Introduction: Arduino Controlled Helicopter

This instructable was created in fulfillment of the project requirement of the Makecourse at the University of South Florida ( The aim of this course was to teach us creativity, ingenuity, and practical application of skills such as 3D modeling, circuitry, etc.. My project was a helicopter with a motor driven main rotor. The helicopter was completely 3D modeled and printed. An Arduino Uno was the micro-controller I used for this project.

Materials Needed:

  • Software:
    • AutoDesk (Inventor and Maya)
  • Electrical Components:
    • Arduino Uno
    • 5V Relay Module
    • MF522 RFID Module and corresponding tag
    • 4 AA Batteries and a battery tray
    • DC Motor
    • IIC 1602 LCD Display

  • Tools/Misc:
    • Electronics Enclosure
    • USB Cable
    • JB Weld
    • Vlecro
    • 3D Printer
    • Laser Cutter
    • Power Drill/Dremel
    • Sharpies

*Note: There may be some inconsistencies between picture/videos/functionality/etc. due to the fact that this was a 'design as you go' kind of project. I changed ideas and moved things around often but following the steps will certainly bring you to the same result I had.

Step 1: 3D Modeling

Modeling the helicopter is probably the trickiest part of this project if you have no experience with AutoCAD or the likes. I used AutoDesk Maya to model my helicopter, as it is easy to learn and great for organic modeling. I watched a few YouTube videos and followed THIS tutorial to form the basic body for my helicopter.

The lid of my enclosure and the rotor/shaft were modeled with AutoDesk Inventor to get the precise measurements needed when 3D printed.

Images and PDFs of all modeled parts are displayed.

Step 2: 3D Printing

At the University of South Florida there is a lab called the Advanced Visualization Center where there are over 10 3D printers for students use. It costs $0.06 per gram of plastic and this is where I printed all of my parts (the helicopter, the enclosure lid, and the rotor shaft and blades). I spent around $20 to print all my pieces.

All files must be converted to .STL for the 3D printers to print them.

Step 3: Arduino and Circuitry

All electrical components (relay, battery pack, DC motor, LCD screen, and RFID module) were able to fit on one mini breadboard powered by the Arduino . The Fritzing diagram shows how each component should be wired.

The DC motor draws from the batteries while the rest are powered through the Arduino.

When the RFID tag is read by the module, the sketch runs through a few if statements. If the tag is recognized, the LCD displays "Access Granted" after initially displaying "Please scan ID.." and the DC motor is allowed to run (for a time of about 5 seconds). The video will explain the mechanics more in depth with a visual guide.

Step 4: Step 4: Sketch

The sketch I wrote for this project was based off of an example sketch for the RFID module. I took the example from HERE and built off of it, continually tweaking it for my own purposes by adding in statements and functions for first the LCD and then the DC motor/relay. The video explains everything in detail and the .zip has my sketch and corresponding library. Check out Make Course on YouTube for a ton of videos explaining the functionality of pieces you can use with the Arduino and their corresponding sketches, including every part I used in this project.

Step 5: Step 5: Assembly

To assemble the project I used a power drill to punch a hole through the body of the helicopter and fed the rotor shaft through after epoxying the shaft to the rotor blades. A hole was also made on the lid's incline and the helicopter was epoxied over the hole with the shaft continuing down through the lid and into the enclosure. The bottom of the rotor shaft was designed to grip onto the gear fixture on DC motor's shaft but I used a bit of epoxy just to be safe and secured them together.

All of the electrical components we arranged and fit into the enclosure and secured with a bit of Velcro so that they could easily be removed for use in other projects.

The holes where LCD and USB cable went into had wooden frames that were made using a laser cutter (this was an aesthetic choice and certainly not necessary). To finish everything off I added other artistic touches such as an American flag and gave the helicopter a Sharpie "paint job". You can design and decorate your own project however you'd like!