Introduction: DIY-Quadcopter

About: I am currently a high school senior (12th grader) in 'The International School Bangalore'. I am a maker and an innovator at heart, a tech enthusiast, and a varsity soccer player.

[I would like to enter this in the minor category for any contest]

Hey everyone, I am Amogh... with the help of this instructable, you'll be able to build your very own customized quadcopter!

First of all, what is a quadcopter? It is a drone which uses four motors to move around in the air. A quadcopter arguably is the most popular type of drone as it is capable of having a smooth and steady flight for a lower cost.

Let’s get started!

What you are going to need first to build a quadcopter is obviously the materials. There are many good online stores to buy drone parts, but I prefer HobbyKing. The parts you want for your drone will depend on the purpose of your drone. For example, if you want your drone to be able to lift a massive payload, and a long flight time, you should look for motors with high torque and low rpm that work with large propellers. There are many different ways to configure different parts for different purposes. Feel free to look at the material list of my drone below if you just want to fly one for fun or are a little confused about what you need. The drone I have built is targeted to be small and to have a longer flight time (relative to other drones). If you want to build a drone for a different or more specific purpose, try out configurations different from mine.

The below video gives an overview of making the quadcopter. Watch this video first, as in the next steps it was difficult to get more than one picture in the instructable editor. The video has most of everything needed.

(Btw, to avoid copyright violations on YouTube for background music of this video, I had to use my own composition in F-minor scale composed in 2016 summer, hope you like it :-) )

Step 1: Components/Material List

Links to the components is embedded in the name and you can see how it looks.

Only the first component's picture can be seen in the step as what is supported by the editor.

1. Frame and Power Distribution Board

I chose this frame as it is light, small, and has quite a bit of space to mount other components like camera or GPS for enhancements and is for a reasonable price. The Power Distribution Board comes along with the frame.

2. Flight Controller
I chose this Naze32 Rev6 10DOF flight controller as it is popular, has a good reputation, and is capable of many things

3. Motors - Clockwise and Counter Clockwise

I have chosen these motors as they have the Electronic Speed Controllers(ESCs) built into them, so it is lighter and more compact. They also have quick throttle response which is important.

4. Battery

This battery has a good proportion of price, current and weight, which made me choose it.

5. Charger

I have chosen this charger as it has all the features I need when adjusting the power supplied to my battery.

6. Transmitter and Receiver

I chose this transmitter and receiver (remote) because it has all the controls I need, and the receiver is small, allowing me to place it on my drone for a reasonable price.

I do not have any ESCs as they are built in my motors.

7. Propellers

These propellers fit perfectly for my drone, so I chose them.

8. Propeller Guards

I chose these propeller guards as they seemed sturdy and cheap.

9. Laptop with Baseflight software

You can download it for free as a chrome app.

10. Soldering Iron

You can find one online and one with a small/thin tip will be better as the circuits are tiny on the board.

11. Miscellaneous

Screws for fixing propeller guards, tie wraps, etc as needed. And lot of patience to bring it to completion. If you are interested you can look at the challenges I faced in the making of it at the end of this instructable.

Step 2:

Now that you have all the components, you can start building the drone! First what you want to do is assemble half of your frame so that you can start adding the other parts like the power distribution board (PDB) and be able to place other components inside the frame before you complete it. Once this step is done, it should look something like this.

As you can see, I have mounted two motors onto the drone using the screws that come with the frame. When you do this, make sure the motors are mounted so that the clockwise motors are diagonal to each other and same for the counter-clockwise motors. Also, make sure that one of the clockwise motors are on the top left of your drone. I will demonstrate how to verify if the motors are in the right place and spinning in the right direction later in this instructable.

Step 3:

Once you have finished mounting all of the motors, it is time to solder them to the power distribution board (PDB). The PDB is what connects to the battery and supplies power to all the motors, flight controller, and the receiver. Soldering can be a bit tricky if you are a beginner in this field. If you need help, there are many links on the internet to help you. You need to solder the relatively thick wires which are red and black in color to the positive and negative terminals of the PDB, respectively. If your motor is connected to an ESC, solder the same thick wires from it to the PDB the exact same way.

Also, take a wire preferably red (because of color coding) which has at least one female connector part. Take the side opposite to the female connector and strip it so there is a bit of metal sticking out. Take the bit of metal and solder it to the PDB where it says ‘5V’. Make sure that it is not to the same places where the motors are soldered to. This wire will be connected to the flight controller. I will get back to the use of it and how it should be connected. You should also solder the battery connector to the PDB. Once you are done with the soldering, it should look something like in the pics in this step.

Step 4:

You can start working with the flight controller now! In this instructable, I will be using the renowned “Naze 32 REV 6 10 DOF” flight controller. The flight controller is the brain of your drone. It instructs the motors to carry out the signals it receives from the transmitter. First, when you get your flight controller, you need to make sure that it can control the motors and get the signals from the transmitter.

To start off, you need to solder the headers to your Naze 32. For soldering small components like headers, I recommend using a thin soldering tip. Next, you need to mount the flight controller onto the drone. In most drones, the flight controller is mounted on the top of the PDB which is how it is on my drone. Once done with that, we now need to test the Naze 32’s capability of controlling the motors. Here is a schematic of this flight controller.

On the top, there are holes arranged in a 3x6 manner. These holes are for connecting your ESCs/motors to your flight controller. The row which is boxed in black is the ground for the motors, the row below that (boxed in red) is positive terminal, and the final row boxed in orange is for the signal the flight controller gives to the ESCs/motors. In Step 2, you have already finished soldering the thick red and black wires to the PDB. There should be either two or three wires braided together and end with a female connector, arranged in a 1x3 manner. This end should be connected to the 3x6 male headers you have already soldered to the board.

Step 5:

Here is the schematic of how the motors should be arranged on the quadcopter.

As per this schematic, arrange and plug in the motor wires into the flight controller. Also, make sure at the top is motor 1, next motor 2, and so on. Make sure that your connections are right and the motors’ ground is connected to flight controller’s ground.
Pics show how it should look once that is done:

You noticed that I have circled a red wire. This is the wire which needed to be soldered to the metal labeled ‘5V’. It needs to be put in any of the middle slots where the 3x6 pins are. This is mandatory. It connects the PDB and the flight controller so that when the battery is connected, the flight controller also turns on.

Step 6:

Now, we need to actually test the motors!

First, to test or configure any flight controller, we need to download the software for it. The software I am using is “Baseflight”, you can download it for free as a chrome app. Link to the software -

Below is a video to help you test your motors and flight controller. To do this you will need your battery along with your flight controller and motors.

Step 7:

Once the motors are working with the flight controller, it is time to set up the receiver. In the schematic of the Naze 32 I had previously shown, there is also a 1x10 layout of pins. This is where we will be connecting the receiver of the flight controller. The Naze 32 should come with the 1x10 wires with connectors so they can connect the Naze 32 and the receiver. On the receiver, the left most pins are for the signal, the right most pins are for ground, and the middle pins are for power. The power and ground pins need to be connected only in one place. Now connect the wires to the flight controller in the right way, and not in the opposite way. Do the same for the receiver. This should look something like this:

Once you have that done, it is time to test the connections between the transmitter, the receiver and the flight controller. This video below should give you a basic understanding of how to test all these three, making sure that they are all working together. For this stage, you do not require your battery.

If your receiver is not getting the signal even when your transmitter is on, then your receiver and transmitter are probably not bound. To bind them, keep all of your connections to the receiver, and add a wire from the signal slot and connect the same wire to the ground slot on the bottom last row (which is called ‘Ideal Setup’) of the receiver. When you do this, the receiver will short and talk to the signal emitted from the transmitter. Now, turn the transmitter on and the flashing light should become constant showing that the two are bound. Now, you need to just assemble the frame with the help of instructions provided to you with the frame.

Step 8:

Once assembling the frame, add the propellers. Make sure that the propellers are screwed in the right way. Otherwise, your drone will go down instead of up :) If you want to add propeller guards (which I would recommend), You might need bigger screws, which you need to order. Once you have them, you can just screw them onto the drone where the motors are. I was not very happy with my guards as they were not fully enclosing the propellers and safe to fly around. If you have the same standard propeller guards, you know what I am talking about. Therefore, I decided to make an extrusion to protect people from the propellers.

The drone with propeller guard ended up looking like in the picture.

Step 9:

Finally, we need to mount the battery on the drone. I would recommend mounting the battery on top of the drone as if it is on the bottom, then it may be vulnerable to damage. At the end, the center of gravity (CG) must be in the middle of the drone. If it is not, make minor adjustments to the way the battery is mounted to achieve this. To check if the CG is in the middle, hold the drone using your fingertip at two diagonal motors. If the quadcopter stays at rest, then the CG is fine. If it tilts in any direction, then that part is heavier than the other side, which needs to be fixed.

Once this step is complete, your drone should be done and looks like in the picture

Step 10:

It’s time to fly your drone! I recommend to first try this on a simulator. Once you get a hang of how to fly, you are ready. Happy flying!!

Step 11: Some of the Challenges Faced

1. I had to order most of the components from Hong Kong and ship it to US, then got it to India as Hobby King doesn't ship many components to India directly. I had to wait patiently and caused a lot of delay.

2. I had to order the flight controller 3 times and finally, the 3rd one worked! This caused lot of delay.

3. One of the cells in the battery went bad, had to get a new battery.

4. Propeller guards were not fitting in, so had to order different screws multiple times until they fit correctly.

5. Propeller guard did not have the extended guard, so had to make my own with paper.

6. I was still new to soldering, it came off multiple times and also had to order a thin tip soldering iron set as these boards and circuit connections are tiny.

Remote Control Contest 2017

Participated in the
Remote Control Contest 2017