Autonomous, Cardboard, Rasberry Pi Controlled QuadCopter

Picture of Autonomous, Cardboard, Rasberry Pi Controlled QuadCopter
This is an autonomous cardboard quadcopter driven by a Raspberry Pi. It is capable of wireless communication as well as well as real time image processing via camera.

This quadcopter was built by 4 sophomores at Olin College of engineering for a class called Principles of Engineering.
For more information see .

Initial RC controlled flight testing:
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Step 1: Materials

Cardboard from the recycling bin,

The sheet we we used was 32"x20" with a thickness off around 4.1mm. A large clean box should do.

Motors from Hobby King, 4x + Propeller clamps,

We used Turnigy D3530/14 1100KV Brushless Outrunner Motor at $14.56 each. Our motors also came with propeller clamps which allowed us to easily connect our propellers to the motors.

Electronic Speed Controllers (ESC) from Hobby King, 4x,

We used TURNIGY Plush 18 amp Speed Controller at $11.90 each.

Propellers from GWS props, 2x counterclockwise rotating, 2x clockwise

We used 3 bladed 8x4x3 GWS props at $2.00 each.

Flight Controller from Hobby King, 1x

We used HobbyKing Multi-Rotor Control Board V2.1 at $12.99

Flight Controller Mounting Pads from Hobby King,

We got a pack of Gyro / Flight Controller Mounting Pad at $1.99 but one can also use double sided tape.

RC Receiver from, 1x,

We got a CSRC-RX3000 Spektrum DSM2 Compatible 2.4Ghz 6-Ch Receiver on sale for $9.99. Any 5 or more channel receiver will do though.

Foam block, cut into 4  2 inch by 4 inch chunks,

Used for a more durable landing.

Cyanoacrylate based glue,

Anything will work, the thicker the glue, the easier it is to work with. We used something along the lines of this.


We used duct tape for mounting the foam landing pads as well as for low force attachment of electronics.

Nuts and bolts, 16x sets of 1 nut and 1 bolt,

Washers can be used when directly bolting to cardboard, but we found that you did not really need them. We used 4-40 x 5/8 inch nuts and matching bolts.

0.1mF capacitor, 1x

Used in the low pass filter before the Schmitt trigger.

7.87kΩ resistor, 1x

Used in the voltage divider.

8.2kΩ resistor, 1x

Used in the low pass filter.

453Ω resistor, 1x

Used in the voltage divider.

Operational Amplifier (LMC6484) , 1x

Used to create the Schmitt trigger.

Quad 2-Input Mux (74HC157N) from Digikey, 1x

Used to switch between the RC receiver and Raspberry Pi signal.

Section of perf-board

Used to solder the entire switch circuit in a condensed form for the quadcopter.

Battery from Hobby King, 1x

We used Turnigy nano-tech 3300mah 3S 25~50C Lipo Pack at $26.72.

Battery indicator, 1x

This device changes color and beeps if the batter is at low voltage. This is a must have if you don't want to keep breaking batteries. We used a 3 Cell Hobby King Battery Monitor at $3.99.

BEC from Hobby King, 1x,

This is used to power the Raspberry Pi. We used HobbyKing Micro UBEC 3A / 5v at $3.77.

Servo Connectors, female to female from Hobby King, 4x,

We got a pack of 5 female female from hobby king at $1.65 that we cut in half.

Power Wire, 2x 6 inches high current pieces,

We used 10 AWG red and black that can be bought from hobby king at for $2.99 a meter.

4mm Bullet Connectors, at least 1 male and 1 female.

Casing is nice, so we would suggest HXT 4mm Gold Connector w/ Protector at $3.64.

3.5mm Bullet Connectors, at least 12x

Available in packs of 10 from hobby king for $1.59.

Raspberry Pi, 1x,

We used one of the older model B with 256mb of ram for $35.00. A model A would work and probably better for $25. They are currently hard to buy, you could place an order from a vendor on their site and wait a few months, or just get one from Amazon.

Web Camera from, 1x,

Really any usb webcam with linux support will work. We used Microsoft-LifeCam-VX-5000 for $12.74.

Wifi Card from, 1x,

Any linux supported wifi card should work. We used this card at $13.06.

SD Card, 1x,

We used a 16gb card from amazon at $11.52.

Micro usb cable, 1x,

It does not need to be long, we used a six inch cable at $3.09.


AVR Programming device one from Hobby King, 1x

We first got USBasp AVR Programming Device for ATMEL processors at $4.95. Our board was defective, so we ended up using a Atmel AVRISP mkII In-System Programmer at $34

RC Transmitter, 1x

We used the highly overkill DX8 8CH Transmitter at $429.99. All you really need is 5 or more channels.

3 cell Lipo Battery Charger + Power supply, 1x,

Some way to charge your battery.
jackowens3 months ago

You guys are awesome! What a project!

keion968 months ago

what is the usb thumb drive for

ShyamSundarK9 months ago

How is the UBEC used to power the pi..

Where to connect the pin from the UBEC in the Pi

Snakefangox11 months ago
how much payload could it carry?
Glany21601 year ago

Couldn't be used to explore rivers, the card board would get soggy! Combining a waterproof quadcopter with would allow for an obstacle avoiding, fully autonomous river explorer.

Macflame1 year ago
Excellent job. I would never have thought of a cardboard frame for a quadcopter. Now all I need is a laser cutter!
Just from the thumbnail, I thought this thing was MASSIVE for some reason...
Gave me the same impression.
WhiteTigerTails: I wanted to reply to your comment but I've never been able to comment on peoples' comments for some reason. It says "Type the words in the box" but doesn't give me a box or words to type! Weird.
Anyway, just wanted to say that I agree and I think it's the perspective with the chairs.
mathman472 years ago
Nicely done, gentlemen.
iApple guy2 years ago
How much did it cost?
The minimum needed parts assuming you have an AVR programmer and an RC transmitter and battery charger is: $253.15 not counting shipping. When adding in shipping ($50 from Hobby King) and small electrical components, one should be able to assemble one of these for under $310.
By looking at the materials list, around $750 :/
WhiteTech2 years ago
Very sweet. Although have you though about using a KK2 board from hobby king? The built in accelerometer allows the board to have Auto-level. It's the one I use on my camera rig quadcopter. KK himself updated the firmwhere, it's scary stable. Boarder-line looking like GPS hold. In fact if there's no were to take off I simply toss it in the air at what ever angle and it catches itself. The auto-level would also allow you to focus less on programming just to keep in the air, and more on actual moving autonomously.
kayak0806 (author)  WhiteTech2 years ago
That is really amazing! It would make the programming end of things much much easier.
Heh no problem. There's also a massive selection of different open source controllers. AduCopter is a type of board that uses an Ardino pro-mini (or any other ardino), has many programs by users, and can add any addition sensors you wish liek GPS, barometer, Magnetometer, MultiWii copter also uses Ardino combined with Wii remote sensors. Open-pilot is another, TONS of options for open-source, custom or ready-to-fly!
lebowski2 years ago
Nice job!
rc jedi2 years ago
i just started flying quads. Your cardboard construction has me rethinking my 3rd build....
Good Work!
SilverJimny2 years ago
wow, I am very impressed :)
bigme2 years ago
Kiteman2 years ago
Oh, we REALLY need to see a video of this in flight!
kayak0806 (author)  Kiteman2 years ago
Video added for RC flight! Autonomy hopefully coming soon.
cube0002 years ago
Definitely video must appear here asap.
What is total weight of ready to fly model?
kayak0806 (author)  cube0002 years ago
Done (for RC at least).
The current model weighs 1151 grams.
kayak0806 (author) 2 years ago
Video of initial RC flight added. None of the team has any real experience flying quadcopters, so our first flights are brief.