Introduction: Inexpensive Wooden Tri-copter!

Picture of Inexpensive Wooden Tri-copter!

Build an inexpensive multi-rotor Tri-Copter using wood, zip ties, and 8 screws!

I am using this tri-copter to test servo controllers. There were a few challenges to getting this off the ground and hopefully this helps others with a really cool project, enjoy!  

This is a spin off of another one of my projects currently on Kickstarter, check it out also if you get a chance: or search for Blue-Rx.

Step 1: Parts List

Picture of Parts List

Click the item for more info...

Various pieces of wood
Various Screws
Hot Glue
Zip Ties
12 AWG Wire
Shrink Wrap Tubing
Battery connectors

3 Props (GWS 10 x 4.7) $17.94
3 Motors (1300 kV) $21.98
3 Speed Controllers (18 Amp) $21.45
1 Battery (LiPo ~3000mAh)  $13.73
1 Charger  $27.29
1 Servo $4.37
1 Servo Extension Cable $2.16
1 4ch TX/RX $53.82
1 Mult-rotor Control Board $12.99
1 AVR programmer or Arduino ISP $14.99

Total: less than $200.00

Step 2: Create the Frame

Picture of Create the Frame

Build the frame using 1/2 or 5/8 inch square wood sock.  A strong light weight wood is best, but this beast will have enough power to lift  almost any frame!  The arms are 12 inches long and roughly in a 120 deg pattern. The two arms opposite the servo are the front pair, they are slightly closer to each other then that of the tail, this was purely for aesthetics.  The arms are glued and screwed down to the base plate which is a 1/4 inch masonite.

It is best to get the angles accurate between the arms but believe it or not, its not really necessary.  If they are close the computer control via the multi-rotor control board will compensate for any error!

Step 3: Wire Up the Motors and Speed Controllers

Picture of Wire Up the Motors and Speed Controllers

I didn't use any special connectors for the wiring.  I soldered the leads directly together and shrink wrapped the connections.  This is the simplest method. If you want to use the motors for another project get some bullet banana plug connectors from a hobby shop or online and solder those to the speed controller leads first.  

Make sure your connections are good and wont short together due to vibrations in flight! The battery and speed controllers can put out a lot of juice and could explode or catch fire if the leads are shorted!

For my particular motor and speed controller combination A->Red, B->Black, C->Yellow.  If your motor spins in the wrong direction reverse any 2 wires between the motor and the speed controller.

Each motor is wired to a speed controller then each positive lead from each speed controller is wired together and each negative lead from each speed controller is wired together.  The positive and negative leads are then wired to a battery connector.

The speed controllers convert the battery voltage to 5.0V  to power the receiver and servo through their own servo connectors!

Step 4: Mount the Tail Motor and Servo

Picture of Mount the Tail Motor and Servo

The rear motor is screwed to a small piece of wood and then mounted to the tail arm with a wood screw.  Make sure the motor assembly can pivot easily around its mounting screw.  The pivoting of this rear motor is what allows the tri-copter to spin around its "z-axis", similar to a rudder on a plane.

Glue and zip tie the servo in place and add the necessary servo connectors as shown to allow the servo to control the pivot of the tail motor.  I used a small nail loosely nailed to the motor assembly to connect an unused servo arm to the servo.

Step 5: Add Some "Landing Gear"

Picture of Add Some "Landing Gear"

Use a small piece of foam or carpet pad to create landing gear.  I folded up a piece of carpet pad and zip tied it to each arm to provide some cushion for hard landings.

Step 6: Mount the Battery and Control Board

Picture of Mount the Battery and Control Board

I hot glued the control board to the base plate.  Make sure you have the control board pointed in the right direction, the one I used has two arrows pointing forward and is at 45 degrees to the axis.

Zip tie the battery to the front of the base plate.

Step 7: Mount the Motors and Speed Controllers

Picture of Mount the Motors and Speed Controllers

Zip tie the motors and speed controllers to the arms as shown. Make sure to leave slack in the wires as not to strain any connections.

Step 8: Mount the Rest of the Wiring

Picture of Mount the Rest of the Wiring

Zip tie the battery end of the speed controllers to the base plate leaving room to mount and connect the receiver.  Make sure you can connect the battery!

Step 9: Mount the Receiver and Make the Connections

Picture of Mount the Receiver and Make the Connections

Zip tie the receiver to the base plate and connect the speed controllers and servo to the control board.

Connect the receiver to the control board.  You only need 6 wires between the receiver and control board, 4 signals, V+ and Ground.

See the last step for connection details.

The speed controller provide power to the whole system. 

Step 10: Finished Lets Fire It Up!

Picture of Finished Lets Fire It Up!


With that said there are a few things you need to do to get this thing in the air.

1. Flash the control board with Tri-Copter firmware.  Follow this guide(click here); It is old but everything is relevant. The only difference is I used the newest tri-copter firmware, version 2.9.

2. Connect the receiver to the control board.  If you have a Mode 2 transmitter, CH1 -> Elevation, CH2 -> Aileron, CH3 -> Throttle, CH4 -> Rudder.

3. Connect the speed controllers and servo to the control board (M1-M3 for speed controllers) (M4 or M5 for tail servo). Follow this guide(click here) for the initial setup and tuning; Is is for a quad copter but the setup is the same for a tri-copter.  The only difference is there is no need to reverse servo direction if using v2.9 firmware, just use the M5 servo connector for the tail servo instead of M4.

4. Initial takeoff!  Start the tri-copter on a very flat smooth surface, most people want to try grass but it needs to be able to skim across the ground for the initial setup, so use concrete, asphalt, or dirt instead.  Power on the transmitter.  Power on the tri-copter.  Hold the throttle all the way down and the rudder to the right to ARM the control board, you should see a red LED come on (hold the throttle down and the rudder to the left to DISARM the control board).  

Increase the throttle until it barely starts to take off.  It will drift along the ground and/or start to spin.  Trim the rudder until it quits spinning. Trim the elevation and aileron until it quits drifting.  Once the tri-copter barely begins to take off and doesn't spin or drift across the ground you are ready to increase the throttle and take off!

Thanks for looking and let me know if there are questions!

If you want to see one in action here is a cool video.  I am good at building things but not the best pilot yet so this is one I found on YouTube, enjoy!


HiteshS29 (author)2016-06-07

Can I use 2000kV motor instead 1300kV?

robobot3112 (author)HiteshS292017-02-01

kV doesnt matter so long as you have thrust, look at the thrust tables for the motor

Kushalpikki (author)2015-04-26

I'm in India so where do I get these things

nemeen (author)Kushalpikki2015-09-15

hey I am too Indian try finding out parts on eBay

robobot3112 (author)nemeen2017-02-01

plenty of lhs, there is always eBay and amazon.

And other internet stores like rcbazaar and quadkopters etc

E10_Gamer (author)2016-03-29

Hey, what is the length and the width of the main plate?

E10_Gamer (author)E10_Gamer2016-03-29

of the frame

sribalajis (author)2016-01-03


Nice project but how to make remote to control it? my e-mail id

so please sent a pdf or word.doc please help

JamesT4 (author)2015-12-15

Don't forget to register it with the FCC for 5$... :-(

JamesT4 (author)JamesT42015-12-15

Forgot to add, nice Instructable by the way!

Kushalpikki (author)2015-04-26

I did not undrstand the steering

Ravi 1999 (author)2015-04-17

Can we use a aurdino uno r3

lpinho (author)2015-04-08

Hi Peterson,

thanks for sharing this project.

Could you please explain, in your opinion, what is the best option for tricopter motors, a low KV or a high KV (I’ve seen builder using 950 KV engines like you and others use 2200 and higher KV).

For a newbie what is the best option?

Thanks again

harthik.honey (author)2015-03-20

but when i move my tricoptor to left ,the power to the motor is haulted ,i dont know y??? please help me out of this!!!!!!!!!!!

darshan.deshpande.96 (author)2015-01-11

what actually makes the copter fly?? Which motherboard have you used?? Plz tell me cause I'm a beginn

he has links to all the parts listed above. but here is the board he used

Aniruddha-Ashok-Belekar (author)2014-12-31

what about turning system?

DocMat (author)2014-11-16

I personally put the front arms out at around 90 degrees in order to keep the props out of the view of a camera... How well would this setup work for mounting a camera tray?

dennyzulfikar (author)2014-09-25


how much total copter weight ? are you considering about device balance also? thx

Greg0reo (author)2014-06-26

I purchased three 1000 KV motors and 30A ESC's. I am a beginner at RC stuff so I don't really know much. My question is: for my three motors, what battery should I get?

condorxan (author)Greg0reo2014-07-23

3300 mAh Lipo would work

skumar201 (author)2014-02-23

its hot

rohan92b (author)2013-12-05

wt is the use of AVR programmer.

CatalinRO (author)2013-09-27

It seems like everybody wants to see a vid of the beast flying. And I think this is not because it is not flying, but how is this thing flying? :) Don't get me wrong, but these days I was building my first tricopter (RCExplorer type - easy to build indeed) and it was not like in the movies :( Indeed building the thing is pretty easy, but make it fly is quite complicated. So I think a nice instructable is the one entitled "Build a easy to setup for flight tricopter" :) Cheers!

TheFuturePhoneMaker (author)2013-07-20

you said its inexpensive and its 200$!

that's good for a tricopter

wgalaugher (author)2013-07-18

Flashing the control board with Tri-Copter firmware is different in your example than what the real software shows. It's close but not he same for identical hardware. The board selection is slightly different as well as the input file. I see the 1.6 version and the 2.9 version which are different than your screen shots. Which way to go?

alcurb (author)2013-07-15

The performance is incredibly fast. How does it perform with a camera payload?

Nick_Tesla (author)alcurb2013-07-18

this is what i want to know as well

Nick_Tesla (author)2013-07-18

How heavy is the camera you are using?

Edgar (author)2013-07-17

Went to my Blog:

Veda88 (author)2013-07-15

Of course we want to see a video of you flying with it ;)

armstk180 (author)2013-07-14

Hey man , awesome job !
i have never knew about three motor copter ! thank you to apprise me :)

good luck

Royduino (author)2013-07-13

I fail to see where the AVR Board was used or the Arduino AVR

asimionescu (author)2013-07-10

Hi, tell me please where i can find a remote control like yours?

Nick_Tesla (author)2013-06-22

How long can it fly for

stonehenged (author)2013-06-13

what size servo did you use for your tail?

armored bore (author)2013-06-13

That looks both awesome and extremely dangerous. The way it loops around in the video makes me think it has a taste for blood.

justbennett (author)2013-06-10

Excellent job. I especially like that there is a parts list with links and prices! Even if I don't do THIS project, I will come back to check where you got your parts.

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