanted to note that the trade-off for HobbyKing’s low prices is slow shipping speeds and non-existent customer service. This last point is probably the biggest drawback to using HobbyKing, their customer service is absolutely pathetic. If you don't want to use HobbyKing, you can usually find the parts you need from sellers on ebay.

You will need the materials in the table below to construct the SK450 Dead Cat quadcopter in this tutorial - by the way, that name will make more sense after you read the list. I included some notes about each component below the table. The notes are numbered and correspond to the numbers in the left column of the table. One last detail and then I promise we will get to the parts list. HobbyKing has warehouses located in many countries, with their main warehouse located in Hong Kong. I found that ordering all of my quadcopter parts from the Hong Kong (international) warehouse led to extremely high shipping costs (for me $114). So, after a lot of experimentation, I found that I could minimize shipping costs by ordering some components from the international warehouse, and some parts from the U.S.A. warehouse. I included a column in the table that tells from which warehouse I ordered each component.

SK450 Dead Cat Quadcopter Parts

Part Number Part Quantity Country Link
1 Hobbyking SK450 Glass Fiber Quadcopter Frame 450mm 1 U.S.A.HobbyKing
2 Dead Cat Conversion Kit for SK450 Quadcopter Frame 1 U.S.A.HobbyKing
3 Turnigy 2200mAh 3S 20C Lipo Pack 1 U.S.A.HobbyKing
4 Turnigy Accucel-6 50W 6A 1 U.S.A.HobbyKing
5 Q Brain 4 x 20A Brushless Quadcopter ESC 1 U.S.A.HobbyKing
6 Turnigy Multistar 2213-980Kv 14Pole Multi-Rotor Outrunner 4 InternationalHobbyKing
7 10x4.5 SF Props 2pc Standard Rotation/2 pc RH Rotation 3 InternationalHobbyKing
8Hobbyking KK2.1 Multi-rotor LCD Flight Control Board
1 InternationalHobbyKing
9 Turnigy 6X FHSS 2.4ghz Transmitter and Receiver* 1 InternationalHobbyKing
10 Turnigy BESC Programming Card 1 InternationalHobbyKing
11 10CM Male to Male Servo Lead 1 InternationalHobbyKing

* The Turnigy 6X is a six-channel transmitter, which means it has plenty of channels for controlling a basic quadcopter, however, if, and this is a bit of a complex topic for this first step of the tutorial, you wish to put a camera gimbal on your quadcopter, you might want to upgrade to the Turnigy 9X, which has three additional channels which can be used to control the gimbal motors.

The total price for the parts themselves (not including shipping) is in the range of $250.

Parts Notes

  1. The SK450 frame kit contains the arms, motor mounting plates, flight controller mounting plate, and hardware for the quadcopter frame.
  2. The Dead Cat conversion kit is named after a quadcopter created by Dutch artist, Bart Jansen, which used his deceased, taxidermied pet cat, Orville, as a major frame component. I find Jansen’s craft distinctly disturbing, but I do admire his undeniable creativity. The kit modifies the center part of the quadcopter body to make mounting a camera easier.
  3. The Turnigy 2200mAh lithium-polymer battery is the power source for the quadcopter. You only need one battery for your quadcopter, however, I recommend buying a second one so that in the field, you can quickly swap out the first battery after it goes flat and continue flying. Depending upon the payload I put on the my quadcopter, and how aggressively I fly, I get anywhere from five to ten minutes of flight time on a charge. This might not sound like a lot of time, but it actually feels like plenty of time when you are flying. Now you could buy a battery with more capacity, but batteries get rapidly more expensive with increasing capacity and they also get heavier.
  4. The Accucel-6 is the charger for the battery. Note that you will need a 12V power source with a barrel jack connector to power the charger. Unfortunately, I don’t think HobbyKing sells one, but you can pick one up from any electronics retailer. You can actually also use your car battery as a power source for the charger using the included alligator clip connectors.
  5. The Q Brain is the component that takes commands from the flight controller (which in turn takes commands from you) and from those commands controls the quadcopter’s four motors. The Q Brain combines four electronic speed controllers (ESCs) into one package, which makes for a cleaner quadcopter setup.
  6. The Turnigy Multistar 2213-980Kv 14Pole Multi-Rotor Outrunner are the motors we’ll use in this tutorial. Now when it comes to choosing motors for your quadcopter, you have a near-infinite number of choices and I don’t want to make this step any longer than it already is. There is plenty of other information around the internet about choosing motors though.
  7. The 10x4.5 props are powered by the motors and provide the lift for our quadcopter. Choosing props, like choosing ESCs and motors, is a complicated decision making process but it is again one that is covered in detail by other writers. These particular props come in packs of four so you will only need one. However, props are always the first things to break in a crash, and since you will inevitably crash (sorry, it’s true), you should grab a few extra sets.
  8. The HobbyKing KK2.1 flight controller is responsible for receiving commands from the pilot, monitoring data from its onboard sensors, doing calculations based on those commands and that sensor data, and then then issuing commands to the ESC to control the motors to move the quadcopter. The HobbyKing KK2.1 is a fantastic flight controller but it does have a steep learning curve. The KK2.1 features an onboard LCD screen for its user-interface, meaning that programming the flight controller is extremely easy and does not require a laptop or specialized software. You will have to do a lot of research to understand the different settings, but once you do, it is trivially easy to change settings in the field if you have to. Plus the KK2.1 is extremely affordable.
  9. The Turnigy 6X is a six-channel radio transmitter. The transmitter features two control sticks that can move in two directions each, plus two toggle switches. The transmitter comes with a compatible receiver. You will need four AA batteries for the controller and you might want to get a lanyard so you can hang the transmitter around your neck, which makes it easier to control since your hands can concentrate on moving the sticks instead of supporting the weight of the transmitter.
  10. The Turnigy BESC Programming Card is used to program the Q Brain.
  11. These three-wire servo connectors are used to connect the radio receiver to the KK2.1 flight controller.
can i use 5000mah 2s turnigy battery
<p>Do you have to revert the 3 pin connections for the q brain back to how they were in order to use the BESC programming card? I don't want to do this each time because I want to change the song selection for the q brain. Any easier way to do this?</p>
Here is the connectionHereh
Here is the connectionHereh
Pls I am using a flight board KK2.1 and. Hk 16A V2 6 channels receiver. I used 2 servo cables to link them, (which am not sure is correct), but when I try to arm my motors, I get a set of steady beeps. What could be the reason for that?
<p>Great instructable. Followed a lot of this when I made my Dead Cat Defibrillator. Only thing that doesn't seem to be right are the mixer settings. For motor 3 (right rear) and 4 (left rear) they seem to be the wrong way round. I based mine on the YouTube video from HobbyKing which has 3 as 100, 71, -71, 100 and 4 as 100, -71, -71, -100. Hope this helps anyone else that get some strange flight characteristics with the settings given here.</p>
<p>Thanks for the recipe, flies really well now. But there are multiple errors in the mixer editor settings you have listed.</p><p>Importantly, the signs for the rudder numbers for motor 3 and 4 are mixed up! Motor 1 and 3 should have positive numbers for rudder, motor 2 and 4 should have negative numbers. Same applies for aileron.</p><p>I have marked in <strong>Bold </strong>the places when my number have the <u>opposite sign</u> of your numbers. My numbers are also slightly different just because i measured the angles differently from my kk unit. <br>39 comes from being sin(23 degrees) which is the angle i measured to the front arms (see picture).<br>92 = sin(90-39) =&gt; 0.92 =&gt; 92<br>73 = sin(47)<br>68 = sin(90-47)</p><p>Motor 1:<br>Throttle: 100<br>Aileron: -39 <br>Elevator: 92<br>Rudder: 70</p><p>Motor 2:<br>Throttle: 100<br>Aileron: 39 <br>Elevator: 92<br>Rudder: -70</p><p>Motor 3:<br>Throttle: 81<br><strong>Aileron: 73</strong><br>Elevator: -68<br><strong>Rudder: 100</strong></p><p>Motor 4:<br>Throttle: 81<br><strong>Aileron: -73</strong><br>Elevator: -68<br><strong>Rudder: -100</strong></p>
<p>What is the length of your flight???</p>
How durable is this model compared to other copters? Do you recommend flying this if it's my first copter, or would you suggest a more crash friendly one?
<p>Ok, I'm a little confused. Your pic of the tape on the controler is clearly mode 1 but your link to the tx/rx combo is mode 2. Which one are you running?</p>
<p>This is the very best build report I have read! </p>
<p>Thanks for taking time to put together such a comprehensive build guide. Much appreciated.</p><p>I can buy all these parts in the UK. But, I have a DX6 AR7000 and an AR6000. Will these work OK with the setup given?</p>
<p>I want to build this but I just can't find a vendor who ships those parts to Germany. Can anybody help me?</p>
<p>i found when i inputed these settings my motor 1 and 2 went much <br>more forward than sideways, i found the Aileron and Elevator settings <br>for motors 1 and 2 were slightly switched around (could be a new version <br> of the software or maybe just an oversight when typing up this amazing <br>build? lol)<br><br>I found these work best for motors 1 and 2 on my KK2.1 <br></p><p><strong>Motor 1 Mixer Editor Settings</strong> </p><ul><li> Throttle: 95 <li> Aileron: -94 <li> Elevator: 34 <li> Rudder: 78 <li> Offset: 0 <li> Type: ESC <li> Rate: High</ul><p><strong>Motor 2 Mixer Editor Settings</strong> </p><blockquote> <br> <br><ul><li> Throttle: 95 <br><li> Aileron: 94 <li> Elevator: 34 <li> Rudder: -78 <li> Offset: 0 <li> Type: ESC <li> Rate: High</ul></blockquote><p>Correct me if im wrong but that gave me the correct orientation of the motors</p>
<p>i found this section to be a bit confusing at first until i relized i didnt have enough 3pin connectors...in the parts list it only says 1 CM male to male connector so thats what i bought...maybe should be revised to say 3 or 4 lol</p>
<p>1-10CM male to male**</p>
<p>I am currently in the middle of this build. But it seems my controls are all backwards. For example left is right and throttle up is throttle down ect. Anybody else having this problem??</p>
<p>Just reverse the affected channels on your transmitter</p>
<p>Very nice! I was looking for something like his. A question: Is there place to install a gimbal underneath?</p><p>Thanks</p>
Great instructable! Thank you so much, I followed all your instructions and my dead cat flew first time perfect!!! Cheers.
<p>Sounds dumb but i can't get it right!<br>I Have a Graupner MX-12, with the throttle on the right side.</p><p>In Your Instructable, it's on the left side, so how do I have to swap the connectors, so the KK Board also recognizes the right stick as a throttle?</p>
<p>Why is finding downloads for the latest KK2.1 board firmware such an elusive thing? Google always takes me to that gigantic thread on RC Groups where finding any links is like finding a needle in a haystack. Where the heck does one find KK2.1 firmware updates?</p>
very hard
<p>Hi, useful article but have one comment regarding prop balancing - don't you have the prop balancer assembled wrong? The conical elements should normally have the tips of the cones facing each other, they are designed so that they self centre on the hole in the propeller. Also there is a second step to balancing which you haven't mentioned here - to balance the hub (often referred to as vertical balancing). Doesn't make as much different as the horizontal balance but worth doing. Enjoy your flying, R</p>
<p>Hi,</p><p>Congratulations for this great Instructable. It was very useful and complete. I built my Dead Cat last week.</p><p>I was able to buy all parts from HobbyKing (USA and Europe Warehouse). I bound it to my Spektrum DX6i with a Spektrum AR610 receiver.</p><p>I found two missing things when building it:</p><p>- in step 6, &quot;Mount motors&quot;, I did not get the needed screws because they do not come with the motors. I had to look for suitable screw all over my house (and I finally used some screws from a PC). For the record, motor's package says &quot;Bolt thread: M3*4mm&quot;</p><p>- in step 9, &quot;Mount Flight Controller&quot;, I did no get the white plastic parts you are using to mount the KK board. But I bought a KK 2.1.5 since the KK 2.0 is not sold anymore. I had to used some nuts instead (3 nuts for each foot).</p><p>When I tried to fly it for the first time it completely flipped over (from right to left). I broke a prop :( I finally discovered that I had to first load a motor layout in the KK 2.1.5 menu. I chose &quot;X Quadcopter&quot; and then applied settings for the motors (step 18, mixer editors) (I used slightly different settings I found in a Youtube video).</p><p>I also add some LEDs to it, and some FPV gear, but I did not yet tried to fly it in FPV only.</p><p>FPV parts are:</p><p>- Camera: <a href="http://www.securitycamera2000.com/products/-RunCam-600TVL-Plastic-Housing-FPV-Camera-%252d-DE.html" rel="nofollow">http://www.securitycamera2000.com/products/-RunCam...</a></p><p>- Video Tx/Rx: <a href="http://www.securitycamera2000.com/products/BOSCAM-Mini-8CH-5.8G-400mW-Wireless-FPV-Transmitter-Receiver-Kit-%252d-DE.html" rel="nofollow">http://www.securitycamera2000.com/products/BOSCAM-...</a></p><p>- Goggle: <a href="http://hobbyking.com/hobbyking/store/__53706__Quanum_DIY_%3Cspan%20style=" rel="nofollow">http://hobbyking.com/hobbyking/store/__53706__Quan...</a></p><p>- Antennas: <a href="http://www.hobbyking.com/hobbyking/store/__49827__ImmersionRC_5_8GHz_Circular_Polarized_SpiroNet_Antenna_V2_RP_SMA_.html" rel="nofollow">http://www.hobbyking.com/hobbyking/store/__49827__...</a></p><p>My Quadcopter now flies quite well! I'm looking forward to fly it more but it's kind of freezing for the moment... :)</p><p>I attached a picture of it.</p><p>Thank you,</p><p>Alex</p>
<p>Hi there, I have a deadcat 450, I also just bought a Qbrain but cannot seem to get this darn thing working, please could you be more specific about the Cabling!</p>
Hi. What settings do you have in your radiocontroler??
<p>I's using an OrangeRx DSM2 reciever without numbers. How would I wire it correctly?</p>
<p>Hello I bought Qbrain and Naza.</p><p>can you post a picture to see x </p><p>how did the connection between fate and Qbrai 4x25A naza m-lite? , Thank you</p>
<p>My motors did not come with the motor mounting screws as depicted in this picture. I purchased the &quot;Turnigy Multistar 2213-980Kv 14Pole Multi-Rotor Outrunner&quot; as listed in the parts list but there are no phillips screws with them. The motors on hobby king also dont show these screws. looking at the local hobby stores and hardware stores trying to find some that will wrk but I have not had any luck.</p>
<p>Realy great instructable, but I think that yu need to charge battery at LiPo balance mode, and not at normal charge mode. In LiPo balance mode, charger will balance each of the cell separately, so is more safe, and better for battery</p><p>:)</p>
<p>Hi great instructable, how can I connect the Q-brain to the KK2.1 voltage sensor to make use of the low voltage alarm? I cant seem to figure that out. Any help is appriciated. </p>
<p>So I am in the process of scratch-building my first quadcopter, and I am trying to use a Turnigy programming card to program my Q-Brain 4-in-1 ESC. I plug the Q-Brain in to the programming hub, and that into the programming card, and then plug in the battery to an XT60 connector I soldered onto the ESC, but the programming card doesn't light up or respond. What am I doing wrong, and what could a possible solution be?</p>
<p>Never mind, I finished the build completely! Great instructable, although I noticed that some of the mixer settings were flipped, possibly because of the recent firmware update.</p>
<p>Great instructable and now I definitely want a quadcopter for my own! One question, instead of buying a SK450 Dead Cat frame for the quadcopter could I lasercut my own such as this: (http://www.thingiverse.com/thing:113497/#files)? My idea was that it would be easier to repair broken arms and what not if I could create my own frame. I plan on using the exact same parts as the list provided but change the frame. Would this theoretically work?</p>
<p>Thank you for this great instructable ! Ordered all the parts from HK ! Looking forward for the delivery ! </p>
I voted. :)
I made my first flights and crashes today (I never flew before). Yes, I swapped motors 3 &amp; 4. I need to recalibrate the motors again; since the do not start at the same time. Thanks for the instructions.
<p>Nice Work DUDE... Voted </p>
<p>A stunning instructable! Very well presented in depth. Thanks for sharing!</p>
<p>Assuming they are compatible; can anyone tell me how to connect the Q-Brain to a DJI Naza Lite (http://www.dji.com/product/naza-m-lite). Thanks!</p>
<p>Nice work! I just finish my deadcat last week;) Just a question, are you sure that the mixer editor settings are correct? I think that you switch the third and fourth motors! Let me know!</p>
<p>please please upload video step by step please :( . so that it is more easy to understand and fix it </p>
<p>This was a great instructable, infact im building it myself, the one thing that annoyed me though, as this was my first time building a quadcopter, i didnt have the parts that werent included in the parts list, which made me pay for more shipping because i needed more parts, These parts were the threadlock, the XT60 connectors and the prop balancer, For others that are/were in the same situation as me, you should add those to the parts list, will make thier life much simplier, as im stuck waiting for threadlock and a balancer now...</p>
<p>Boy what an interesting project ! Now where does that neighbour stay that skin dip on Saturday? </p>
<p>I'm going to build this but was wondering what kind of camera did you use??</p>
<p>I use a Contour ROAM Model 1600.</p>
<p>thank you for the info and quick response! :)</p>
<p>Awwww, thought this was going to be a taxidermy quadcopter made from a dead cat. Good of you to show the crashes, most people pretend they have none.. got a nice vid myself, lots of bits of desimated copter flying past the camera.</p>
<p>Nice Build and well written instructable. I plan on building a defib. deadcat soon. I found youtube videos from HobbyKing setting up the KK2.1 for the sk450 DeadCat frame. There are several other videos they do on the KK boards as well. It is ALL about the firmware on the board (I would NOT recommend you fly stock firmware) and the set-up, calibration and tuning of the board. Nice thing about the KK board is the screen and user interface. There are tons of them out there and just as many videos and guides for set-up and tuning.</p><p>Cheers! :) and Many Happy Flights</p>

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Bio: Hello, my name is Toglefritz. That’s obviously not my real name; my real name is Scott, but on the Internet I use the nom ... More »
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