Introduction: QuadCopter Drone Designing and Building

Picture of QuadCopter Drone Designing and Building

Drones are everywhere these days, it just takes a look up every now and then to realize how popular they are getting. You may have been thinking about getting a drone but dismissing it because of the price. You generally have to pay over $1,000 to get anything half decent, an example of this is the DJI phantom, it is the most popular line of consumer quadcopters in the world, its costs upwards of $1,400. But the truth is that you don't have to pay thousands to start flying drones.

Because you can build one yourself!

In this instructable, I will go in depth about multirotor (drone) design and building. If you have never flown, owned, designed or built a quadcopter, then this guide should give you all of the information you will need to build your own. I will cover everything from buying the parts, quadcopter design principals, building, flying etc...

So as you can tell there is quite a lot of info so let's get into it!

Step 1: Getting Started!

Imagine if you just finished building your brand new quadcopter, with you brand new transmitter you go outside for the maiden flight, you raise the throttle, and it crashes into something, or you lose sight of it. If that happened you would be pretty disappointed, it is also important that I go over this now rather than later.

The first thing is that it is crucial is that you have some basic flying know how before you are able to lift off. Part of this is actually learning how to fly using your transmitter to control the quadcopter without crashing. There are plenty of simulators available for you to practice on your phone, tablet or computer. For simulators on mobile devices, you will use two virtual control sticks on the screen and move them with your thumbs to control the drone simulation, but on a computer you will either be using a keyboard (which I highly DISCOURAGE), you can use a universal controller such as an x-box controller (which I don't recommend either), but you can also directly connect the transmitter that you will actually be using to fly the actual quadcopter, to control the computer simulation, this is the option that I recommend, but can sometimes be difficult to setup. you can watch this video I made on the subject.

The simulator that I recommend for PC and mac users is called FPV free rider, you can also get it on android but it's not as good. For ios and android just search something along the lines of "drone simulator", or "quadcopter simulator".

Your surroundings are also extremely important, your soundings are things such as trees houses, neighbors, people, the weather, how light it is etc...

It is very important that you are granted permission from your neighbors or other people before you fly near or over them, their property, their car etc... I would also consider it a bad idea to fly over people unless you trust your system, and it has had at least 5 hours flying time with no issues because with a drone, if a motor is down, the whole quadcopter is down, and if someone's face is taking the impact of that fall, you're going to be in some trouble.

Anyway, it's basically just the practice of respecting your environment and surroundings to stay safe and happy. The next thing is the weather, these things (drones) are not waterproof, flying in the rain without waterproofing the components will most likely kill your components. Also, if it's snowy or wet on the ground when you land or crash you don't want any water getting into your system. If you want to know how to waterproof your components you can watch flitetest's video here, or you can watch rctestflights video here.

Make sure you are prepared to fly before you fly!

Step 2: Getting Your Parts Together!

Right, I think it's time that we take a look at what we are working with.

Parts List for DIY Quad Copter
Parts list contains parts needed to build only the quadcopter,a charger and transmitter will also be needed.

1X - battery beeper - battery alarm

- Ths device will beep loudly when the battery is discharged to a pre set voltage per battery cell.

1X - Velcro - hook and loop velcro

- will be used to mount the battery to the quad copter

4X - Motors - dt750 brushless

- These are great motors the have really good efficiency and thrust when paired with some 11x4.7 props

4X - Counter clockwise props - CCW 11x4.7 props

- These are good cheap props that I have been using for a long time

4X - Clockwise props - CW 11x4.7 props

- These are good cheap props that I have been using for a long time

4X - brushless speed controller - 25 amp plush brushless ESC

- These are really good reliable ESC's that I have been using for a long time on both planes and quadcopters

1X - 14awg wire - 14 AWG silicone wire

- Not much to say… Its wire

1X - Quad Copter battery - 2200mAh 3s lithium battery

- Good batteries that are reliable and powerful and last long as long as you maintain them.

10X - m3 30mm bolts - 30mm hex bolts

- Good bolts, I use them

1X - power distribution board - power distribution

- Works well, easy to solder to.

1X - Naze 32 flight controller - naze 32 FC

- Great flight controller that I use on my racing drones as well as my bigger quad-copters

10X - power bullet connectors - bullet connectors

- Used to connect the ESC's to the motors

10X - M4 nuts - M4 locking nuts

- Used to hold the propellers onto the motors

1X - red heat shrink - 4mm red insulation tube

- When heat is applied, the tube will shrink around exposed electrical connections and insulate it, preventing a short circuit.

1X - black heat shrink - 4mm black insulation tube

- When heat is applied, the tube will shrink around exposed electrical connections and insulate it, preventing a short circuit.

These are the components that you will need to build this quadcopter, excluding the transmitter and battery charger. Your transmitter or remote control will be the device that you will use to communicate with and control your quadcopter, you obviously need a method of charging your batteries, and because the batteries that we are using need to be charged in a specific way, we will need a charger made for that.

The transmitter that I recommend to buy for use with this quadcopter is the orange T-six, the good things about this radio are that it is cheap and that it uses a well-known radio protocol (spektrum dsm2) to communicate. You will also need a receiver, a receiver is a device that receives the signals that your controller is sending, for this we are going to be using the lemon 6 channel receiver.

The battery charger that we are going to be using is the accucel 6 50W lipo charger, this charger is well up to the job of charging our battery, the only thing you will need to get is a 12V power supply (at least 5 amps), this is what we will use to power our battery charger, I will go over battery safety in a different step.

Step 3: Important Inforrmation

Batteries:

Batteries, specifically lithium batteries are what has become the standard for model aviation power systems, they have an extremely high power:weight ratio which is great for an aircraft. There are some dangers when it comes to lipo batteries. They need to be treated with respect, otherwise, bad things can happen. If one of these batteries gets punctured by something in a crash, it will burn, if you don't charge these batteries correctly, they will burn, if you fly too long and the battery becomes empty, your quadcopter will lose power and fall from the sky, and it will probably burn.

Do you get the idea?

Watch the above video made by me for more information about batteries.

Step 4: Building the Frame

The frame is the component of a quadcopter that all of your other components are connected to, it's like the bones of the quadcopter. I have gone through multiple designs of quadcopter frames over the years, this is the latest version of that.

It's going to be quite difficult to explain how to build to my specific frame because when I made it I was improvising while thinking about the design specifications that I wanted to include. These design specs were: smaller more compact form factor, proper landing struts, good camera mounting location, props raised above ground so the camera or other electronics won't get wet in the grass.

You will have to use some common sense when building this, and if something isn't working, then try something different. Your better off building a simple X-frame that you can quickly rebuild when/if you crash. Your electronics are what you want to keep safe, your motors, ESC's, flight controller, battery, receiver. The consumable items that won't matter if you break them because they are easy to get and are cheap are the props and the frame.

You can watch the above video which I made about my newest quadcopter frame design.

If you don't want to build your won frame you can buy the s500 from hobbyking, it's a great frame that is not to dis-similar to the frame I built.

you can buy the s500 here.

Step 5: Putting It Together

Now that we have a frame, we can start mounting our components. The first thing to do is to prepare the wiring, you are first going to need a male xt60 connector with about an 80mm length of black and red silicone wire, and insulate the connections with heat shrink. You can watch a video about this here.

The next thing you need to do is solder male 3.5mm bullet connectors onto your motor wires, and female 3.5mm bullet connectors onto your ESC wires, then insulate over them with heat shrink tubing. You can solder the motor wires and the ESC wires directly together, but if the motor is spinning in the wrong direction then you need to able to switch around some of the wires, or if you need to replace a broken ESC or motor, it is easier and faster to unplug a connector than it is to desolder a connection. The only benefits of a soldered connection are higher reliability, less resistance and less cost (cost of bullet connector).

The best way to get an idea of build and design principals of multi rotors is to watch videos about them.

You can watch a youtube video playlist here.

The next thing that we need to do is shorten the super long motor shafts. To measure how much shaft you will need, on the shaft put a non-locking nut (to prevent the shaft being pulled out of the motor when you tighten the prop down), washer, your propeller, washer and finally a locking m4 nut over the shaft, mark on the shaft where you need to cut, and with a grinder or metal cutting saw, cut the shaft to length. Having a long shaft means that in a crash, there is a higher chance of the shaft being bent.

Now you can mount your motors to your frame arms, first mark where you need to drill your holes, then using a 3mm drill bit, drill a hole as straight as possible into the arm. Now using m3 bolts and nuts, mount your motors mounts to the arm. Make sure you use thread lock! you can now put your motors into their mounts and tighten down the set screws again using thread locker.

Now you can solder your ESC input wires to your power distribution board, make sure you don't get the polarity wrong! You can now connect the ESC and motor wires together and secure the ESC's to your frame arms with zip ties. Through a hole drilled in the top frame plate, feed the four ESC signal wires, later these will connect to your flight controller.

The next thing we need to do is mount the flight controller, in the video I made you can see how the FC mount that I made, improvise something like that out of wood, acrylic etc. Now with hot glue secure the FC making sure that it is as flat, square and aligned as possible.

To mount the receiver, using hot glue secure the receiver to a location that is close to the flight controller. The receiver will connect through a cable to the flight controller.

Next, create battery mounting location underneath the frame by sticking a section of velcro (hook), also put a section of velcro (loop) to the battery, now you have an easy battery mounting method.

Step 6: Getting Ready to Fly

The next thing we have to do is setup the flight controller, in this case, we are using the naze 32 flight controller. Because the naze 32 has so much capability and complexity, I think it is a better idea to watch a video made by someone more experienced on how to set your flight controller up. So you can watch this video.

The above video will go over how to set up your receiver and flight controller.

Step 7: Time to Fly!

Now that you have completed your quadcopter its time to get in the air.

Now before you go outside and crash your quadcopter we need to go over some things.

First of all, we need to charge our battery. The charger that we have chosen is a very common type of battery charger, it will be very difficult to explain how to use it in this article so rcmodelreviews made a great video about how to use this charger, you can watch that here.

Be careful with your batteries

Make sure you store your battery in your battery safety sack to prevent the chance of a fire.

When you are learning to fly, it is quite important that you are not in "cheat mode", by that I mean that your quad is in self-leveling mode, in self-leveling mode, when you take your hands off the control sticks, the quadcopter will level itself. This may sound great for beginners. But the truth is that this self-leveling mode will become extremely limiting in terms of how much control you have of the craft, the quad is constantly trying to fight your inputs to get to a level position, which for an experienced flyer gets extremely annoying.

The mode you should be flying in is acro, or full manual, in this mode the quad will not level its self, if it is flying forwards and you let go of the controls, it will continue flying forwards until you move the stick again. This mode is a lot less limiting. It's also the mode the mode that all the pro-drone racers use as well.

I would recommend that you program a switch on your controller to activate self-leveling mode so that if you loose orientation the quad will not simply plummet to the earth, but instead you will only have to control the altitude and land safely.

Step 8: Conclusion

Thank you for reading this guide, hopefully, you have enjoyed reading and maybe you will consider building this quadcopter?

Remember to fly safe and have fun!

Comments

GregL55 (author)2016-07-07

How much will this cost? I would think you could put what it cost to build this as described, with disclaimer that cost will vary depending on which parts are actually used. I think this is a great idea, and knowing how much I'd save building one vs buying one, would be a great incentive. Thanks for the info.

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