Introduction: RGB LED Micro Racing Drone Launcher

About: 18650 NZ is New Zealand's largest lithium battery store specialist

Here at KiwiQuads we love building new things for our drones. Recently we started a Micro Racing League for micro sized drones to race against each other. To bling things up, we decided to make a few launch pads for our little drones with some fancy RGB LED lights underneath for a bit of flair.

A launch pad allows the drones to have a faster take off from an angle.

The very first thing we did was draw some concepts for our launch pad design. Unfortunately we didn't get photos of these, however you can see the finished render in these photos. We're really happy with the result!

These parts were designed and modelled in Solidworks.

Step 1: 3D Printing the Stand Parts

The easiest way to prototype and produce small quantities these days is obviously 3D printing. Fortunately we have a pretty good one! The main parts of the model were printed in 3D Fillies PLA+ Light Grey which give a nice finish. The bottom parts where the LEDs shine through were printed in white PETG. This is due to how light is able to travel through PETG material much better than PLA. The LEDs were not part of the original design and were later added to the sides of the model. This might be evident to some in the design process.

The Printer we used is a modified Monoprice Maker Select Plus. Some more details can be found at this thingiverse link.

Step 2: Assembling the Racing Board

Through trial and error we found 5 racers was optimum for our races. This is based on a few factors, namely video transmission interference and racing gate size. To keep the track challenging, it was important we didn't make the racing gates too big. Having more than 5 racers creates too much competition and can be difficult during close races where more than a couple drones have to fit inside the racing gate.

We used a nice 18mm MDF board as a base for this project which was cut down to approx 300 x 1300. Carpet was added on top. These were pre-cut carpet squares with a nice adhesive to make it easy to assemble. We found all this stuff at our local hardware store, bunnings warehouse.

Once the wood was cut, we began putting cutting the LED strips into strips of 6 LEDs which needed 4 wires at each end for VRGB. Soldering this many wires was rather difficult and very time consuming. The wires we used were also single core and difficult to work with. As you may be able to work out from the photos, the LEDs are threaded through the carpet. This was no doubt the most difficult part of the project as some solder joints kept breaking during the threading. A lot of measuring had to be done on the wooden base and carpet as to be sure the LED strips would have correct placement.

I used a dab of hot blue under each strip of LED to keep it placed flat against the carpet.

The LED strips we used are very simple and not addressable. It would have been nice to use addressable LEDs and an arduino but due to time/financial constraints this was not possible.

The LEDs are controlled through a simple IR remote which came with the strip. This is powered by a 12V DC adapter.

A video of the LEDs can be viewed here:

Step 3: Finished Product

Once the 3D printed stands were assembled and the racing board was completed, it was only a simple job to place the stands on the board to see the finished product.

We originally wanted to make the stands permanently fixed to the board, but after feedback from racers decided not to. This was mainly because some racers did not want to use them - fair enough. This actually turned out to be a good decision because it's much easier to pack away for storage when not in use.

If you have any questions, please feel free to get in touch with us online.

Thanks for reading!

Team KiwiQuads