Introduction: Building Your First ArduCopter

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Whether its for kids or youngsters, Drones have been always a mode of fun as well as for commercial purpose. The use of MultiRotors have been upgrading since the digital revolution such as amazon started its own drone delivery system to deliver goods much faster than their on-road deliveries. In this post I’m providing you step-by-step instructions on how you can build your very own Quadcopter with a very ease setup and ready to hit the skies with some least configurations. Further you can use your Arducopter to plan Autonomous missions via mission planner software and there are also many more configurations to be uploaded on the APM 2.6 board .

Step 1: F450 Quadcopter Parts

  • Transmitter + Receiver – Fs-ct6b(using) or Fs-T6 or Fs-i6 , these are some cheap transmitters
  • F450 Quadcopter kit (bought from Aliexpress)

Kit includes:

  1. F450 Quadcopter Frame (2 black arms and 2 red)
  2. APM 2.6 Flight controller
  3. 6M GPS
  4. ESC Power distribution board (for diy frames)
  5. Hobbypower 30A ESC (output 5v 2A) x4 pcs
  6. 2212 13T 1000KV BLDC Motors x4 pcs
  7. 1045 / 1045R Propeller x4 pcs (2Pairs)
  8. 3.5 mm gold bullet plugs x24 (12 pcs male + 12 pcs female )
  9. Heat shrink Tube ( 50cm red + 50cm black )
  10. 2.5 mm and 3.5 mm screws (approx 50)
  11. T-plug Connector x1 pcs
  12. Lipo battery Alarm

Tools Required :

  • Soldering Iron + Soldering wire
  • Lighter or Hot air gun (for shrinking heat tubes)
  • Plastic Hook and loop Fastener
  • Screw driver – 3.5mm and 2.5mm

You can buy all those products from Aliexpress or ebay , but if you are buying lipos from aliexpress then confirm that there will be no issues while delivering the battery to your country as per rules and regulations.

Step 2: Assembling the 450 Frame

Use the F450 Power distribution board and top board to connect all the four arms with 2.5mm screws .

Step 3: Soldering Motors and Esc’s to Bullet Plugs

  • Solder the Female bullet plugs on the ESC’S as shown in the picture above
  • Solder the Male bullet plugs on the motors
  • Now put some amount of heat shrink tubes on each of those 24 wires ( 12 motor wires + 12 esc wires ) and apply heat on them using a lighter or hot air gun to shrink them
  • Finally Solder the T-plug Connector to Power distribution board with the help of red and blacks wires given with the kit and also apply heat shrink tubes on them.

Step 4: Installing the Motors and Esc’s on Frame

So finally after soldering the bullet plugs to motors and esc’s :

  • Install all the four motors on the four arms of the frame with the help of 3.5mm screws given with the kit(4 screws on each motor)
  • Install all the four ESC’S on each arm with the help of zip ties(hook and loop fastener)
  • Finally solder the red(positive +) and black(negative -) wires of all 4 esc’s to the power distribution board to the specific + and – points .
  • Connect all the 3 wires of esc’s to the 3 wires of motors (directly, means middle to middle , right to right, left to left)

After connecting all the motors , check the direction of the esc ‘s and it should match the direction with that of the picture above. If any motor is moving opposite then just reverse the two side wires from esc to motors and the direction will be reversed.

Step 5: Mounting Apm2.6 and 6M Gps to Frame

  • Firstly before mounting the flight controller, mount the anti vibration damping plate to the frame with a double sided tape or using the bolts provided.
  • Mount the APM 2.6 on the damping plate with a double sided tape and remember to point the forward sign(marked on apm) to the direction you want your quad to move forward. If you dont have a damping plate then you can also use a square foam to mount your apm but I would recommend to use the anti vibration pad.
  • After mounting the flight controller to the frame, the next step is to mount the gps. Firstly assemble the gps stand and mount it to the frame with using the hex screws as shown int he picture above. In the previous models of APM there was a internal compass but since the launch of the APM 2.5 , internal compass has been removed. Now the compass comes inside the gps module and gps is recommended to be placed on a height away from the esc’s becuase high current from esc’s affects the gps, that’s why we are using a gps stand here.
  • Using the double sided tape given with gps module, stick it on the top of the gps stand and point the gps module’s nose to the direction you placed your apm’s nose .

Step 6: Wiring the Peripherals to APM

Wiring the 6M Gps with APM

After you have mounted you gps to frame, the next step is to connect it to apm. Connect the two wires of the gps to to the l2c port and the other four wires goes to the gps port on apm. (refer to the picture in part 5)

Wiring the ESC’S with APM

  • You would have four wires from all the esc’s(one for each). Refer to Part 4 picture for arm’s number .
  • The first arm’s(front-right) esc goes to Pin 1 in the OUTPUT section.
  • The second arms’s (back-left) esc goes to Pin 2 in the OUTPUT section.
  • The thrid arm’s (front-left) esc goes to Pin 3 in the OUTPUT section.
  • The fourth arm’s(back-right) goes to Pin 4 in the OUTPUT section.

But remember there are three pin’s in the esc plug that is signal,power(red) and ground(black) and should be connected in the correct manner to apm means s to s , + to +, – to –.

Wiring the receiver with APM

You should have noticed that there are 8 input pins on apm. The 8 inputs are for all the 8 channels via receiver.Here we are using a 6 channel receiver so we are only using the 6 inputs . If you are using a 8 channel transmitter then you can use all the 8 channels via receiver.

  • Connect all the signal pins on the receiver to the signal pins on the INPUT.If you are using 6 channels then connect all the 6 signal pins to apm’s INPUT via female to female jumper wires or servo cables .
  • Receiver needs 5v power supply to power on. You only have to provide power to the receiver to any one of the channels of the receiver.Here I’m using the channel 1 to provide power to receiver.
  • Firstly on the apm’s INPUT side pin 1 , connect the positive(+) and negative (-) pin to channel 1 on the receiver to + and – .

Step 7: Binding the Receiver With Transmitter

  • Plug the bind plug into the BAT slot.
  • Plug in the battery to the T-plug . Make sure your receiver is powered.
  • The red light on the receiver should start flashing means it starts searching for connection .
  • Turn on your transmitter holding down the bind switch. The bind switch must already be pressed before transmitter power-up.
  • Wait a few second and if you see the red light on the receiver stop flashing then you have successfully bound it!

Step 8: APM First Time Setup in Mission Planner

Note : Never connect the battery when your apm is plugged in the computer

  • Prior to connecting your APM with your computer, make sure you have the Mission Planner software installed. Downlaod it from here.
  • Connect your apm to your computer via micro usb cable.
  • Windows should automatically detect and download its drivers .If windows is not able to install its drivers then you can manually install Arduino Mega 2560 drivers.
  • Once drivers are download , open the mission planner software .Dont press the connect button now.
  • Make sure you are connected to internet .Press the Initial Setup tab in mission planner and press Firmware option and choose the Quad X option(or choose Quad + if are using + orientation). It will automatically download the firmware and install it on your APM.

Now the firmware is installed, go through the below steps to configure the board

  • Once the Firmware is installed , go to control panel–>devices and printers and make note of your com port that is your apm connected to . Again get back to mission planner and on the top right select your COM port and set the baud rate to 115200 and click connect .
  • After connecting go to Initial seup–>Mandatory Hardware and you should be able to see a list of options there.
  • Under Frame type — Select the second option .(first if you are using X orientation )
  • Go to Compass Calibration and select APM with esternal compass and then select Live Calibration. Start moving your quad in all the directions possible (up,down,left,right,up,down,circle,etc.) until a message pop ups saying new offsets are set .Click Ok and compass Calibration is done .
  • Go to Accelerometer Calibration and click Calibrate Accel. Follow the on screen instructions that tells you to place your quad level,back,left,right etc.
  • Go to Radio Calibration and click Calibrate Radio. After a message pops up, move all your sticks and switches to their mean positions and click OK. Now move all the sticks and switches to their extreme positions and then again back to mean positions and click calibrate radio. Radio Calibration is Complete .
  • Go to Flight modes and check that all the flight modes should be at Stablize. Leave them all at stablize for now until you get your hands on flying.
  • Go to Fail Safe if you want to enable it . Fail safe allows the quad to return to its origin position from where it has been armed if the connection is lost between transmitter and receiver or if the battery is low . Leave this setting for now and setup it later when you get your hands on it .

Step 9: Calibrating the ESC’s

Your Quadcopter is almost ready to hit the skies but before that we have to make sure that all your esc’s are starting together at the right speed otherwise it will not maintain a good stability to hover. Just go through the below steps to calibrate your esc’s.

  • Move your transmitter’s throttle stick to maximum and turn it on.
  • Plug in your battery into quadcopter. You will first hear some beeps and then it will start beeping simultaneously means that your apm is set to be in calibration mode on next boot.
  • Unplug the battery and do not move the throttle stick down,just leave it as it is.
  • Again plug in the battery .You will hear three beeps denoting your battery cell number and again two beeps means your throttle maximum position has been noted.
  • Move the throttle stick to its mean posititon. You will again hear two beeps means your throttle’s mean position has been noted.
  • Your esc’s are now calibrated. You can raise the throttle a little and you will see the motors start spinning together.

Final Words

So your quadcopter is now ready to hit the skies. But remember to fly it in an open area and away from the passers-by. I really enjoyed building my first quadcopter and writing this post to help you create one . If you are having issues with your quadcopter then you can troubleshoot with the steps here.

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I have uploaded my f450’s unboxing video . You can check it out here.

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