Whether you're a beginner looking for a quadcopter to help you get your feet wet in scratch building, or you're a little more experienced and are just searching for a cheap and reliable frame, look no further than The Ultimate PVC Quadcopter! This is a 450mm frame that is extremely cheap, at around $12 for all the hardware, and is extremely durable as well, mine withstanding dozens of near full speed crashes with nothing more than a couple of broken propellers! The electronics are 100% protected, either inside the PVC arms or underneath the lexan canopy, meaning 1: you'll never have to replace any electronic components and 2: you'll have the flyest (no pun intended :) ) looking DIY quadcopter around! This instructable is going to show you the creation process of this quadcopter and how to make it yourself!
As a kid, I loved playing with PVC pipes and connectors and using them to create anything I could imagine. Many years later, I got a small drone for Christmas, which was lots of fun, but had a very low resolution camera and a short flight time. I wanted to buy a more professional drone, but being only a sophomore in high school there was no way I could have afforded it. I decided to design my own quadcopter to be powerful enough to lift a decent camera, have a more reasonable flight time, and most of all, be cost efficient. Because of my childhood experience with PVC pipes, I concluded that they could be used to construct a simple and durable quadcopter frame. I started to make some sketches and frame prototypes and eventually ended up with the designs above.
This frame uses 1" Schedule 21 PVC because it is thin walled, making it significantly lighter than, but just as sturdy as other pipe of the same size, and at 1" diameter, is wide enough to fit some of the electronics inside for a nice, clean look. Being able to protect the electronics on the inside of the frame is a major benefit of this quadcopter's design, as it saves me money and inconvenience because I don't have to replace any broken parts in the event of a crash. For the electronics plates and canopy I used Lexan polycarbonate because of its strength, lightness, and transparency for aesthetics. The design and choice of materials for this quadcopter stem from the fact that I believe tinkering can be a form of art, and that aesthetics are just as important as, and even compliment, functionality. To me, this quadcopter's appearance possesses the perfect combination of simplicity and complexity. Having the electronics hidden in the PVC arms makes the quadcopter appear elegant and simple, but leaving some wiring visible underneath the clear lexan canopy emphasizes the true intricacy of its design.
Now, without further ado, let's get building!
All drawings and diagrams were created by me either on paper or in Adobe Illustrator for iOS.