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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!

Step 1: Introduction and Design

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.

<p>For clarification, the FRAME is around $12 not the entire build :) Sorry for the misunderstanding!</p>
<p>Hello! Great build and design good job on the award too! ;)</p><p>I have a question about adding a fpv camera, how would I do that? And what parts would I need?</p><p>Also, could you explain to me how to build the wire harness, in better detail? I don't quite understand how everything connects. </p><p>Thanks :)</p>
MERRY Christmas Thomas! I had to jump in after reading your reply. LOL! To think that someone would ask, that the $12.00 would cover the whole project made me laugh. I love it, simple design, most of the materials and the tools used we have at hand. I'm not a electronic savy guy, but I'm a mechanic inclined, kind of Joe of all trades, so I think I'll be able to tackle this project. My only concern is the weight of the PVC pipes. Any other dugestions, or comments about it? <br>Thanks!<br>Antonio M.<br>
<p>Merry Christmas to you too! and for comparable drone prices I'd say around $500-$600, which is what originally compelled me to start this project haha. And thank you! I'm glad you enjoyed this and I hope your build goes well! I don't have any other comments or suggestions as of now but feel free to bring up any questions or issues you may have along the way.</p>
How much was the whole thing if you do t mind me asking?
Never mi d found the answer below :)
<p>With a $130 camera, our build is about $450.. We had none of the parts so we had to buy extra of many of the parts like shrink wrap ect..</p>
Merry Christmas and a healthy Hobby New Year! Now that you gave me the awnser about the cost, I may ask; How much a comparable one would cost, buying from a store/ online? If you happen to know. Thank you!
<p>hello! Quadcopter is still not flying. One of the motor spins a lot slower than the others, I tested the motor with another esc and it works. I believe it's the esc, somehow it is not supplying enough power to the motor. I am using Simonk 20a escs. Thanks again for all the help.</p>
<p>Hello again! Sorry for asking a lot of questions.</p><p>So it turns out I had a bad motor, I was wondering if there is a way that I can turn this into a tricopter?</p><p>Would I simply take of the fourth arm, and then set the kk2 to tricopter?</p><p>Thank you so much for all of the help, iit is greatly appreciated! :)</p>
Hey, no problem questions are always appreciated!<br>And to make it a tricopter you would need a little bit more :) Tricopters need a servo tilt mechanism in order to yaw, so you'd have to buy a servo motor, create or buy a tilt mechanism, and hook it all up to the frame before you can even change the kk2 setting. So unless you genuinely want a tricopter, you're better off just ordering a new motor.
<p>Hi! Great job with the design. I just finished mine, but am having a big problem. I've spent two days searching, but can't seem to find the answer. The ESC calibration seems to work in that all for motors spin up at the same time. However, when I arm the unit and push up on the throttle, only three motors spin (2, 3 and 4). I can get 1 to spin by pulling back on the elevator, but it seems that all four should spin. I've swapped out m1 and m2 thinking that the problem could be with the motor or esc, but it does the same thing on m2 when I do that. Any ideas?</p><p>Thanks</p>
<p>Hmm that's strange, maybe the esc's servo lead isn't fully connected to the flight control board or the connection from the flight controller to the receiver isn't solid, or, since you say that pulling back on elevator causes the motor to spin, maybe you could try fiddling with your transmitter and reversing the elevator channel. Honestly I'm not sure as there are a number of things that could be causing this. Have you done an acc calibration and made sure the quad was level before taking off? Would you mind sending a pic of your setup? maybe that will help.</p>
As far as the connections go, I believe everything is correct, as the receiver test shows everything moving in the right direction. BTW, I'm using a KK2.15 Mini. The photo, albeit not that great, shows the connections. M1-4 are connected to motors 1-4 respectively. On the receiver, the signal pins for channels 1-5 are connected as follows:<br><br>Channel 1 &ndash; Aileron<br>Channel 2 &ndash; Elevator<br>Channel 3 &ndash; Signal &ndash; Throttle, Red to U+, Black to GND<br>Channel 4 &ndash; Rudder<br>Channel 5 &ndash; Aux<br><br>After fooling around with the Stick Scaling, I was able to get the motors to spin up more or less together. I think there is still a problem with the ESC calibration, so I&rsquo;m going to work on it again tonight.<br><br>Stupid question &ndash; with auto level activated, should I expect to be able, at a minimum, to fire up the throttle and have the unit lift straight up without touching the other controls? As soon as I increase the throttle, the unit basically flips over. Can you share your PI and auto level settings with me &ndash; the ones that you used initially? Also, how does one know if the ESC's are calibrated correctly? I've been trying for hours, but I can't duplicate the beeps heard on various videos discussing ESC calibration...<br><br>Thanks again.<br>
<p>The problem may be that your board isn't in the center of your frame, it looks like it's off from the center which may be throwing it off. And as far as self level goes you'll still need to add input to the other controls to counter drifting unless you've got a gps setup installed. For the ESC calibration, if you're still having trouble, just follow how I did it again and see if it works :) good luck to you!</p>
<p>AWESOME build skills man !! now all i have to do is get it done , Nice and easy to follow for the first quad.:)</p>
where do you buy the parts
Thanks!<br>Could the landing brackets be screwed or epoxied to the arms, instead of the wire ties? Or you chose that way to be more flexible to help absorbed the impact? At this point, after being put it to the task, there's any changes that you like to make? (Motors, propellers, etc.) Appreciate that you are taking the time to give me feedback. Take care!<br>Antonio Mesquita.<br>
<p>You could probably screw or epoxy the landing legs on, but I've found that holding them on with zip ties helps the legs act as a crumple point during a crash or hard landing, meaning they'll break off and disperse some of the energy of the impact which seems to help a lot in keeping the overall craft safe. Also they can easily be slipped right back into the zipties which is nice. As far as changes go, i can't really think of any haha! The quad does everything I wanted it to pretty well! </p>
Thanks! All make sense! <br>
<p>Gonna try this!</p>
<p>Have fun!</p>
<p>Duuuude. I love this frame design. Great idea.</p>
<p>Thank you I'm glad you liked it!</p>
<p>This is pretty cool dude. I'm glad the 'copter is pretty durable too.</p>
<p>Hey thanks ohoilett! And so am I haha</p>
<p>hey bro, any info on gps for this quad?</p><p>thanks</p>
<p>As of now, there is no gps on this quad.</p>
<p>This is a fantastic 'Ible! Would you mind adding a section detailing your camera mount and type of camera used? I'd be curious to see how you did that as well. </p>
<p>Great project, VERY thorough instructions.</p><p> Question, how did you cut the Lexan Disc, and cut the various holes so perfectly???</p>
http://m.homedepot.com/p/Milwaukee-2-in-to-7-in-Dia-Adjustable-Hole-Cutter-49-56-0320/205744284?cm_mmc=Shopping%7cG%7cBase%7cPLA%7cD25T%7cPowerTools&amp;gclid=Cj0KEQiA-f3CBRCbluKf4vu008kBEiQAl-iGq5qPDulY81QHtHj-BGoYHJZJf6SbfztA2_z5MWRIHrMaAnWq8P8HAQ&amp;gclsrc=aw.ds
This will do it, you need a drill press, secure the lexan to a flat board using double tape and go very slow( Speed &amp; Feed). Good luck. http://m.homedepot.com/p/Milwaukee-2-in-to-7-in-Dia-Adjustable-Hole-Cutter-49-56-0320/205744284?cm_mmc=Shopping%7cG%7cBase%7cPLA%7cD25T%7cPowerTools&amp;gclid=Cj0KEQiA-f3CBRCbluKf4vu008kBEiQAl-iGq5qPDulY81QHtHj-BGoYHJZJf6SbfztA2_z5MWRIHrMaAnWq8P8HAQ&amp;gclsrc=aw.ds
<p>Thank you! I had the circles cut at a local windshield shop, and I just centered the circles on top of the pipe frame, and drilled straight through the lexan plates and the pvc arms so they line up :)</p>
love the PVC frame! Would it be possible to add a FPV system to it? Nice job!
<p>Really amazing ! Quick questions : </p><p>1. would't it be worth extending the frame beyond the end of propellers to avoid breaking them in case of crash ?</p><p>2. could it work with two 20mm tubes above each other (and some screws or duct tape between)</p><p>3. more generally, is flight time doubled when battery is doubled ? If yes, why are so many drones limited to 8-12min flight time ?</p>
<p>Extending the frame to protect the propellers is a nice idea! I say go for it!</p><p>Unfortunately though battery life is not doubled as the battery is doubled because of weight. As the battery size increases more and more the weight also does, so having the largest battery would just weigh your quadcopter down and cause it to be less efficient. This is why most quads are limited to 8-12 min flight times.</p>
<p>Halfway there! I have a terrific airframe from Sch 30 and Lexan. Weighs in at 450g, though. Buying hardware this week and should be flying, soon. Thanks. Terrifically clear and helpful Instructables. </p>
<p>No problem! I'm glad this helped!</p>
Hello great turorial, clear instructions, and overall nice build! :)<br>I'm new to the world of quadcopter sand was wondering if instead of 980kv motors I could use 920 kv motors?<br>Please get back to me soon! Thanks!
<p>Yes, you could use 920s if you liked. You may want to step up to a larger propeller say 11&quot;, and you might get a slightly different flight time as me because the motors would most likely draw a different amperage than mine do.</p>
<p>It's amazing</p>
<p>Great build, great documentation! So good, I'm building it too! Have almost all the parts here now.</p><p>Question - your motors are 930kv, apparently I ordered 2300kv... Your motors should top out just over 7K RPM, mine more like 17K. Do you think that will still work? Maybe it will just fly a billion miles an hour for 30 seconds?</p><p>Thanks!</p>
<p>Thank you! You've got the right idea there. A general rule of thumb for motors and propellers is that lower kv motors with bigger propellers are more efficient at lifting heavier loads than higher kv motors with smaller propellers. Higher kv motors like 2300kv motors will probably struggle with propellers larger than 6 inches, so using larger, 10&quot; propellers with these motors will make the motors' amp draw extremely high because the motors will need significantly more power to achieve the right amount of thrust, resulting in a very short flight time. (That is, if the amp draw doesn't burn out the 20A ESCs first.) Using lower kv motors like the 980kv ones I have are much more efficient at spinning 10&quot; propellers, and can achieve the necessary amount of thrust with a much lower amp draw resulting in a more optimized flight time.</p><p>Good luck with your build though! You should post some pics of it too, I cant wait to see the finished product!</p>
<p>@thomasjarrett16 you've created a monster. My Dad and I spent a couple hours last night getting everything laid out and beginning the soldering. Can't wait to make some more progress!</p><p>My ESCs are only 12A, but I did order some 1000kV motors yesterday. Think I may need to step up to larger ESCs though. Also had some trouble getting the 4 12 gauge power leads put together, think I'll order a power distribution board today.</p>
<p>Dude! That's awesome! It's really cool seeing how the build is going, and I must say, your frame looks pretty nice so far!</p><p>And yeah you may need to move up to higher amperage ESCs. The ESCs amperage should be at least 5A above the motors' maximum amp draw. My motors' max amp draw was 15A so that's why I use 20A ESCs. And for help soldering the 12 gauge wires you can try and find thin copper wire to wrap or bundle the stripped ends of the wires together to hold them in place while you're soldering.</p>
<p>Hey, thanks man. I'm hoping that tomorrow we'll be able to wrap it up. Needs lots of cleanup on the wiring, need to mount the lexan, transmitter, controller and battery. Just a mock up, but had to get today's picture in.</p>
<p>Looking good man!</p>
<p>Will do!</p>
<p>Hey! First of all, amazing drone. Really good. I'm planning on making a pvc frame like yours and use the same flight controller but I'll add better motors, better batteries and a raspberry pi connected to 4G and have it stream live video en let me control it from my laptop. But I had a question, how much does your frame weigh and how much does the entire thing weigh?</p>
<p>Thanks dude! This frame weighs about 290g, and the all up weight of the quadcopter is between 900g and 1kg.</p>

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Bio: Just a high school senior who likes to make cool things!
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