Step 36: Appendix B: Add LEDs

This supplementary step will show you how to put LEDs on your tricopter that are controlled by a switch on your transmitter.


Before beginning the actual process of attaching LEDs to the Rotor Bits tricopter and wiring them up to work, I just want to take a moment to cover a bit background information so the process will make the most sense.

The LEDs we will be using on the tricopter are strips of six LEDs available from HobbyKing. We are going to use two different colors. This will allow us to put two strips of one color on the front two arms, and a third strip in a different color on the rear arm. This way, when flying, especially when flying at dusk, it will be easier for us to tell which side of the tricopter is front. So, for example, in this Instructable, I am using two blue LED strips on the front arms and a green LED strip on the rear arm. You can choose any color you want though, many different colors are available:

The LED strips run off 12V, which, as it happens, is the power supplied by the battery. So, we could just connect the LEDs straight to the battery, but the question is, should they be wired in series or parallel?

The answer is, we want to wire the LED strips in parallel. Here’s why:
Our battery supplies 12V and, as far as LEDs are concerned, unlimited current (part of the reason we use LiPo batteries for multirotors is because they can discharge a very high current, far higher than we would need for any number of LEDs we could cram on our tricopter). If we were to wire the LED strips in series, that 12V would be distributed among the three LED strips. So, each LED strip would get 4V, not enough to run the LEDs.

With the LEDs wired in parallel, however, each LED strip gets 12V. In parallel, the current required for the system is sum of the current required by each LED strip. But, as I just mentioned, current is no issue for our battery. The 12V for each strip is enough to make them nice and bright. So, we will be wiring the LED strips in parallel, with all the negative leads wired together and all the positive leads wired together.

If you want some more information about wiring LEDs, there is a nice, simple tutorial at http://www.quickar.com/ledbasics.htm.

There is, however, one more issue to address here. I think it is nice to be able to turn the LEDs on and off. If you are flying in the daylight, you might wish to turn off your LEDs, or maybe you just don’t want them on all the time. We will be adding a switch to the LED circuit. The nice thing is that the switch we will use is turned on and off by the receiver, so we can turn on and off the LEDs remotely with the radio transmitter. Specifically, we will use the CH6 toggle switch to control the LEDs.

Let’s get to the build.

Create Wiring Harnesses

The first thing we need to do is make ourselves some wiring harnesses to connect the jumper pins on the LED strips to the bullet connectors on the battery. You will need two wiring harnesses: the first goes from three jumper pins to a male bullet connector, and the second goes from three jumper pins to a female bullet connector.

So take two red male-to-male jumper wires and two black male-to-male jumper wires and cut each in half. Strip the ends of all the wires by about ½ inch. Take the three red wires and twist the ends together. Then, loosely double the twisted ends. Repeat this twisting procedure for the three black wires.

Then, break out your soldering iron, and, using the same procedure as you used to solder bullet connectors to the UBEC (check https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B9yY9Kk4bEA for a quick tutorial) solder a female bullet connector to the black wires and a male bullet connector to the red wires.

Solder Bullet Connectors to the Receiver-Controlled Switch

We will also need to solder bullet connectors to the leads of the receiver-controlled switch since the switch comes with these leads unterminated. Use the same procedure we used when soldering bullet connectors to the UBEC.

Attach the LEDs to the Tricopter

Alright, it is finally time to attach the LEDs to the tricopter frame and connect them electrically to the rest of the system. As before, we will do all the wiring and verify that everything functions as expected, before actually attaching everything to the frame.

  1. Connect one of the bullet connectors you just soldered onto the receiver-controlled switch, it does not matter which, to the black (negative) lead of the battery’s wiring harness.
  2. Connect the red wiring harness you made to the positive (red) lead of the battery’s wiring harness.
  3. Connect the other wiring harness, the black one, to the free lead of the receiver-controlled switch.
  4. Finally, connect the three wires from the black wiring harness to the outside pins of the three LED strips. Then connect the three wires from the red wiring harness to the middle pins of the three LED strips.

Now that we have the whole LED system wired, we will test the LEDs just to make sure everything is working before we start zip-tieing everything to the frame (it will be annoying to undo this if we find the LEDs don’t work after we do it). Connect the battery to the wiring harness and turn on the radio transmitter. Then, if the LED’s have not turned on already, which would happen if your CH6 switch happens to be on already, flip the switch. You should be able to turn the LEDs on and off. The LEDs should also be quite bright, we want to see them clearly from far away after all.

Fasten Everything to the Frame

The last thing to do is attach everything to the tricopter frame. As we've done with all the rest of the tricopter components, I like to use zip-ties for this task. There is a very important piece of information to keep in mind while you are mounting your LED strips. Carbon fiber is electrically conductive, its kinda like pencil lead which you might have used in grade school science class. The carbon fiber tubes we used to build the tricopter have a coating that is supposed to prevent the tubes from conducting electrical current, but the coating is very thin. The little metal spikes on the bottom of the LED strips, the leads from the LEDs themselves, are more than capable of penetrating this layer. This situation will result in an electrical short, which will damage your tricopter. I actually learned this the hard way and an electrical short fried one of my LED strips (specifically it fried the resistors). Also it smells really bad. Anyway, to avoid this issue, put a few layers of electrical tape onto the tricopter arms. This will make a nice nonconductive mounting pad for the LED strips.

Then, after mounting the LED strips to the tricopter frame using zip-ties on top of the electrical tape pads, mount the receiver-controlled switch to the Rotor Bits tricopter hub. Finally, fasten down all the wires so you don’t end up with loose wiring finding its way into the propellers.

And you are done! By this point your tricopter probably looks really crazy, like some kind of mad scientist contraption with wires and LEDs everywhere. I actually think it looks pretty cool, especially with the LEDs. Enjoy your much more glowing tricopter!

<p>Toglefritz, I have to say you have produced the single best instructable I have ever seen. I say that as a pro member who has been visiting this site for at least five years. Unlike other intructables, this one covers the details that a person seeking to follow these instruction would need. Unlike others there is not only no assumption that the knowledge you have is commonplace, you mange to explain the reasoning behind many of the things you did. That is how knowledge is turned into education. </p><p>I realize this site is all about giving back and these things are done for free, however, I would like to send you a small token of my appreciation. Perhaps a gift certificate to Hobby King? If you would like to contact my privately, I can make those arrangements.</p>
<p>HogHunter, you are also amazing, thanks for your supportive attitude!</p>
<p>That's a great idea. Come to think of it, imagine if instructables had a built in tipping feature where members could make small donations to the authors of instructables they found particularly useful.</p>
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<p>Best instructable ever ! I still need practice, but it flies really well, thank you !</p>
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<p>I have not built it yet but I can say that this is the best instructables that I have ever seen. Thank you. I am inspired </p>
<p>Well written tutorial, I am impressed! I built a similar when the rotorbits was introduced. Now its equipped with Banggoods cheep FPV camera and video transmitter (maker Eachine). My tail servo last for approximately 10h, then its worn out and have to be replaced. Happy flying!</p>
I made it!
<p>I ALSO DID NOT GET THEW SCREWS TO MOUNT TO MOUNTING TEMPLATE/??</p><p>=======================</p><p>hey guys, I am building this tricopter..</p><p>I purchased the motors and I did not receive the &quot;X&quot; mounting template with them? did this happen to you?</p>
<p>yes this happened to me....</p>
<p>this is really a great tutorial. By reading this, im am finding out more info on things I never knew and im also finding out a lot of stuff I have been doing wrong. One of them I believe is Battery charging. I have been just pluggin my battery into my charger with the power cord, I haven't ever plugged in the little cord (with all the different colored wires) I thought that was for Balancing or discharge...lol and I have never programed my charger, I just plug the batt into it, turn it one, hit the test button, it pulls up my battery info and I hit charge... I have the Turnigy Mega 380 W Lithium Polymer Battery Pack Charger from Hobby King. <a href="http://www.hobbyking.com/hobbyking/store/__11340__TURNIGY_MEGA_380W_Lithium_Polymer_Battery_Charger.html" rel="nofollow">http://www.hobbyking.com/hobbyking/store/__11340__TURNIGY_MEGA_380W_Lithium_Polymer_Battery_Charger.html</a></p><p>So do I have to use both cordsets coming from my battery when charging and do I need to program it for 1.0 Amp or 2.0 amps to charge it, I think sometimes mine are going to like 12 amps!!! but they charge very fast, like 10 mins or so. they are Zippy, flight max 2200mah, 3S1P, 25C batteries.</p><p>Thanks!</p>
Dude thanks for helping me out I just found a way to stop the tail motor from spending in take-off let me know if you still have the same issue more than happy to help
<p>hey guys, I am building this tricopter..</p><p>I purchased the motors and I did not receive the &quot;X&quot; mounting template with them? did this happen to you?</p>
<p>I just ordered all the parts! I do have a few questions though.</p><p>1. how far can the tricopter fly away from the pilot?</p><p>2. how can you tell when the battery is getting low?</p>
<p>Great read! I am in the process of ordering my parts. I cannot wait to begin this project, it will be my first RC build!</p><p>Thank you for the time and effort you put into this, very informative. </p><p>VM</p>
<p>hi</p><p>Some people mount the planchet on top of the prop, some below. What is best?</p><p>r</p>
<p>This guy mounted the planchet on top of the screw. What is best u think?</p><p>http://www.google.be/imgres?imgurl=https://i.ytimg.com/vi/5bILf7zk8uA/hqdefault.jpg&amp;imgrefurl=http://www.doovi.com/video/multistar-2213-980kv-multirotor-motors/XtmkVbEDb_M&amp;h=360&amp;w=480&amp;tbnid=3yGhOYekWjCijM:&amp;zoom=1&amp;docid=hJvqJb37sXhjPM&amp;itg=1&amp;ei=HxNAVbHMHon1OI61gcgP&amp;tbm=isch&amp;ved=0CEYQMyg-MD44ZA</p>
<p>hi</p><p>I mounted the &quot;planchet&quot; on top of the prop, between the screw on top and the prop. Why did u mount in under the propeller?</p>
<p>Where can I get this setup, really like the way it looks , I am new to tricopters</p>
<p>Hi, </p><p> you can get the kit from here: </p><p><a href="http://www.hobbyking.com/hobbyking/store/__49693__RotorBits_Servo_Mount_Set_w_Gear_Black_.html" rel="nofollow">http://www.hobbyking.com/hobbyking/store/__49693__...</a></p><p> you have to buy the servo, its not included</p>
<p>1 of best build i have see </p><p>but i have question will you recommend carbon fiber boom for a new bee</p>
I hate air hogs they are so easily broken
<p>One question, could I use the tilt system from flitetest?</p><p>It seems a bit more robust and more durable.</p><p><a href="http://store.flitetest.com/tough-tilt-motor-mount/" rel="nofollow">http://store.flitetest.com/tough-tilt-motor-mount/</a></p>
<p>One word: WOW! This is the single best instructable on a tricopter i have ever seen. After I learn to solder, this will be the first thing i'm going to build. You've got +1 follower!</p>
<p>What a great instructable. I waiting for my RotorBits tri-copter kit right now. I do have a question on the ESC connections to M1 M2 and M3. Do you cut the + wire on all 3 of those ESC connectors seeing as a UBEC is providing 5V thru the receiver to M1 and to the servo separately?</p>
Hello can you this build for me ibroke this this is ir jammer device this send information to the bill acceptor and counts by display nummber writing to me email rewe.dekra@web.de
<p>Finished build.</p>
<p>&quot;Then, using a 3/16&quot; bit, drill three holes in the spots you just marked.&quot;</p><p>This seems a bit large. The screws seem to fit in the 1/8&quot; holes cut elsewhere (as a trial size).</p>
<p>and, in fact, the 1/8&quot; bit made a hole that fit correctly.</p>
<p>this has to be the best instructables i have ever seen</p>
<p>umm $245 kind of pricey and u have to build it i still dont see y you would want to other then being able to say &quot;i made that&quot; i mean the cheapest copter i could find was here <a href="http://www.tinydeal.com/cheerson-cx-10-nano-rc-ufo-quadcopter-4-ch-vs-hubsan-h111-p-128529.html" rel="nofollow">http://www.tinydeal.com/cheerson-cx-10-nano-rc-ufo...</a> and u could buy about 15 of them with $245</p>
<p>Learning!</p><p>In the course of building your own, you develop knowledge and skills that you simply won't get with one of those inexpensive RTFs.</p>
<p>Making your own multicopter allows upgrades that allow you to add features (such as FPV). The cheaper multicopters out on the market are usually made from cheap materials and do not allow upgrades, but they are definitely good for practice so in the case you mess up, you risk losing $20 rather than $245.</p>
<p>Congratulations on winning the formlabs comp. cant wait to see what you make next</p>
<p>Togle, Are you powering the KK2 at motor8(with UBEC) and at motor1</p><p>(with ESC) and receiver with UBEC? I am building my 1st Quad and read where you normally power KK2 with power wire from ESC1 to motor1 and disconnect power wires from 2,3 &amp; 4. Does this make redundant/backup power? Thanks 4 any help. GT</p>
<p>Wonderful instructable! I agree, tri-copters are very under rated. I am planning to build a quad for aerial video with gimbal. I wonder how this would work with front mounted gimbal. And thank you for the parts list and links, very helpful! </p><p>One question though, I am new to RC radios, is a 6ch sufficent or would it be worth getting the Turnigy 9ch? </p>
If you are going to be using a gimble on your quad, If you want to be able to manually control where the camera points, I'd suggest the 9 channel. Otherwise, the camera would be simply flat the entire time; unless you just wanted stability from the gimble&mdash;then the 6 channel would work fine. Overall, like it is said in the instructable, I'd you want more control over what your gimble does, go with the 9 channel; otherwise the 6 channel is more than enough for simple flying. Hope this helped!
<p>ninja114179 said it well, if you just want to fly, a 6-channel transmitter is sufficient and you will save a bit of money, but if you add a gimbal you will want to upgrade to a 9-channel transmitter so you can use the additional channels to aim the camera.</p>
<p>Any chance we can get a vid of this thing in the air?!</p><p>GREAT write up by the way!</p>
Fantastic instructable! You have me wanting to build one now. I was hoping when I got finished reading this that you would have a video of it flying but I guess I will have to build my own to see that :-)
<p>This is by far the best instructable that I have seen in all of the years that I have been reading them. Thanks for the fantastic job and the timing could not have been better. I just started building my first tricopter </p>
<p>Wow So Detailed. I can not imagine how much time you spent making it </p><p>Thanks</p>

About This Instructable




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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