Introduction: Cheap, Crash Resistant Portable T Copter (in Apprx 200 USD)

Picture of Cheap, Crash Resistant Portable T Copter (in Apprx 200 USD)

Hello People of the world.

One fine morning, I woke up and decided to find out what is going on in the world of aeromodelling. I was surprised to see the world had been overtaken by drones. There were multirotors everywhere and everyone was making one for themselves.

So I decided to make one for myself. Being always out of cash I was hell bent to make something that was cheap. And since the only mode of transport I have is my trusty 3 yr old Honda motorcycle, it had to be portable as in backpack-able. As it goes without saying, it had to be crash resistant as this would be my first multirotor.

A portable , crash resistant T-copter seemed to be the ideal candidate for this adventure.

In this instructable I will stress on how to make the frame rather than going into the intricacies of the electronic component selection and their settings. There are a lot of websites which provide enough information on those subjects. A quick google search should do fine. (Edit : I did add basic info for the benefit of any person new to all this)

However if you are one of those lazy asses or simply want to emulate my setup, following this instructable should give a good T Copter to begin your multirotor journey.

/*Edit : added parts list*/

From local hardware shop

Wood

Zip-ties (or from HobbyKing.com)

PVC pipe 3 in or 4 in diameter

Screws/nuts/bolts ( I used 3 mm everywhere)

Cutting and soldering tools

Velcro (or from HobbyKing)

Kite/Cotton thread

30 Minute Epoxy

SuperGlue

From Hobbyking.com

KK 2.1.5 or KK Mini (The brain behind the multirotor. It does all complex calculations and controls motor speed to stabilize or direct your multirotor)

Standard Props (Aerodynamic blades that actually generate lift)

Counter Rotating Props (Counter rotating props used to minimize torque due to rotation)

Motor (To spin a prop and generate lift)

ESC (This regulates the motor speed)

KK2 board to Rx wires (connects the radio control receiver to flight controller. Feeds your radio transmitter stick movements to the flight controller)

Lithium Polymer battery (power ups the whole system)

Lipo Charger

Wheel steering mounts (mechanism to make the tail rotor tiltable)

A standard Servo (I used Futaba S3003 : not available on HobbyKing) (actually tilts the tail motor mechanism)

Also you need to have a Radio control remote which you can buy from a local hobby shop. I have been using a Futaba 6EX gifted to me by my dad a decade ago. You don't need any fancy shiny stuff. A basic four/six channel radio should do the job. Turnigy 9xr is a capable and cheap radio and is recommended. You will also need a Tx module with it.

Step 1: Why a T-Copter ? and Not a Tri-copter or a Quadcopter

Picture of Why a T-Copter ? and Not a Tri-copter or a Quadcopter

There is always a trade-off in the choices that you make. If you have a limited budget and want to stay cheap a T-Copter / Tri-Copter has one less motor + esc combo and hence cheaper than a Quadcopter. Also creating a portable Quadcopter is much tougher than a T-Copter / Tri-Copter (Not that it is impossible).

A Quadcopter on the other hand is more stable (not that T-Copters are bad at that) and involve less complex moving parts.

The advantage of a T-Copter over a Tri-Copter is simply in orientation. At some point of flying your multirotor you are bound to loose orientation of your craft and possibly crash. Since the T-Copter is not symmetric on its axis , the chances of this happening are lesser than a Tri-copter.

So if are a first time multirotor pilot and on a budget, stick with me.

Step 2: Choosing the T-Copter Size

Picture of Choosing the T-Copter Size

The next step is to decide the size of the T Copter. The size of a multirotor is defined by the distance between its motors in mm. If you want stability and smooth flying I would suggest to go for 650 mm and above sizes. If you are looking for some adventurous zippy flying stay close to 450-550 mm.

If this is your first multirotor I would suggest to stick to the bigger sizes. Now head over to http://tcoptercalculator.co.nf . This neat little website gives you all the necessary dimension for your T-Copter. I would suggest to select the medium preset or above. I choose the medium preset for this project.

Note down your dimensions and the CG position.

Step 3: Choosing the Frame Material

Alright so you should have noted down the dimensions on the last step by now. Its time to create the frame. The obvious question that pops up is : What do I build the frame with ?

The three most famous materials, to build a multirotor in 2014 are Aluminium, Wood and Carbon Fiber. Among these three materials Carbon Fiber is the best looking material but the most costly as well. It is also the least vibration absorbing material and being the lightest of the three.

Aluminium on the other hand looks reasonably well and is cheaper than Carbon Fiber. It is slightly heavy than carbon Fiber and has good vibration absorbing characteristic.

The third material and my favorite to build you first multirotor is good old wood. It may/may not be as good looking as the other two, depending if you get processed wood or raw. It has good vibration absorbing characteristics and is most easy to work with. It is also the cheapest among the three.

So my vote for now goes to Wood. Yaay !!! The wood that I chose is called 'Lippin Patti' here in India and comes in pre-cut strips. I am not sure what it is called at your place but I am sure you will figure that out.

Step 4: Creating the Frame

Picture of Creating the Frame

This is where the instructable gets exciting. This is also the step where I do magic to trick you into believing that I took shots of all the necessary steps. If you find some odd looking and fishy pics, its time to visit your eye doctor.

I will show you the technique to build the portable, crash resistant frame. However since the wood that you get in your country will probably not have the same dimension as mine, please take into consideration the dimension changes you might need.

The most critical dimension that you must adhere to is the motor to motor distance. Any deviation in this parameter and you may end up unsuccessful. Here are the dimensions of the wood pieces I used.

The standing piece in the 'T' frame :

Height: 10mm

Length : 523mm

Width : 40mm

All other wood pieces :

Height : 15mm

Width : 20mm

Length : According to requirement.

The wood pieces required are clearly shown in the pic above which I did digitally manipulate to look like an illustration.

Step 5: The Folding Mechanism

Picture of The Folding Mechanism

Take the main wood strip and mark two points 519 mm apart and at the center point along the width (20mm in my case). Leave 20 mm from both edges as a margin of error. At one of these point will come the tail motor and the folding mechanism at the other.

Lets complete the folding mechanism in this step. The tail motor will be done in a later step. Mark the center lines on the folding mechanism wood pieces and use epoxy to glue these pieces to the main wood piece: one on top and one at the bottom. After the two pieces have dried use a cotton thread to wrap around the joint and simultaneously ask a colleague to apply CA glue to it. Let the CA dry. This will create a strong joint.

Since the height of the main wood is 10 mm and that of the folding arms are 15 mm, I had to grind 2.5 mm from both sides of the folding arms. You can avoid this if you choose the wood wisely.

Insert the folding arm into the folding mechanism and temporarily use tape or rubber bands to secure it. Leave a clearance of 10 mm from the main wood strip. Then drill two holes (3 mm in my case as I used 3 mm nut/bolt) through the assembly.

One hole will have a nut and bold to allow the arms to swivel around it. The second hole will be used to fix the open position of the arms using zip-ties.

The pictures should make the process ample clear.

Step 6: Mounting the Motor on Folding Arms

Picture of Mounting the Motor on Folding Arms

The motor that I have used is the Turnigy 2830/11 1100 kv motor available at hobbyking.com . The esc used is 20 amp multistar esc again available at hobbyking.com .

Dry fit both the folding arms and mark the two points 600 mm apart and being symmetric about the main wood strip. Trace the motor mounting template. We will be using zip-ties to mount the motor. This helps prevent any damage to the motor in case of a crash as all the impact is taken by the zip-tie and it snaps.

Refer the pics.

Step 7: Mounting the ESC

Picture of Mounting the ESC

Similary use the zip-ties to mount the esc's on the folding arm as shown.

We will be using both standard rotation and counter-clockwise props in our T-Copter. This helps counter the torque generated, due to the spinning mass of motor as well as propellers, to cancel out each other a bit.

If you view your T-Copter from above, the tail prop and the left arm prop should be rotating in clockwise direction. The motor on the right arm should rotate counter clockwise. Needless to say order more standard rotating props thatn counter-clockwise rotation ones.

The rotation on the motor can easily be changed by swapping any one wire that connects it to the ESC.

Step 8: Creating a Custom Wire Harness

Picture of Creating a Custom Wire Harness

Since a single Lithium Polymer battery will power all the three motors, you can either get a power distribution board or go the cheaper way of fabricating a custom wire harness as shown in the pic. This will require some soldering skills.

Step 9: Tail Yaw Mechanism

Picture of Tail Yaw Mechanism

A T-Copter or a Tri-Copter move on the yaw axis by tilting the tail motor and hence directing the thrust sideways. This yaw mechanism can achieved by using a servo motor and nose wheel steering assembly. It is not necessary for you to use the same mechanism. You can google Tri-Copter yaw mechanisms to find other methods.

This yaw mechanism is one used by David on his tricopter and explained beautifully here.

Use zip-ties to secure the mechanism.

Step 10: Mounting the KK Board and Reciever

Picture of Mounting the KK Board and Reciever

Used a plastic lunch box to protect the flight controller board ( KK original board) and the receiver. Use a soldering iron to melt holes in the plastic and zip-ties to secure it to the frame. Place the box as close to the T joint as possible. We will balance the T-Copter by the counterweight of the Lipo battery.

The KK board was put inside the original foam case it came in and was glued using hot glue. The connections made with the receiver and wires routed appropriately. Be sure to read the KK2 installation manual and connect the board correctly with the Rx and the esc's.

Step 11: Adding a Landing Gear

Picture of Adding a Landing Gear

The best landing gear that I found for multirotors is PVC pipe. I used 4 inch diameter pipe and cut out three pieces of 20 mm thickness. Use zip-ties to attach to the wood frame.

Step 12: Placing the Battery

Use a minimum of 2200 mah lipo with atleast 20c rating. Place your lipo on top of the main wood tail strip and try to balance out the T-Copter about the CG point as shown in the step where the frame size is calculated. Use velcro strap to fix the battery.

Step 13: Fold Up Your T-Copter and Go to Your Flying Field

Picture of Fold Up Your T-Copter and Go to Your Flying Field

Step 14: Flight and Crash Resistance

The only thing you will ever break on this multirotor are the Propellers and the Zip-ties. So get spares for these and enjoy flying your T-Copter.

Flight Time 7-8 minutes

The videos are a testimony to that. The first video shows a fellow aeromodeller flying his newly built T-Copter for the second or third time.

In the second video I was flying this T-Copter in over 60 Km/hr winds on a hill cliff. Suddenly a prop simply decides to disintegrate in mid air. The T-Copter plunges straight from around 10 m height. All I broke was zip-ties and the single prop of-course.

The third video shows the close up of the T-Copter after the crash.

The fourth video shows my friend doing some cool aerobatics on his T-Copter.

If you have any comments or question you are welcome on my website :

www.allthatido.com

Comments

WannaDuino (author)2016-09-21

ok thanxs
I LIKE YOUR WEB SITE,
you do it also to help others,thats honoreble.
i got also that 2K2 flight controller
is it to mutch to ask if you let me US, see how to do it. becous thats what the most of us hold back from building drones.
the programming for me as a beginner makes me scary to blow up stuf.
pleace do or help

All that i do (author)WannaDuino2016-09-21

Sure let me know what help you need ?

Aneriah (author)2016-08-31

Hey man loved the design. I felt inspired to make this just after I watched the video. The only problem is I am not a aerospace or drone/T-chopter expert, so is it super hard to make? Also I am not rich so money is also a problematic factor, so how much is the total cost?

WannaDuino (author)Aneriah2016-09-20

cheaper even

i got all the parts from aliexpress. and what do you think???

90 euro TOTAL exact same

All that i do (author)WannaDuino2016-09-20

Can you post the links here ?

All that i do (author)Aneriah2016-08-31

Not at all, you should easily be able to make it. Costs around 200 USD.

WannaDuino (author)2016-09-01

Did you use 3 same motors, or are there clock or counter clockwise setups?

All that i do (author)WannaDuino2016-09-19

Same three motors. reversed direction by swapping wires

WannaDuino (author)All that i do2016-09-20

did you also did some computer work for the esc`s and did you use also lets say! cleanflight program??

All that i do (author)WannaDuino2016-09-20

Nope , when I made this KK2 boards were the norm and did basic throttle calibration for the esc's

WannaDuino (author)2016-09-01

unfricking awesome

Ooooo yES, thats a priority item,for on my to make list.

And i need al the help i can get to get iT like yours.

IT has even Acro mode.

Props,

All that i do (author)WannaDuino2016-09-19

Thanks bro..happy to help.

NachiketK1 (author)2016-09-15

wow great work man keep it up.

All that i do (author)NachiketK12016-09-19

thanks man !!

shk2000 (author)2016-08-30

Nice job

All that i do (author)shk20002016-08-31

Thanks

N6NG (author)2016-08-30

Really loved the video... As a new copter flyer, it was very informative and interesting. Thanks for putting it on Instructables... Great job.

All that i do (author)N6NG2016-08-31

Thank you so much !

yrralguthrie (author)2016-08-30

The main reason few make a T-copter is the number of props. To keep the devise from rotating on it's own the number of clockwise rotating props and the number of counter clockwise rotating props have to be equal. The t-copter is not going to be inherently stable. One motor will have to constantly turn much faster that the other two. A quad copter would be much more stable and easier to hover.

alter2000 (author)yrralguthrie2016-08-31

That's why the yaw mechanism is there. The tail motor is tilted to compensate for the lack of a CCW pair (it's usually the one placed differently, although OP's design is still useful). It also allows for graceful turns and banks (unlike a quad/hexa/octa, which uses the rotational speed difference between motors). Tricopters are generally more unstable because of slow/unresponsive tail servos (that's where the fourth motor's computational need goes), hence the bigger average frame size.

spylock (author)2014-08-28

Man if you had a hobby shop at your disposal,youd be dangerous,great job!My vote?You got it!

All that i do (author)spylock2014-08-28

I do however have the resource and knowledge to convert a washing machine into a nuclear reactor and take over this world :) Ain't I dangerous.

ShawnS60 (author)All that i do2016-08-30

You deserve to do that, if you so desire. Great 'ible!

spylock (author)All that i do2014-09-01

OK,we gotta think cheap,and close at hand,how about bamboo,?Its a nice design,if you can lighten it some youre gonna get a machine that handles a whole lot better,Im just amazed that it will fly as is,so Im think small 1/4" bamboo shafts,almost as good as carbon fiber,and would likely be a first in the multi-rotor world,?.?

All that i do (author)spylock2014-09-03

Only if bamboo shafts were so easily available here. When I decide to go light weight, carbon-fiber will be the material Ill choose.

PS: designing my next quadcopter for ultra portability and long flight times with a gopro.

rmoody3 (author)All that i do2014-08-29

I did that myself, but I'm not going to turn it on until I decide whether I'm going to have any more children.

All that i do (author)rmoody32014-08-30

Damn !!! You Americans are everywhere :P

All that i do (author)spylock2014-08-28

Thanks spylock..maybe i will start a kickstarter campaign to raise a workshop and sell my designs !! What say ?

spylock (author)All that i do2014-08-28

Good idea,I also thought of something that might help,and it didnt come to me til I was thinking of doing some practice with my bow,did you consider carbine fiber arrows instead of the wood,you said you were on a budget,I thought,you can get them at China Mart (Walmart)starting at around $5.00 where Im at,im amazed that it flies as well as it does.Hit me back.

All that i do (author)spylock2014-08-31

Shipping to India on the carbon fiber is a killer :P . The cost of this frame is 60 Rs >> 1USD

bmiller91 (author)2016-08-30

Yikes. Looks like it would survive crash just fine but would really ruin your day if you got hit by it :-0

Raphango (author)2016-08-30

Nice!! =D

AndrewW173 (author)2016-08-30

a good source of cheap but high quality carbon fibre tubing is carp fishing poles. I was given a badly damaged one and was able to cut several long lengths of light weight and strong tubing from it. Was easy to work and bonded readily with epoxy resin. All I had to do was make it known at local fishing lake and tackle shops what I was looking for. I now have several in my workshop rafters for future projects.

ashishalh (author)2016-05-31

Really cool. Great job

aqalandari (author)2016-02-06

what was the total cost of all of these in inr

LenK (author)2015-12-16

VERY IMPRESSIVE, especially the video!

All that i do (author)LenK2016-01-28

Thanks a ton !

highwind001 (author)2016-01-28

disregard previous question. I just read it. Thanks

highwind001 (author)2016-01-28

what is your flight time on this setup?

prince-of-weasels (author)2015-06-20

Did you consider >bamboo< instead of wood? Or thin walled PVC pipe for the fusilage/wings?

bamboo is not easily available here at my place and mounting the motors etc woud b PITA. Yes PVC pipes can be a good alternative but again you would have to create a contraption to mount the electronics

shizumadrive (author)2014-11-16

how much did it all cost ?

130 USD exculding the rc remote

All that i do (author)Mhoshovsky2014-11-21

Thanks

Applerust (author)shizumadrive2014-11-16

This is always the first thing I want to see in an instructable. Never the case.

shizumadrive (author)Applerust2014-11-17

Yeah a few years back they had recommendations to instructibles and I recommended have a price for total cost. even a guess is nice

Techmov (author)shizumadrive2014-11-17

Maybe $30

sango0711 (author)2014-11-17

What is the total weight of you construction? And do you think it could lift something like a GoPro?

All that i do (author)sango07112014-11-17

Hi sango0711

It is designed to be a survior..it struggles to lift a gopro..but yes it can fly but would be sluggish

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Bio: I am a happy go lucky person whose interests vary from aeromodelling, painting to micro-controllers and scrap building. I am a certified mechanical engineer and ... More »
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