Introduction: Scratch Build Your Own Quad-copter!

Picture of Scratch Build Your Own Quad-copter!

For this instructable i will be showing how I scratch built my own quad-copter!

Step 1: What Shall It Do?

The first thought you have to think before even purchasing a single material or part is what do you want it to do? Do you want something that is fun to fly? or maybe take some aerial photography? Maybe a combo of both? Either way this page will give a breakdown of the pros and cons of each multi-rotor craft out there, but first two of the biggest rules about brushless motors.

Rule 1: Brushless Motors are twice as efficient than brushed on lower power levels(under 65%)
Rule 2: More Motors means more power and more lift!

Tricopter: The little baby brother of the multi-rotor family. Its one of the easiest to build and the cheapest to build, however when it comes down to performance its motors take the most strain because they are running on a higher throttle than any of its other siblings leaving it with low flight time and low lift capabilities. 

Quadcopter: One of the most popular craft in the multi-rotor family. Its a little more challenging to build and a little more expensive. The quad is only a couple grams heavier with the extra rotor but that extra rotor gives the quad a huge boost in lifting capabilities and flight time. If a motor fails though the whole vehicle will go down. 

Hexacopter: In-between a quad and an octacopter. It can be difficult to build and more expensive to make and it also takes more ground prep time then the quad or the tricopter because it tends to have multiple batteries. It can carry a much heavier load than the quad can but it may require 2 batteries to achieve the desired flight time you want from a multi-rotor. Even if one of the motors fails you will just lose yaw control of the aircraft but manage to stay flying. 

Octacopter: The big brother of multi rotors. It is the most challenging and the most expensive to build. It can take the heaviest load for the largest payload you want on it and can have up to a 40 minute flight time. Before flight it can require a lot of prep work as some octacopter a can take up to 4 LiPo batteries. 

Step 2: Materials!

Picture of Materials!

For this project I chose to build the quad because its one of the most common vehicles out there. 

When you begin construction one of your first and main concerns is weight and most of the weight can be reduced or added by just the frame itself. With that being said depending on how powerful your motors are you can't go and grab any material because the motors can rip the material apart. 

If you do go lightweight you may want to consider the box method where you build the arm out of a box shape instead of just a flat piece of material. (Round pipes is in the box family). Another benefit of the box is you can run your wires back inside the pipe leaving less exposed wires for something to go wrong. 

For materials you'll also need to decide what kind of motor and prop system to use. This can often take a lot of little tweaking as you don't want props that are too big and take to much energy to spin but also not too small where you don't get enough thrust and you have to run them on a higher setting then you should. 

Along with the motors you need something to control them. For that you look to electronic speed controls (ESC). They depend on how much current your motors draw (find that in the data sheet). The ESC is then connected to the battery and motor which can be controlled from your R/C transmitter. 

After the motors you have to power them. For most hobby aircraft nowadays they are powers by LiPo batteries. These batteries can come in various sizes and can last from 10-30 minutes depending on the size you use for the battery. The battery I choose was a 5000mAh 11.1 volt 3 cell battery. This is one of the larger batteries that you can buy and gives me about a 30 minute flight time. 

For the motors to power all of them you'll have to make a PDB. A PDB is a power distribution board that allows one battery to power all 4 motors at once. 

The next step would be to select your transmitter and receiver. For any multi-rotor you need AT LEAST 4 channels. These four are for all the basic commands like throttle, yaw, pitch, and roll. Now if you want to add autonomous functionality or control LED lights on your quad then you need 5 channels or more depending on what you want to do.

The final part you'll need is the brains, the microprocessing board that controls every function in the quadcoptor from moving to staying stable while hovering. They're are many different choices for board but the one I chose was 3DRobotics arduino based micro controller with RC plane shield. This board is based off of Arduino which means that (if you want) you can modify it or tweak it to suit your needs. 

If you just read all that you're welcome to go and try and mix and match parts on you're own. If not and would like some help you're more then welcome to copy my build below. 

1x ArduPilot Mega from 3DRobotics ($75-200)
1x PDB power distribution board (you'll make this) ($10)
4x 10x4.7 slo-flyer propellers. (You may want get spares if you hit or break one) ($5-$15)
4x 850 KV brushless motors. From HobbyKing (many other places sell these they just tend to be in different colors, logos, and quality) ($5-$15)
4x 20C electronic speed controls ($5-$15)
1x 9ch turnigy RC transmitter and receiver ($50-$300) 
1x LiPo battery 5000mAh, 11.1 volts ($10-$20) (remember this is a HUGE battery if you want you can go smaller to add more payload then flight time)
4 sheets of 1/2in acrylic (it also depends how wide you're arms are) (free - $5)
2 sheets of 1/4in acrylic (for the center tower) (free - $5)
Red and black wires ($5)
Also for this project you'll require miscellaneous screws and connectors

Because many of these parts are on the same website ill post just the link to the main website. Its for your benefit you'll be forced to read and learn more stuff about this and its less work for me ;)

The total price for what i put into this quad was about $300 for every part brand new. You can find these parts in more then one place but if you want to you can get them from where i got them. You can order most the parts online or go to a hobby store (most are overpriced!) but some things you'll have to go out and explore to find who sells them in your neighborhood like the wires and acrylic.

Step 3: Frame Design

Picture of Frame Design

For my frame I chose to build the flat arms because the material I chose to be the arms was one of the thickest I could find and wouldn't flex to much during flight. To cut the arms I used a laser cutter with designs that I made on Adobe illustrator. If you don't have easy access to a laser cutter you can also cut it with normal power tools. Just don't hurt yourself. 

The first thing in your design that you should do is figure out how much space you'll need in the center. Some of the things in the center can range from the ESC, RC reciever, control board, and the battery. It all depends on how you want to space out and arrange your aircraft. 
For my design I used velcrow on the bottom to hold the battery attached to the tower. Next I added the autopilot and have that area around an 1/8 of clearance. Next level was where the PDB went. And finally at the top was the RC reciever. Myhe center of mine was cut out useing 1/4 inch black acrylic. 

When drawing your flat arm there's three main things you need to find out when you cut your arms to make assembly easy and give yourself the best performance. 
First: add the motor mount and figure out where you need to put the screws. This is one of the major things to do because even if one of the screws is a little off it can rattle the motor out completely. 
Second: for the arm length give your self the propeller size from the middle of the quadcopter. Example. From the center of the tower I measure tip to tip on the propeller and that's where the motor will go. 
Third: Be sure to give yourself some space when you attach the center of the quad to the arms.

For any of these parts if your doing it on the laser cutter feel free to engrave it and name it! And you can borrow some of my files that I used for my cutting.

For the drawings the "Final Arm" is for just one arm if you want to make a tricopter or an octacopter. "Final Center Tower" is the two plates that are in-between the arms and autopilot. "Top Plate" is where the PDB is help and has some decals and an easy spot to carry it from.

The files are also for a very strong arm material. I have a very rough box arm file where it just prints a box, but it has been unsuccessful with these motors because the motors are bit to powerful for it.

Step 4: Electronics

Picture of Electronics

For the electronics if the motors or ESC's aren't soldered with the banana plugs you should of that now(don't forget shrink wrap)!

After they're soldered the next step is to make the PDB. Remember this is what powers all 4 motors. For the connections copy the connector pattern below. It's easy to follow. The one plug is for the battery while the other 4 are for each ESC. Again don't forget the shrink wrap!

Step 5: Assembly

Picture of Assembly

First off for assembly is to make a dry run and assemble the frame and see if all the electronics fit inside the center. After this you can start to add on each of the motors and see how they fit. After the motors you can connect each one to the ESC and attach the ESC. Now you can add the props and see how everything fits!

Step 6: Add-ons

Now that you have finished your quad you can feel free to add whatever you want to it. Maybe LEDs speakers, anything that you want to fly! 

For add-on weight you have a TOTAL quad weight of about 2kg that will carry a lot of stuff and still be easy to maneuver 


anweshanni (author)2017-02-27

good to see ur drone
is there any making vedio of it

Aman pratap singh (author)2017-01-20

Which motar is required to lift 2kg of weight..(MAX)

Mots101 (author)2016-10-22

Can we use an arduino uno for this ?

RAJAT DHAWALE (author)2016-02-14

I dont get it can you teach me pleas

JeffreyS5 (author)2014-12-18

A lot of time with these is spent Hovering. How much power would it save if you built in a helium bladder to make the drone almost neutral buoyant?

andreask4 (author)JeffreyS52015-03-28

Maybe if you had a huge helium container, but it will need to be huge, so idk if it is practical enoth. try it.

BrandonC40 (author)andreask42015-10-28

Nitrogen would have more lift. Weighs 5.31lbs per 1,000 cu ft compared to 10.54lbs for helium.

triskaideka (author)BrandonC402016-02-10

Hi! correction you mean Hydrogen not Nitrogen... Hydrogen is 5.31 lbs per 1000 cu ft... Nitrogen is 72.448 lbs per 1,000 cu ft

Slime Eel (author)triskaideka2016-02-13

Light but flammable. One spark and the whole thing explodes. You'd get a heck of a bang from it. It is easy to make though (a giant exploding whale with rotors comes to mind). That being said, if someone can pull it off I'd love to see it.

jtechian (author)JeffreyS52015-12-15

That would then be called a blimp :) I have thought about this also, but wind would be bad for it. Maybe spread it out to a large disc so it also serves as a wing type lift when moving.

If you do this, post results here! I'd love to know how it works out.

ikhwanS2 (author)2016-01-27

How about carrying a human?

Redspiritnl. (author)2015-12-25

Would this receiver be able to work with the flight controller?

Nice tutorial by the way.

tekaaiya (author)2015-11-15

what is the mean is 850KV motor kilovolt or other???

jtechian (author)tekaaiya2015-12-15

Kv on motors is how fast the motor turn per volt you run it on. So it means revolution per volt. for smaller copters you want at least about 2000 kv and for larger ones under 1000 kv. The lower the Kv, the more torque the motor has and can turn larger props. So small copters with smaller props like 6 inch will need spin faster with higher kv motors.

nishant.mankotia (author)2015-03-03

what about programming ... how will i program my quadcopter

and are there any cheaper options than using aeroquad look for hk2 flight controller. This has many model types already programed in and you can adjust parameter with buttons in the field.

Nick_Tesla (author)2013-08-27

What is the flight time with say a 250 gram load.

BudvytisD (author)Nick_Tesla2015-12-02

5 mins, tried it

UpaT (author)2015-09-18

wow great video...i learned a lot .... but hey i also found this app online that showed me a lot just by downloading it on my phone i started building my own drone here check this link out link

Darknessblade. (author)2015-09-11

i know that the ardupilot is based on a adruino atmega 2560

so if you buy such one with a i/o shield you can save up to 180$

JedidiahB (author)2015-09-09

Can I have the links to where you bout the electronics? I have the motors, frame, and card so far.

Kushalpikki (author)2015-07-11

The motors are cheaper at You can get the complete set at $94.680

Dove888 (author)2015-04-27

You guys are doing wonderful jobs. I wish I could actually adorn Charlottesville skyline with one in the nearest future. You can inbox me for easiest guide :

nagress (author)2015-03-21

Really nice

nagress (author)2015-03-21

Really nice

kuttygeorge.jacob (author)2015-01-29

can we make at home ??????

khan.baba.5477 (author)2015-01-22

nice ..and can you send me cordcopter pcb design and pics only on pcb circuite plzzzzz and my email is

george.llanos.18 (author)2015-01-05

I net to do somthing fly for my school and a don't now what to do

rwarwick1 (author)2014-12-17

Very good! Any thoughts on using dc motors from common dvd and vcr parts?

elkodri (author)2014-10-17

i wish i can build that ,,,, unfortunatly i cannot ,,, so i just gonna say nice tutorial

jellyhughes123 (author)2014-10-01

Hi so i was wandering how could i adjust this so it will just follow me? I want to be able to get it out press go and get it to just follow me from about 10 feet?

To do that, you'd need some sort of small beacon device to strap onto your wrist or whatever. I'm not sure about the details but you can read about it here:

sarthaks1 (author)2014-08-20


i am sarthak sethi from india and i am very interested in making a quadcopter. I followed all your instructions, but now i am stuck up with a problem. I am not getting how ans where to connect the receiver to the setup..... plese help me???..

john.avis.31 (author)2014-08-06

flight times, please. With load, without load, hovering, and continually moving, if you could please

Hardigevariya29 (author)2014-07-10

hey which motors did you used?
and can I get that online?

spdon98 (author)2014-04-24

but i dont have all the motor as same,i have 2 pair and both r different

pdesai5 (author)2014-04-21

Most of the blogs/website say we need minimum of Four channels for a quadcopter (pitch, roll, throttle, yaw):

1. One channel for throttle

2. second channel for turning right and left.

3. third channel for pitching forward and backward.

4. fourth one for rolling left and right.

[Radio Transmitter Image](

But looking at the RC transmitter , i see that at a time you can change a maximum of two sets data ( left and right joy stick) . Even if you want to send Rudder and Throttle information at the same , can it not be sent in the same packet ?

My understanding is two channels should be sufficient to control quad copter. Please provide more clarity on this.

arce (author)2014-03-28

you have a diagram of your circuit please...
I could send it to my email?..

I am from mexico

I will be very grateful :]

kahaan (author)2014-03-04

Which cells are you using

mackyfranklin (author)2013-10-19

Great looking quad. Curious about the acrylic sheets you used. Were they stiff enough? And where did you find them for $0-$5?

kborgen (author)mackyfranklin2013-11-18

not quite, id rather have them a little bit stiffer. I found scrap acrylic and they offered them cheaply to me

244 Jake (author)2013-09-05

I didn't read anything about getting the thing to fly, or the adjustment / programming of the auto gyro stuff.

244 Jake

dchall8 (author)2013-09-02

I'm not sure if you had a reason to leave all the wires wrapped loose like that but there is something you need to know about aerodynamics. Almost nothing creates drag like a cylinder. Your mesh of loose wires is a very efficient drag device. If you use the quad outdoors the wind will "catch" on those wires and carry the quad away very easily. Or you will drain unnecessary power trying to fight the wind and keep the quad where you want it.

Proveus (author)2013-08-26

Absolutely fantastic 'ible. I love it.

dsirotic (author)2013-08-23

hello. what motors should i use to pull up alot in the air a go pro camera?

kborgen (author)dsirotic2013-08-23

The motors on it now can handle a GoPro easily. If you want to put some of those $1000+ cameras id recommend going with a hex or an octa because if a motor gives out on them they wont drop it

dsirotic (author)kborgen2013-08-24

No i will just use my Hero 3 camera, i paid for it $300. I would like to to aerial video of my riding, because I ride motocross. And some aerial photos of landscapes and other things, but i need something that will go alot in the air, and maybe i will put an exploding mini parachute for it, so it doesn't wreck if something fails.

slartifast (author)2013-08-23

Nice job. I'd put the ESC's on the arms with cable ties and shorten some of the wires to tidy it up a bit. And you could make it even cheaper by using KK2 instead of APM, it's not got all the bells & whistles of the APM but would do well for someone just starting.

kborgen (author)slartifast2013-08-23

yeah i only had a 2 week deadline to build it and very limited supplies so i didn't get the chance to make it nice and tidy. I just wanted it flying lol

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