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 http://poe.olin.edu/poe2013/s_engr2210-quadcopter/ .

Initial RC controlled flight testing:

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 ControllerMounting 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 amazon.com, 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 basedglue,

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 amazon.com, 1x,

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

Wifi Card from amazon.com, 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.
Lmao!<br>Such an optical illusion!<br>The Quadcopter looked looked like it was the size of those chairs, aha!
<p>Will the raspberry Pi camera work with this?</p>
<p>They said that they put one in, I believe.</p>
<p>Awesome! I'd love to see this taken into a different route with reusing/recycling/repurposing cardboard from whatever's available. Such as the cardboard cup holders from fast food restaurants, standard shipping boxes, packing materials, and who knows what else. I've got some plans started :)</p>
<p>Hello,</p><p>First, I want to say that this is an awesome project, and I appreciate you sharing your handwork. </p><p>I am also a noob when it come to building a quadcopter. I ordered most of the parts to get started, but I have a few entry level questions before I start.<br><br>1. Where do I find the programming libraries that you mentioned in your tutorial?</p><p>2. Can I switch it from autonomous to manual control with the remote?</p><p>Thanks in advance,</p><p>Excitedtostartbuildingaquadcopter</p>
<p>Okay, I am a newb at all this so please pardon my ignorance. I am sure my middle school students will ask the same question. If you have a transmitter and motors and such, what is the purpose of the pi on the machine?</p>
<p>It's designed to be an autonomous quadcopter. Therefore, the Pi can be used to calculate flight paths etc. and fly the quad itself, rather than manually controlling altitude, speed etc. I imaging the Pi's software will allow the user to simply pick a location for the quad to fly to with the controller, and the Pi will do the rest! :)</p>
<p>You guys are awesome! What a project!</p>
<p>what is the usb thumb drive for</p>
<p>How is the UBEC used to power the pi..</p><p>Where to connect the pin from the UBEC in the Pi</p>
how much payload could it carry?
<p>Couldn't be used to explore rivers, the card board would get soggy! Combining a waterproof quadcopter with https://www.instructables.com/id/Making-an-autonomous-boat-with-a-Raspberry-Pi-a-/ would allow for an obstacle avoiding, fully autonomous river explorer.</p>
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 &quot;Type the words in the box&quot; but doesn't give me a box or words to type! Weird. <br>Anyway, just wanted to say that I agree and I think it's the perspective with the chairs.
Nicely done, gentlemen.
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. <br>
By looking at the materials list, around $750 :/
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.
That is really amazing! It would make the programming end of things much much easier. <br>Thanks!
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!
Nice job!
i just started flying quads. Your cardboard construction has me rethinking my 3rd build.... <br>Good Work!
wow, I am very impressed :)
Oh, we REALLY need to see a video of this in flight!
Video added for RC flight! Autonomy hopefully coming soon.
Definitely video must appear here asap. <br>What is total weight of ready to fly model?
Done (for RC at least). <br>The current model weighs 1151 grams.
Video of initial RC flight added. None of the team has any real experience flying quadcopters, so our first flights are brief. <br>

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