If you are reading this you probably want to build a Quadcopter or other RC vehicle and you want to know what is needed. This Instructables shows what parts you need plus how they fit together and when is the best time to buy.
Don't Buy a full price drone right before Fall, because there are going to be lots of sales throughout the fall and winter that you should take advantage of. Hobbyking has a all year round Bargain Bin which I have made some purchases from recently, and does a Hugh black Friday blowout Sale. They also have a loyalty program where you can get more savings with the more orders you make. There are plenty of other sites likes this to use, this is just the one I saw and have used. You can use Ebay, just watch out who you buy from. Now while Sales are nice, Don't Rush into making a bunch of purchases, look into the parts you want, and make sure they work together BEFORE you buy them. Have Plans set out then change them if necessary. There are plenty of sales out there so just look for them. I encourage you to comment if you see any good sales to let us now about them, I would really appreciate it :)
HERE IS THE PART WHERE I ASK YOU TO VOTE FOR ME IN THE DRONE CONTEST.
Please Vote for me in the Drone Contest :)
Now we now when to buy, lets see what parts you need.
Thrust System (Step 1)
Power System (Step 2)
- Electronic Speed Controller (ESC)
- Power Distribution System
- Universal Battery Eliminator Circuit (UBEC)
Control System (Step 3)
- Flight Controller
Support System (Step 4)
- Extra Standoffs and Bolts
Go to each step to see that system.
Step 6 is a list of all my Quad parts.
If you are unsure of any of your parts try using dronebuilder.io to make sure they work together.
I got the Motor thrust data from http://miniquadsquad.com
Step 1: Thrust System
This is the system that gets you in the air, it consists of your Motors and Props.
For a Quadcopter your going to need four motors, two turning Clock Wise (CW) and two turning Counter Clock Wise (CCW). Now all motors are able to turn both CW and CCW, but the difference is in the threads on the Prop Huns on the motor. You want it to turn so that the Props Tighten when the motors are spinning. On each motor there are three wires, To change the direction of rotation just switch the two outside wires around. Regarding the power that your motors are going to output, you want to have 4 times more power then needed so you can maneuver easily.
For Example, the Engines I have produce 800 Grams of thrust per engine at 4S with a 5045 prop on it (more on Battery's and Props in a minute). So my quad should be under 800 grams to be able to easily fly around.
Your going to need at least four Props to run your quad but it is better to have extras because these brake often. The Props are labeled with a number like 5045. The First two numbers tell the length of the props and the second two show the pitch of the Props. Higher Pitch equals more thrust per rotation which takes more power to run, so make sure your motors are compatible with your Props.
Step 2: Power System
Your Power system is going to depend on how big your quad is, but I'll give you a example of what my plans are. For each part there is going to be a Max Amp Rating, this is super important for everything we do.
Electronic Speed Controllers
Your going to need Four ESCs, one to run each motor. The Most important thing is to make sure that the amount of current your motors use at max speed is less then the max Amp amount on your ESC, and that it can handle the Battery Voltage your using. You'll also want to see how easy it is to reprogram your ESCs in case something is not working right, some are able to be reprogrammed trough the signal wire while others require you to open them up to find the plug. Some ESCs have a built in BEC to power the Flight Controller and Receiver.
I'm planning on buying Afro 30A ESCs because they can handle the Voltage and Amp draw of my motors, as well as can easily be reprogrammed.
Power Distribution System
You only need one system to distribute power to all the ESCs. There are two main options, a Power Distribution Board (PDB) and a wire harness with possible UBEC. PDBs are boards that have solder pads for all the ESCs and your Battery to connect to and normally have a built in BEC to power your flight Controller. The other option is buying or making a wire harness that allows all 4 ESCs to connect to the battery, and you can either power your Flight Controller from the ESCs built in BEC or you can buy a separate UBEC to power it.
My plans are to use 12awg wire to build a wire harness and I'm debating whether to get a 5v UBEC to power my Flight Controller and Receiver, you can see the idea in the images. I would recommend some kind of connectors like bullet connectors so you can easily dissemble everything easily.
The amount of Battery's you buy depend on how much fly time you want. Battery Specs are normally Organized like this 4S 2200mAh 30C 60C. The 4S shows the amount of cells in the battery, in a 4S battery there is 4 cells for a total of 14.8v of power. The 2200mAh shows the amount of energy it holds, this Battery can supply 2.2A for one hour. The 30C tells us how fats you can drain the battery, we multiply the C rating times the mAh to get a max 66A of Continues Draw. The 60C shows the burst discharge rate that the Battery can hold for a few Seconds, which in this case is 132A. These are all the Specs on my Battery.
NOTE: Li Po Battery's can be extremely dangerous so don't leave them unattended when charging, I would recommend a Fire Proof Storage bag to keep your Li Po battery's in when charging and when in storage. They are like many objects in our home that are only Dangerous when not treated properly.
Step 3: Control System
The Control System is the brains of the operations that allows you to control it while also providing computer help to keep it in the Air.
You will need a Flight Controller so that your drone can self level and stay in the air, that is not all it does but that is the main purpose of it. There are many Flight Controllers to choose from like KK2.1.5, Naze32, and ArduPilot, are some off the top of my head. Sadly there is not one answer to this, but I found that the Naze32 has all the ability's I need and is not hard to set up. The KK2.1.5 is also a popular board because of its ease of setup.
I'm getting a Naze32 Flight Controller with a barometer and magnetometer.
Your going to need a Receiver for each drone you make, so if you are going to have more then one Drone then I would search for a Transmitter that can save multiple setups. The amount of Channels depends on what else you want to add onto your drone, but for a beginner I would recommend a 6Ch Transmitter/Receiver bundle unless you know you need more channels.
I'm going to buy a FlySky fs-i6 controller, it has good range, a good price, and I have seen a 10Ch upgrade you can do to it.
Step 4: Support System
The support system is what connects everything together, it should have a safe place for a flight controller as well as can be easily fixed.
You should already now what size drone you want to make, 250mm, 300mm, 450mm and so on. This is the distance between the end of the arms diagonally. Use your size to buy a frame that has plenty of room for all the electronics, preferably a frame made of carbon fiber. Another useful feature is a built in PDB, this makes your quad look a lot cleaner. Remember to watch the price on these as they can get expensive vary quickly, also make sure that your motors fit your frame or that you can buy adapters for them.
I'm am getting a 250 carbon fiber from YKS on Amazon.
Your going to need to get some sort of hardware set so you can mount the FC to the frame and also encase anything gets lost. I found a set on Amazon that has everything I need and is quite affordable.
Step 5: Picking the Parts
Here is a condensed version of the past four steps plus where to start.
First you pick how big you want it, some common sizes are 200, 250, 300, 450, 550, etc. This is the distance between the arms diagonally. If you are just starting, smaller is better to learn on and is light and has less chance of breaking other peoples property when crashing.
The second thing you need to pick is the Battery Voltage you are going to use, 4S is used more for racing drones and larger Photography drones, while 3S is used for less aggressive flying and larger props.
Time for the Motors, you are going to need to know how much thrust each one produces so you can know the limit of your flying. This is also the Time to pick the Props because they are so closely related. It's best to have a 4 to 1 Thrust to weight ratio on a race and stunt quad, but you only need 2.5 to 1 or 3 to 1 for a heavier Video quad. The idea is the more thrust you have the more reactive your Drone is, which is what you want in a racing quad, but you want a video quad to be less reactive so you get smooth video.
Let's get some ESCs. As you know they need to handle the battery voltage and the Amp draw from your Motors, so pick wisely and remember to give yourself some wiggle room in the Amp Draw Area.
Now time to pick the Battery, Again? yes we decided on Battery voltage earlier but we need to now the mAh size so we know our flight time. I recommend using dronebuilder.io to show you your flight time and other data points. Just remember that your battery has to fit on your frame as well as not be to heavy. For Racing drones you'll want 6-9 minutes of fly time on average and on a Video drone you'll get 12 to 17 minutes. The numbers calculated can be either higher or lower then what you actually get because it depends on how you fly your drone.
Time for a Power distribution system, this is completely up to you and how much time or money you want to spend. This the same for the Flight Controller and the Transmitter, just make sure they have enough Channels for your use.
Remember to get a Charger that works with the Voltage and the mAh on your battery.
NOTE: You are not able to fly anywhere you want with your drone, look into local regulations and laws concerning drones before you fly.
User ronanry told me that in France you may have to have permission to fly over curtain areas and that if your drone has a camera, it can't be in sight of a House that is currently occupied. In the United States you have to register your drone with the FAA and put you name and registration number on your drone. Make sure to look into the laws in your area before flying to avoid fines, etc.
Step 6: My Drone
Here is the full list of my drone parts. All the links are either to Amazon or Hobbyking.
- YKS 250mm Carbon Fiber Frame (https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00WE9EGAA?psc=1)
- Haobase m3 spacers and screws (https://www.amazon.com/Haobase-Spacers-Stand-off-Accessories-Assortment/dp/B01CCKC37I/ref=pd_sim_21_28?ie=UTF8&psc=1&refRID=A44ZFX080ATKAE5RMGK4)
- LDPower 2204 2300kv (Get 2CW and 2CCW) (http://www.hobbyking.com/hobbyking/store/__100154__LDPOWER_Racing_series_2204_2300KV_CW.html?strSearch=ldpower%20racing)
- 5045 Gemfan Props (http://www.hobbyking.com/hobbyking/store/__77710__Gemfan_Propeller_5x4_5_Black_CW_CCW_2pcs_.html)
- Afro 30A ESC (http://www.hobbyking.com/hobbyking/store/uh_viewitem.asp?idproduct=52338)
- LionPower 4S 2200mAh Battery (https://www.amazon.com/POWER-Battery-14-8v-2200mAh-Helicopter/dp/B016DD1M18/ref=sr_1_1?s=toys-and-games&ie=UTF8&qid=1472311755&sr=1-1&keywords=lion+power+4s)
- Afro Naze 32 Flight Controller (https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01CU4SKS2?psc=1)
- SKYRC Charger (https://www.amazon.com/Genuine-60WattsProfessional-Balancing-Discharger-Temperature/dp/B018VP8P4S/ref=sr_1_5?s=toys-and-games&ie=UTF8&qid=1472400980&sr=1-5&keywords=lipo+charger)
- 12-18V 60w power supply
- FlySky 2.4ghz i6 Radio Transmitter (https://www.amazon.com/YKS-Upgraded-Transmitter-Quadcopter-Helicopter/dp/B019TN2MRM/ref=sr_1_26?srs=6899337011&ie=UTF8&qid=1471818498&sr=8-26&keywords=quad)
- 10cm Lead Extension 10pcs (http://www.hobbyking.com/hobbyking/store/__64424__10CM_Servo_Lead_Extention_JR_26AWG_10pcs_bag_AR_Warehouse_.html
- 3.5MM Bullet Connectors)
- 5V5A UBEC (http://www.hobbyking.com/hobbyking/store/__18789__5V_5A_UBEC_2_5S_Lipoly_7_2_21v_.html)
I'll make another Instructable on how to assemble this Drone when I have all the parts.
If you want to see all the generated flight data take a look at this (http://dronebuilder.io/assembly/light-quadrotor).
If you have any questions, comment below and I'll see if I can help. Please leave comments below to any mistakes and please Vote for me in the Drone Contest.