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.
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.
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
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.
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
|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||International||HobbyKing|
|7||10x4.5 SF Props 2pc Standard Rotation/2 pc RH Rotation||3||International||HobbyKing|
|8||Hobbyking KK2.1 Multi-rotor LCD Flight Control Board||1||International||HobbyKing|
|9||Turnigy 6X FHSS 2.4ghz Transmitter and Receiver*||1||International||HobbyKing|
|10||Turnigy BESC Programming Card||1||International||HobbyKing|
|11||10CM Male to Male Servo Lead||1||International||HobbyKing|
* 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.