Introduction: Drone Air Gates for Indoor/Outdoor Practice and Racing

Drones are great! Are you ready to fly skillfully? This Instructable will show you how to make a set of Air Gates for less than $5 each. $25 for a set of 5. Not making these gates will cost you in the long run with increased propeller damage.

Basic Flying- You should start out practicing hovering the drone at eye level. Then fly in basic shapes such as triangle, circle, figure 8, etc. If you can do this, then you are ready for gates.

Gate Flying- Eventually, all flyers will want to challenge their skills with gates. Gate flying brings the possibility of crashing. Crashing is never good. These gates are designed to be as soft as possible. The foam will be much easier to repair than broken propellers. (Foam/Gates are almost always nicknamed "propeller eaters.")

The size of these gates makes them suitable for "Micro" or small size drones. It would require a great deal of skill to get a full size multi-rotor drone through these gates.

Step 1: Gather Materials

Materials for 5 Gates

  • 3 half inch PVC pipes (8-10 feet (3m); cut at store to transport home if needed) $2.03 each
  • 10 "T" joints for half inch PVC pipe (often one bulk bag) $2.60 for bag of 10
  • 5 six foot half inch interior foam pipe wraps $2.26 each
  • Duct Tape (bright colors can be helpful) varies by size
  • Optional- cord (to keep from spreading) $2.97

Tools: Saw, Tape Measure, Pen

5 Gates is a lot to carry, set up and store. Be thoughtful if you want to make more.

Disclaimer: Follow all warning labels of the tools and materials, and always operate drones in a safe manner following all regulations.

Step 2: Assembly PVC Base

Cut PVC for

One Gate

  • 4 one foot (30 cm)
  • 2 five inch (12 cm)

Five Gates

  • 20 one foot
  • 10 five inch

Push pieces together to form. In the short term, the pieces will stay together fine. In the long term, it is better to add some glue or tape to keep them together so no pieces get lost.

The upright end can be as long as you like. In order to keep the drone from hitting PVC as I keep my uprights short.

Step 3: Not So Optional- Add Tape to Brighten

Adding Tape to the Foam

You really need tape to be able to see your gates. Whatever method you choose, spending a little extra time to apply tape smoothly will make your gate look professional. Avoid wrinkles.

Color- The best way to add color to gates is with colored duct tape. The florescent colors are best, especially for FPV use.

Solid Tape- is the easiest, since the goal is to put tape everywhere. This can be done with either overlapping candy cane, or going lengthwise. (Not pictured)

Candy Cane Method- is the quickest and most efficient use of tape. Hold the foam at 60ish degree angle to ground, attach duct tape, and roll round and round. It's one continuous piece of tape. Try to keep a uniform gap and keep rolling. It is also possible to use two different colors. See image notes especially black/pink

Alternating Stripes- is going straight around the foam once, skipping a gap, then going around again. Lots of cutting. (As a flyer, I slightly prefer this style since it offers more visual clues about the space to go through.) See image notes

One way you can NOT add color to foam is by spray painting the foam, or even spray painting duct tape. The paint is sucked into the foam and disappears. It isn't worth the effort.

Step 4: Make Foam Ends Strong

If you are super excited to use the gates, or want to experiment a bit, you can skip the next two steps and come back to them later. It doesn't take long, so it's worth the time at the beginning.

Strengthen the Foam Ends

Foam for pipes is designed to have a seam. Be sure to wrap the ends so that it doesn't split apart (unless hit by drone). It is best to label the joint so that it can be kept on the underside of the gates. I write "IN" for inside edge.

Step 5: Assemble Base and Foam Together- Add String?

Slide your foam pieces over the small ends of the PVC pipe. Try not to let the arch twist for long term use. This is why we labeled the seam side. See taping step for pictures.

In most cases the PVC will stand on its own.

Under more breezy conditions, or on smooth floors (such as tile) using a string with loops 30 inch (75 cm) apart to keep the gate in place. If you want to be super organized, drilling holes for the string to go through and tying both sides together. I think that it takes longer in the set up time, so I choose not to do this. Sometimes I have to get a quick flight in between rain showers. To make the strings, cut a 48 inch pieces of string and add loops to each end. Waterproof string is highly recommended.

Step 6: Ending Discussion and Possible Improvements


Carrying- The PVC pipe is basically 2 feet long assembled. The foam bits are 6 feet long. Plan ahead for how you might transport and carry these. I use and old shade tent bag with the foam bits hanging out. I might need to be more careful if I had a smaller car. Of course using Air Gates in your yard is the easiest and best.

Pool Noodles- Pool noodles are already colored and can be a great option. They are generally more expensive and not available year round. They are also probably better suited to 3/4 inch PVC.

Semi-Permanent Outside Installations- It's even simpler to shove a small piece of pipe in the ground and leave it there.

Storage- It's best to leave the foam pieces straight so that they will offer proper resistance while in use.

All PVC Option- Go for it. It will be harder on any propeller hits. The all PVC option is more reliable in keeping its shape and assembling exactly the same way every time. It doesn't cost much more either.

Size/Speed- Mini drone, micro drone, and other small helicopters will fit through these gates. Faster and bigger machines need bigger gates. Commercially made gates are often 7.5 feet tall (2+ meters).

Step 7: Final Encouragement

Having a drone is fun! Special shout out to the future drone flyers waiting for their Micro Drone 3.0 unit which is likely to be the best selling drone of 2016.

Look around your area for meet ups. If two people bring five air gates each, that would be an awesome course!

Having Air Gates for drones will challenge your skills. Now you know how to make your own inexpensively and beautifully! Good luck.