Introduction: Building Quadcopters, Drones and Uav's- a Explanation and Easy Build of a Basic Quad.
So you are interested in Quadcopters, Quadrotors, Uavs, Drones and whatever else they call them.
But what are they made up of, and why? Could i build one or are they for more advanced electronic type individuals.
Well never fear. I present to you a basic overview and build of a basic quadcopter in full.
(around $220 plus shipping not including transmitter,receiver or lipo battery charger)
If your more advanced and tech savvy you may choose to design your own setups but for the rest of you i would advise to stick to the components listed if possible to ensure all of it functions well. That said the frame and batteries can be different. I would advise the batteries be a similar size or you will get less flight time. I brush over a lot of the components to give a basic understanding of what they are for. If anything is unclear feel free to ask questions or even hit some forums or google it yourself as that is how i learned all of this.
I will not cover fpv, groundstations or autonomous drones in this as if can easily confuse people so i may do another instructable for them another time perhaps.
Hopefully you enjoy my first instructable.
If i get a good response i may do another.
Step 1: Basic Quads Systems & My Easy Quad Build
BASIC QUAD SYSTEM COMPONENTS EXPLANATION.
I have created some basic explanations of the components and what they do. (I wish someone did this for me)
Page 4-10 Contains a list of materials and steps to build a great quality quad. (Strong and great fun for learning)
Cost around $220 Aud in materials
(not inc. Lipo Battery Charger, Transmitter, receiver + Your freight costs will be different)
(Obviously you only need to buy the Lipo Charger and Transmitter once.)
Drones and quadcopters can quickly become and obsession, but before investing in some serious equipment, learning to fly a quad is the key to minimizing costly crashes and damages. But they practically fly themselves right? Well, yes and no.
This is all dependent on the equipment you select for your build. That’s easy right, you just want the best, but it all can add up pretty quickly when planning out your system. But before you start spending you hard earned dollars on components LET IT BE KNOWN THAT RESEARCH IS VITAL. An understanding will help minimize the headaches of your build and identifying problems. Once that package of goodies arrives after 2 weeks of waiting you rush to the garage to assemble your beast only to realize you forgot something or ordered the wrong thing. You then will spend the next ten minutes swearing your head off and ordering the other stuff only to a wait another two weeks for it to come. Within this waiting time you will find better components you wish you had of ordered instead. This is the how it all goes. So it pays to buy extra components and spares just incase something isn’t what you thought. You can always upgrade later down the track.
Hopefully this will help you to nail it all first shot.
DESIGNING YOUR OWN
If designing your own setup you will have to put the time in finding out good combinations of motor, battery and prop size/pitch etc.
This is not unachievable but perhaps to start with may be difficult for some of you newbies. If you are designing your own quad from scratch you should know that it is not quite as simple as buying components and assembling them.
Many factors must be considered including motor size and weight as well as battery C/burst ratings and MaH’s of batteries and more. How much weight do you want to lift if any? Such as cameras and fpv gear etc (=payloads) All of these factors must be considered when designing.
A handy helpful tool I used to calculate my quad stats was the free online xcopter ecalc. It can be found here:
If your using my setup i have done all the work for you!
****WARNING Be responsible with your Quadcopter as 4 spinning props can chop your beautifully manicured fingers to shreds!!!!!
I also will not be held responsible for any damage inflicted to yourself and or others including property and equipment etc.
Please take precautions to effectively test your equipment and Pre check before each flight. This is your responsibility and safety is your priority.
If something seems dodgey it probly isn’t worth the risk.
Trust me I have had some close shaves literally!!!!!!!!!!!!
It can all go from wooooo to ahhhhhhhhh pretty quickly.
So keep a distance and take precautions to maintain your safety and the safety of others. Always assume something is going to go wrong so you are prepared!!!!!!
Now with all of this being said we can begin.
Many hobby shops exist but some can be quite expensive because obviously they need to make a living. These days online seems to be the best way to source your gear. That being said you may have better hobby shops than where I am so do your research and if your lucky it may work out cheaper and faster to source some if not all from your local hobby shop when you factor in freight etc.
The two main places I use to source my gear are:
Hobbyking (large company based in Hong Kong/Usa but ship worldwide)
Foxtech (similar but based solely in China with slightly less user friendly site still good though)
There are loads of others.
Dealing with both of these guys personally I am happy with there products but there are plenty of places you can get your gear from.
The Hobbyking item comments are a great place to learn about products before purchasing them they are listed below the actual products when you click on them. It will teach you a lot and other people will let you know if it’s crappy.
Also Rc forums are a great resource and there are plenty of them.
Youtube has plenty of videos also explaining a lot material if you are having problems. Look for solutions before asking questions.
Chances are someone has asked the same question before you.
I will be listing what I used for components as well as brushing over what they do to try provide information for people with different levels of understanding.
I will try to keep it as clear and brief as possible but it is a huge amount of info to attempt to consolidate.
This also is my first Instructable so if it helps please like/vote etc.
I had to learn this all on my own over time because nothing like this was available.
So I hope this all helps. If i get lots of likes i may do another on fpv and building your own fpv groundstation.
Step 2: Frames, Motors and Props
Frames vary so you will want to make sure your motor mount holes will match your frame so the motors don’t fly off in a mental destructive tornado of death.
I have tried a few other frames but I like this one the best. Plus it’s cheap.
Q450 quad frame
It is about $12 for the integrated pcb version
(solder to the frame as its a built in power distribution board)
Or around $8 for the regular version
(You will need a Power Distribution Board or splitter cable to your motors)
( I will only be discussing the integrated one like I have.)
Motors & Esc and Props
Motors all vary in stats if you are not using the same motors as I have it may pay to do some calculations on the xcopter ecalc online to make sure you get desirable results.
Rule of thumb by most is to try get motors around or below 1000KV to minimize vibration visible on onboard cameras etc. It’s something to think about, whether its true or not I don’t know.
It is important to remember to select the right ESC for a motor.
Most motor stats will indicate the size of ESC (electronic speed controller) that is recommended. It does not have to be of the same brand as the motor although some people prefer.
Too high an ESC and you can cook your motor.
I have used Turnigy Plush 25 amp ESC’s.
Most motors and ESC’s require soldering so make sure the connections are compatible. The other end of the ESC requires another connection. This will vary depending on your setup if it is different in any way to what I have listed.
Props for our quadcopter need to be 10x4.5. This means a 10 inch prop with a pitch curve or 4.5.
We need 2 clockwise and 2 anti clockwise.(Also known as Standard and RH rotation)
These are different. You will be able to tell when they are infront of you.
Step 3: Connections, Lipo Batteries and Flight Control Boards
These little buggers are easily overlooked. Draw how everything is going to connect on paper. Match all the connections either soldering or buying adapters.
If you are not sure of the size you have go back and look at the details online.
Know what your connections are called!!!!
Some include XT60,deans,JR, Bullets and HXT.
Burst c rating is important on your lipos. It tells you how much power your lipo can put out in short bursts when required. This is important as we have 4 motors drawing power at the same time.
This is the battery I have.
The larger your battery mAh the longer flight time but the more weight and less maneuverable it will be. The Flight time you can expect from a good quad is around 10-12 mins per battery depending on how aggressive you fly it.
mAh means milli amp hours basically.
The Cells of a lipo battery indicate the voltage.
For this build we will be using a 3s 5000mAh lipo battery = 11.1 v or around 12v at full charge.
Do not run lipo batteries too low or you will damage your batteries and they can potentially explode and combust. If it starts puffing up in size its not a good thing and it could be damaged.
Connections from battery to motors must be compatible, or a suitable connector should be purchased. The small white plug with small wires going into the battery are for charging and balancing each cell. They are what your lipo Alarm plugs into to monitor your voltages. Remember the black wire on the plug must go to the negative side of the lipo alarm.
Save up and get a spare battery so you can fly another 10 mins after swapping to another freshly charged battery!!!
Flight Control Board and power distribution board.
The flight control board is the core of the quadrotor itself. It tells the motors when to power faster or slower to maintain level (if programed and switched on)
When you first fly your quad it will not correct itself level. Please do not expect this to happen straight away as calibration is necessary and must be then programed on your transmitter and sometimes also on your board.
This all sounds hard and complicated but its really not.
I will be using a Kk2.0 board- great little board for the price around $25-30
(with self level function) although you may want to purchase the USBasp programmer avr connector to update to the latest firmware for better self level function. Read the KK2.0 User Manual.
It will tell you everything you need to do.
Others boards include
Apm 2.5 and many more,
I recommend a cheaper board to begin with before moving up to a more feature rich board such as the APM2.5
Step 4: Rc Remote Transmitters(AND Modes), Receivers, Low Voltage Lipo Alarms.
RC Remote and receiver
A remote transmits the signal to your quadcopter to a compatible receiver.
Futaba, Spectrum and Turnigy are some popular brands.
Each brand of transmitter requires a receiver of the same brand to work.
When you buy new receivers you must bind them with your transmitter.
How to do this is varies depending on the brand you have.
Transmitters also come in various Frequencies.
The most common is 2.4Ghz these days unless you are after another for a specific reason.
Stick to 2.4Ghz as for most it is all you will need.
Please note there are different MODES transmitters come set in.
Most common are MODE 1 and MODE 2.
These basically relate to the two sticks and what they control.
One side springs back to center and the other (throttle) stays where its put.
It is up to you decide which suits you best and you can change if you don’t like it if you open your remote and move the spring to the other stick AND CHANGE THE MODE SETTING IN YOUR REMOTE!!!! Please make sure you do BOTH if you change yours!!!!!!
IF YOU DON’T WHEN YOU ARM YOUR QUAD IT WILL START AT HALF THROTTLE WHICH CAN RESULT IN YOUR QUAD TAKING OFF BY ITSELF AND INTO SOMEONE OR SOMETHING BEFORE YOU REALIZE WHAT THE HELL HAPPENED!!!! SOUNDS FUNNY BUT TRUST ME IT’S NOT FUN. MIX THIS WITH MOTORS IN THE WRONG ORDER AND YOU CAN WAVE GOODBYE TO YOUR QUAD AND POTENTIALLY YOUR SEXY FACE TOO!!!
There are many youtube tutorials on how to change the mode of your remote.
Again always take it slow on take off and be ready to kill the throttle!!!!
I use MODE 1.
Your Transmitter = Tx (remote control)
Your Receiver = Rx
THESE ARE OBVIOUSLY DIFFERENT TO FPV TX AND RX SYSTEMS
(They are listed as VTX and VRX = fpv video systems)
I personally use the Turnigy 9X remote/transmitter as it’s cheap and does the job. My 9x however doesn’t use a Turnigy module and receiver.
I modded mine to use a FRsky Module.
If you want to do this there are many tutorials online.
(Turnigy 9x with FRsky module = use a FRsky receiver)
The 9x cost me around $50-60 plus freight obviously.
Make sure if you order a transmitter/remote it comes with a module.
You may also want to purchase a receiver if your transmitter doesn’t come with one as well.
Lipo Battery Charger
To charge your lipo batteries (no juice = no take off)
This pretty much sums them up.
Lipo battery chargers charge lipo batteries.
Low Voltage Onboard Lipo Alarm
For $2-3 these little babies are pure gold.
Know when to stop flying by checking your cell status and the alarm will let you know when you battery is getting low so you don’t ruin your battery and risk fire and or explosion.
What happens if you run all 3 cells down? Well its bad. It most likely means you need a new battery because your charger will not be able to effectively recharge the battery without risk of fire. It also will make the lipo unstable and cause it to puff up and potentially explode. So look after them as they are different from the batteries you use in a lot of other equipment. If your battery alarm indicates 3 cells red store it somewhere safe, so if at the worst it did explode or combust it will not damage or burn anything. You can buy lipo battery bags for this or search online for solutions.
Don’t let this scare you just don’t let it get below 2 red cells out of 3 that is why we use the onboard lipo alarm. This is mine.
The far left pin is negative so plug it in so the black wire goes to this left negative pin. On the left side it has the negative – symbol so you can tell its plugged in correctly. It will make a lot of noise while it determines the cell states.
Charged cells are green at the top and discharged ones are red in the lower row.
When we plug in the alarm there is a spare pin on the far right because we are using a 3s(3 cell) battery and the alarm supports up to 4s (4 cell). So connect from the left – negative to the right positive and next to that will be our spare.
Step 5: Quad Components List
My Components List
A Quadcopter has 4 legs so you must have 4 motors and esc’s etc.
If you have more limbs on your frame obvious you need more motors and ESC’s
I will explain what these are later.
Hex keys/Allen keys
Transmitter/Remote control and receiver (I have turnigy 9x = $55+)
I will discuss transmitters later but assume you have these already.
Frame – $8-12 (if you use the one I did)
KK2.0 (flight control board) $25-30
Download the KK2.0 Manual from Hobbyking as well.
5000mAh 3S Lipo Battery 3s= 3cell=11.1v (45-90c burst is what I have)
4 x Turnigy 2217 20turn 860kv 22A Brushless Outrunner Motors - $15ea. = $60
4 x 25 Amp ESC’s (I used Turnigy Plush 25 Amp) - $12 ea. = $48
Lipo Onboard Alarm – $3
3cm Male to Male Servo connections – $4-5 for 10 ( you will only need 5)
Spare gold bullet connections (think they are 3.5mm some motors vary)
– 10 pairs for under $2 but if your motor doesn’t come with them you will need 12 pairs so get 2 packs.
10x4.5 SF Props 2pc Standard Rotation/2 pc RH Rotation Props- $2.65 a pack
Some come with both rotations in one pack. Yessssss fist pump!!!
You need 2 standard rotation and 2 right hand rotation props
(flipping the prop over will not work they are exact opposites)
They must all be 10 inch with a 4.5 pitch.
HXT 4mm with Silicon wire (Must be ESC SIDE not battery side) - $5 (comes with a few)
You can get an adapter and cut off the other end for $1
Total cost without transmitter and receiver
Around $215 plus shipping
THESE WERE PURCHASED ONLINE FROM HOBBYKING
……OPTIONAL but really essential…..(not included in budget price)
Step 6: Build Steps 1-3
Quad Build Steps
I assembled mine ages ago so the pictures are from the final quad and not along the way.
Sorry I will do my best to explain what to do.
Step 1. - Get your motors out and start soldering on bullet connectors.
I like to put the male ends on the motor wires but it doesn’t matter.
Each of the 3 motor wires require a connector.
I used colour heat shrink to identify which wire is what.
Middle = signal and on one side is positive and the other side is negative.
We can figure this out later when we connect and power the motors.
It will just make the motors rotate the opposite way which wont damage them so its ok.
Step 2. - Solder the opposite connectors to the motor ones onto your esc cables.
Make sure you do this on the 3 wire side of your ESC only the other side gets soldered to the frames integrated pcb!!!!
Step 3. – Plug them in to make sure they all are soldered the correct way.
Step 7: Build Steps 4-5
Step 4. Get the base of your frame (if it is the intergrated pcb version like mine)
And solder the appropriate compatible battery connector.
If your battery and frame are the same as mine it’s a 4mm HXT with silicon wire already attached. Solder HXT connector wires to the appropriate terminals of the frame locate on one side of the frame. It is only located on ONE side!!! The others solder points are for the Escs.
Step 5. Solder the two remaining wires on the other side of your ESC to the appropriate terminals in each corner of your frame. Make sure the red wires go to + positive and the black to - Negative!!!!
You will be able to see a subtle track on the frame to the exposed solder points and back to the points we soldered the HXT to.
Follow them back to the HXT to make sure they are all still correctly soldered.
I think the outer solder points are negative and the inners are positive but check anyway.
Then assemble your frame.
You will now have servo type connection plug remaining from each ESC.
Step 8: Build Steps 6-8
Step 6. Unplug your motors from your ESC’s and screw the motors to the frame using the hardware provided with your motor.
SOME motors don’t come with hardware and make you buy them.
Our motors do come with them though so RELAX.
Step 7. Reconnect your motors to the ESC plugs.
Remember the three connections are Positive, Negative and Signal.
Signal must go to Signal!!! The other two don’t matter until you later and if reversed will just change the direction your motor spins. Signal is the middle wire of ESC to the middle wire of the motor.
Step 8. You now can attach your KK2.0 to the frame.
I prefer to fly in an X layout so if you do to point the top of KK2.0 board between the middle of two legs rather that in line with a motor.
I prefer to Velcro or glue gun the foam box the board comes in to the frame rather than screwing the board to the frame itself. It is up to you how you attach yours though.
Step 9: Build Steps 9-11
Step 9. Set your Layout on the KK2.0 into the X configuration.
Draw down this diagram as these are when these motors must be plugged in.
And the arrow indicates the direction the motor must turn.
Step 10. Connect the ESC plugs to the M1,M2,M3,M4 pins.
The Negative wire of each ESC plug faces out with the signal white or orange wire always on the inside and red in the middle.
Motor 1 goes to M1 plug on the KK2.0
Motor 2 goes to M2
Motor 3 goes to M3
Motor 4 goes to M4
Step 11. Calibrate your ESC’s as recommended by the Manufacturers instructions. This can also be done with the kk board itself. It is in the KK2.0 manual. There are many ways to do this. Turnigy sells Esc programming cards for easy calibration but they are not essential. You will need to connect the battery to the frames HXT connection we soldered on earlier in order to do this.
Step 10: Build Steps 12-15
Step 12. Use a level to find a perfectly leveled surface to put your quad on. We then must calibrate the kk2.0 sensors to recognize itself as perfectly level at this point.
This only has to be done once. Or everytime you put it on a new frame.
If you are unsure how to do this this it is on your KK2.0 board in the menu somewhere.
After it has finished you are done.
Step 13. Connect your receiver in the order specified with servo leads from each channel into the KK board. This will vary depending on what receiver you have. It is also described online and in various manuals.
The Aileron channel of your receiver goes to the aileron channel of the KK2.0
The elevator goes to the elevator on the KK2.0 and so on and so forth with the throttle, rudder, and aux channel.
The aux channel will be your self level channel so you can switch it on and off.
Remember the black negative side of the plug faces outwards on the KK2.0 and the signal (white or orange) are facing the center of the board with positive in between the two.
Bind your receiver with your transmitter now as explained by the manufacturer of your transmitter.
Step 14. DO NOT ATTACH THE PROPS YET!!!!!!
From here you are pretty much ready to test WITHOUT PROPS.
So turn on your remote and slip in the battery and connect it up.
Look at the motor direction diagram down we copied earlier so you don’t have to keep checking it on the kk2.0 screen.
Now test the rotation of your motors. This can be done easily by using tape to make flags on the motor threads. When you power the throttle up they will spin around, so you can now attempt to match the rotations we copied down.
Make sure they rotate in the direction shown on the kk2.0 in the x configuration diagram. This is pretty straight forward so give a small amount of throttle and correct any spinning the wrong way. If they spin the wrong way just swap the outer motor wires like + to – or what ever you need. The middle motor signal wire always stays connected to the middle signal Esc wire.
With that all done, double check your motors are all rotating the correct way and the Esc of each motor is plugged into the correct motor pins.
So the M1 pins are connected to the appropriate motor that is rotated the correct way. Then check the other 3.
Step 15. Disconnect your battery if it is connected!!! Your quad should be OFF!!!!
Time to put the correct props on the correct motors. You can figure this out as the rotation of the motor has to push air downwards. So when it rotates the top blade will slice the air and curve it downward to create lift. Take the time to ensure you attach the correct rotation of prop.
Use the appropriate prop adapter so the prop fits nice.
If the motor spins the other way it will push the air upwards which isn’t what we want. All props must generate lift.
Some people put threadlock on but if you don’t have any make sure you check the lock nuts before each flight as they may loosen from vibrations.
If one comes off mid flight your quad will drop like a stone.
Step 16. BEFORE PLUGING IN AND POWERING YOUR BOARD HAVE YOU TRANSMITTER ON!!!!
REMEMBER IF YOU LOOSE CONTROL OR FREAK OUT JUST KILL THE THROTTLE AND IT WILL DROP TO THE GROUND IN TACT PROVIDED YOU KEEP IT LOW TO THE GROUND (GRASS IS BEST).
FILM YOUR TEST COS IF SOMETHING GOES WRONG AND YOU END UP DESTROYING IT AT LEAST YOU HAVE IT FOR YOUTUBE!!!! I WISH I HAD FILMED SOME OF THE THINGS THAT HAPPENED!!! THESE THINGS CAN MOVE SO BE SAFE AND SMART.
Always power up your remote first, then plug your battery and voltage alarm in and arm your quad for lift off!!!!
MAKE SURE YOUR BATERY HAS A CHARGE!!! THE LIPO ALARM SHOULD SHOW 3 GREEN provided your setup is the same.
When an alarm sounds on your quad CHECK YOUR CELLS. YOU SHOULD NEVER LET THE BATTERY CELLS ALL GO RED/LOW!!!! THIS WILL NOT ONLY DAMAGE YOUR BATTERY BUT CUT YOUR MOTORS SO YOUR QUAD WILL FALL LIKE A STONE FROM THE SKY!!!! 2 CELLS RED = TIME FOR A FRESHLY CHARGED BATTERY IF YOU HAVE A SPARE.
Arm the quad by holding the left stick to one side for 2 -3 secs. I can’t remember whether its left or right on the left stick in mode 1 but you’ll figure it out.
SLOWLY increase the throttle until it looks like it might be about to lift up. Then slightly try hover just above the ground and gently test the sticks and how they react. Keep the front always facing away from you so when you push the stick forward it goes forward and when you lean it right it goes right. Otherwise if you have the front facing towards you when you try to go forward you will appear to be going backwards and left will become right etc.
If your quad flips over instantly you have either incorrect props and or motor directions.
Hopefully you have successfully flown your quad. Now you can practice and try fly higher as you get better. Remember to have your lipo voltage alarm plugged in and it will quite loudly let you know how you cells are down/ flat.
It indicates this by leds. We are using a 3cell lipo which means 3 leds are lit when its plugged into the balance cable of the lipo battery. When one cell is down/discharged it will beep to let you know. When two are down it means time to land and put in a freshly charged spare battery if you have one.
AGAIN What happens if you run all 3 cells down our 3 cell battery? Well its bad. It most likely means you need a new battery because your charger will not be able to effectively recharge the battery. It also will make the lipo unstable and cause it to puff up and potentially explode. So look after them as they are different from the batteries you use in a lot of other equipment. If your battery alarm indicates 3 cells red store it somewhere safe, so if at the worst it did explode or combust it will not damage or burn anything. You can buy lipo battery bags for this or search online for solutions
Now Flyyyyyyyyyyyyy RESPONSIBLY.
PLEASE VOTE AND LIKE IF THIS HELPED. IT TOOK A LONG TIME.
IF I MISSED ANYTHING PLEASE LET ME KNOW.
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