Introduction: Sturdy Quadcopter Build

About: I'm currently a 2nd year Electrical Engineering student at the University of British Colombia. Building/learning about complex machines and computers is one of my passions (I also love playing guitar!).This ye…

This is my first instructables that I decided to post. I was obsessed by these amazing flying machines for quite a while until I ended up coming across some fantastic How-To guides on YouTube that made me realize building a Quad wasn't as hard as it sounded. After many days of in depth research and creating my detailed shopping list I ordered all of my parts (mostly on but I also ordered  some other small items such as the bullet connectors and Velcro straps off eBay and amazon) and then I decided to share my own build. I hope this helps other eager Quadcopter pioneers in making their own Quads. 

Prerequisite skills:
- Basic Soldering
-General Electronic Knowledge
-How to operate a Dremel (this is optional)

This guide should be pretty simple for any beginner Quadcopter designers because most of the construction and programming is almost all plug-and-play meaning that you don't have to worry about building your own flight controller and receiver to operate the Quad! 

All the programming that is done in this project (If you follow the shopping list) is done by the flight control board and a Ready-Made programming card for the ESC's.

Another option you have in this guide is the choice between soldering your own power distribution set-up or buying a compact power distribution board. The power distribution board really simplifies life because it cuts down on the amount of soldering required and its then incredibly easy to swap out broken ESC's if you have a wicked crash. 

!SAFETY! The last thing I want to say before we jump into building the Quad is that some of these steps require inferno like heat and razor sharps blades! Therefore please be CAUTIOUS I actually cant stress this enough after almost slicing my foot after not properly calibrating my ESC's and then testing my Quad. 

Any and all feedback/comments would really be appreciated :) 


Edit #1

Added prop balancer to the parts page.
- Added Gorilla glue option to the optional supplies list.
- Added new explanation to the final paragraph in wiring/programming page.
- Added explanation on parts page about prop & motor problem.

GOPRO Mounting has received a fair bit of questioning lately so I figured I would give a little bit of an explanation as to what is and isn't possible. And answer some frequently asked questions.

Can this setup carry a GOPRO camera?

Yes it can. This setup has more than enough power to take a GOPRO up into the air.

How do I mount my GOPRO on this particular Quadcopter?

Right now you can't.

Why can't I mount my GOPRO on this Quadcopter?

Because currently I do not have the time to think up or figure out a way to attach a mount on the baseplates.

This summer I plan on figuring out a way to mount my GOPRO on the Quad but for now (to me at least) it's really not that big of an issue. If this seems like too long for all of you "FPV" and video enthusiasts then by all means you are free to find a way to do it yourself, or you can buy a Quadrotor with pre-installed mounts.  But I unfortunately do not have the time.


Step 1: Building Materials

The frame - Turnigy Talon Carbon Fiber Quadcopter Frame
This is an awesome frame that I found for a relatively inexpensive price considering its almost full carbon fiber. Its sturdy as hell and so far there are no obvious design flaws. 30$

MotorsTurnigy L2210A-1650 Brushless Motor 
These motors are fantastic. They produce plenty of lift if you plan on carrying a GoPro or any other sort of camera and they are relatively cheap compared to some other high end ones. The real bonus though is that they come with prop adapters so they should fit just about any size props you want to put on this drone. You need at minimum 4 of these but i recommend buying a couple extra just to be on the safe side. 11$ each

Electronic Speed Controllers - 25amp Speed Controller
These ESC's are rugged and work really well. ESC's control the motors by varying the amount of current that is sent to them, these are a must for any RC vehicle using brushless motors. Don't buy any that go bellow 25amp because they need to be able to take the high current that the battery is going to be putting out.  You need 4 of these and it is optional if you want to buy extra but they are securely attached to the frame so it is unlikely you will damage them in any crashes. 12.50$ each

EDIT #1 The propellers I have listed bellow are slightly too big for the motors I previously listed above. This is an issue that has come to my attention and that needs some sorting out. If you want to use the props that are listed below all you need to buy are heftier motors. Likewise, If you choose to use the motors listed above all you need to is buy some smaller props, most likely 9*4.7. As Flyingsurfer848 pointed out (in the comment section) it is optimal to instead use motors with a KV rating closer to 1000 and 9*4.7 props. However if you are like me and have already got the props listed bellow and the motors previously listed above, they WILL still work! The risk is only noticeable when you max the throttle and frankly I have never taken it up past half because that's already plenty of power. So there is no reason to panic. 

Propellers10x4.5 SF Props 2pc Standard Rotation/2 pc RH Rotation (Black)
10 inch pros work well with the size of the Turnigy frame. They produce plenty of thrust combined with the motors above and they fit the prop adapters. Feel free to also buy these in different colors Stock up on plenty of these! Because these are what tend BREAK THE FASTEST if you are new Quadcopter pilot like myself. 3$ (set of 2CWR 2CCWR)

EDIT #1 Propeller Balancer - Just Google search some of these. They are very useful in getting all your props weighted nicely so they cause less vibration. Buy some high grit sandpaper to lightly file the props down with. 10 - 25$

Flight Controller -  Hobbyking KK2.0 Multi-rotor LCD Flight Control Board
After scouring the Hobbyking website for more than a couple days I found this board. It comes jam packed right out of the box with all the software needed to fly the quad. Through this board it is also possible to calibrate all ESC's within 30 seconds which i found most impressive since it saves a lot of tedious programming. The LED screen also makes navigating the board a cake walk. I highly recommend purchasing this board if you are new to Quadcopters and multi-rotor craft because it truly simplifies life. 30$ (worth the price)

Transmitter/ReceiverTurnigy 6X FHSS 2.4ghz Transmitter and Reciever (Mode 1)
At minimum to fly a quad you need 4 channels but I'm going to tell you now that it will be much easier if you get one that has 6. This remote also lets you reverse the channels which makes it easy to configure and control your quad. 30$

ESC Programming CardBESC Programming Card
There are a bunch of ways to program ESC's but I figured that this is the simplest way to do it. Make sure that which ever card you purchase is compatible with your ESC's. This turnigy card is compatible with all Turnigy plush speed controllers. 7$

Battery - 
2200mAh 3S 20C Lipo Pack
Of course a battery is essential for your Quad. Feel free to choose whatever brand you want as long as it does not exceed 4S (meaning 4 cells). The higher the C rating the higher the current your battery will put out which gives more power to your Quad but also discharges your battery faster. 8$

Velcro StrapsVELCRO U.S.A. INC  3/4-Inch 12-Feet
To attach the battery to the bottom of my Quadcopter I used these Velcro straps. Its efficient and the straps fit perfectly in the slots on the bottom of the frame. There is probably tons of other ways to accomplish attaching the battery but i found this way to be quick and easy. 6$

Battery Charger - Turnigy Accucel-6 50W 6A Balancer
Most chargers will work with just about any type of battery so you kinda have free reign over choosing your own. This Turnigy one works really well and it allows me to program the number of cells and type of battery i'm charging. (It is also optional to buy a power supply for this charger so you don't need to use a car battery.)23$

Power Distribution Board -  Hobby King Quadcopter Power Distribution Board
I highly recomend getting one of these. It makes connecting your ESC's to the battery simple and reduces the mess of wires you will have dangling around the Quadcopter. 4$

Bullet Connectors3.5mm Bullet Connectors - 10 Pairs
ts nice to be able to disassemble your quad if you have a malfunction or you accidentally make a wrong connection so use these to make all of your connections on the Quadcopter with the exception of the battery. Buy a couple sets at least because it will be nice to have some extras in the event that one comes off due to a bad soldering job. 5$ (for 10 pairs)

WireWire 16AWG (1mtr)
Its up to you if you think you'll need it or not but it helped me out cause it meant I didn't have to stretch the ESC's as much on the frame. If you get some extra wire, purchase 1mtr of Red and Black (It helps differentiate + and -) plus its cheap.  1$ (for 1mtr)

Servo LeadsMale to Male Servo Lead 
You will absolutely need these (if you don't already have any) to connect the receiver to the KK 2.0 Flight Controller.  5$ (set of 10)

Above is the list of all the parts I needed to order but just in case (bellow) this is a second smaller list for all the extra stuff I used that i'm assuming you already have:

- Heat shrink to clean up soldering connections and prevent short circuiting the system.
- Helping hands to make soldering easier.
- A Dremel to cut off long screws. This is optional but i had to use it on a couple occasions.
- Allen Wrench set because you will not receive any with the frame kit.
- Ratchet for tightening nuts.
- Loctite to make sure nothing would come loose.
EDIT  #1 Gorilla glue works great instead of loctite for the frame, ensures that you wont have any legs moving around.
- Soldering Iron and Solder

Step 2: Building the Frame

This is the easiest and one of the most fun parts of the entire Quadcopter build. I didn't upload too many photos because there is already a thorough guide detailing how to build the frame on the Hobbyking website

Right out of the box you should get 1 long carbon fiber pipe and 2 smaller ones. these are your Quad's arms. You also get two base plates for mounting all of your hardware on. The larger goes on top while the smaller one with the slits for the Velcro straps goes on the bottom. The silver aluminium rings connect the carbon fiber pipes to the base plates. Once you have the rings on the pipes in the right position you can take the medium length screws and tighten the rings around the carbon fiber pipes to make sure they don't end up sliding around while you're flying. 

After completing the steps above you can start to build all of the feet. These are the pieces that go on the end of the pipes to act as landing gear. Once all 4 are built you can slide each one onto the ends of the pipes. Make sure you do not tighten the feet yet and place the entire frame on a flat surface. This will ensure that all of the feet are nice and equal with one another. Once you've done this you can tighten each foot. 

I'd recommend putting loctite (EDIT #1 or Gorilla glue) around each one of the feet before you tighten them on the frame. This is only a precaution to guarantee that you have a rock solid frame in the event of a nasty crash. 

Step 3: Power Supply Setup

To get the power evenly distributed to your 4 brushless motors you're going to need some sort of power supply system. If you didn't fee like purchasing a hobbyking power distribution board there are plenty of guides on how to solder your own wires to make a power supply set-up, but I'm going to assume that you followed my advice and choose to get one.

An optional step at the beginning of this whole process is cutting some extra wire to lengthen your ESC's. This is helpful if want a bit of optionality for mounting them on the frame. I cut my wire extensions at 5" which turned out to be perfect for mounting the ESC's parallel to the carbon fiber pipes on the frame.

After you have the wire extensions cut you can set up your soldering station. I recommend doing this in a ventilated area since there can be a lot of smoke and fumes.

Each ESC should already be preped for soldering right out of the package since the metal wire should be exposed on all the tips. 

Start with soldering all the male 3.5mm connectors to the ends of the wires that are on the side of the ESC with the + and - signs. There should only be two wires on this side of the ESC and then a servo connector. When soldering the connectors on remember to put the ESC wire fully into the cup on the back side of the connector. This will make sure that you have a complete connection once you drip the solder into the cup. Complete this step for all 4 ESC's.

Once finished with the male connectors you can then start with attaching the wire extensions. 

This step is fairly simple. For each ESC you will have 3 wires protruding on the opposite end of the side you just finished soldering male connectors to. These wires will be the ones you connect to the brushless motors. The pattern of wire extensions you will add onto the ESC wires is as follows:

                        RED ---------- RED(extension wire)
ESC ---------- RED ---------- BLACK(extension wire)
                        RED ---------- RED(extension wire)

This is important for when you check motor orientation because it allows you to easily change the direction the motors are spinning. 

When you solder the extensions on keep the wires as flat as possible or else you could end up with a bent connection which will make putting on heat shrink next to impossible. 

Finally after adding the extensions onto the ESC's you can finish by soldering the female connectors on to the ends of the extensions. Finish this on all 4 and then tidy things up with heat shrink.

Next you can attach the ESC's to the frame. I chose to use zip to keep them nice and flush against the arms. It also gives it a clean look. You can be creative here but remember to make sure they're well secured.

Feel free to place the power distribution board in between the baseplates of the frame with battery connector facing the rear of your craft. Sorry I don't have any pictures of this specific part but i'm hoping you'll figure it out, one tip though is that it doesn't t fit well! So just try and make sure the connectors are easily accessible and the battery connector is facing the rear of your quad. You can then connect the positive and negative leads of your ESC's into the power distributor. 

Now finish by connecting the motors to the feet of the frame. I had to buy some longer screws and extra nuts from the hardware store to do this properly because the frame kit does not give you enough parts. 

Its optional if you want to put the Velcro straps on the bottom baseplate right now, but doing it latter means dissembling the frame with everything on it... which will be tough.

Step 4: Attaching Flight Control Board

For attaching the Hobbyking Flight control board to the frame I had to go and get some nylon spacers to put on the bolts. This is something that I found a lot of other guides highly recommended since it reduces how much the board vibrates during flight. 

You're going to need to unscrew the top baseplate for this step so you can easily access the bolt holes. 

I found out that because I wanted my quad to fly in an X configuration, I had to use my dremel to shorten the screws since they were too long and hit the carbon fiber arms underneath. This is the only time I needed to use the dremel in the building process which is why I marked it as optional in the building materials. 

MAKE SURE you have the buttons on the KK2.0 board facing the rear of your quad. This is mandatory so the Quad will fly properly.

(If you choose to buy a different flight control board there should be an arrow somewhere on the board that points to the front side of the board.)

Step 5: Wiring/Programming

You can start this step by programming your ESC's with the Turnigy programming card. To do this simply take the servo connector on the ESC and plug it into the servo port (the one that says BEC) on the card. Then plug in your battery and you should here a number of chimes and the lights on the programming card should light up. The selection for each step on the card is as follows:

1.Brake = OFF
2.Battery Type = Li-xx
3.Cut Off Type = Soft-Cut
4.Cut Off Voltage = Low
5.Start Mode = Normal
6.Timing Mode = High
7.Music/li-po Cells = (none)
8.Governor Mode = OFF

Each time you finish with one ESC disconnect the battery and then transfer the card to the next ESC. Repeat this for all 4.

Now you can connect your ESC servos to the KK2.0 board. The ESC connections on the board are located on the right side. M1 M2 M3 etc are the connections you're looking for. M1 (if you're flying in an X formation) is the front left motor and ESC, M2 is the front right motor and ESC, M3 is the back right motor and ESC, and M4 is the back left motor and ESC. Hook them up accordingly unless you plan on flying in a different formation. The signal wire (white wire on the ESC servo) goes on inside of the KK2.0 boards connector. 

Next you'll want to grab the bag of servo connectors and start hooking up the receiver (the tiny thing that came with your transmitter) to the KK2.0 board. If you go back to the link with the picture of the KK2.0 board layout you'll notice that on the left hand side it tells you which connector is for which type of signal coming from your transmitter. Now if you look at the instruction manual that came with your transmitter it should show you which connectors on the receiver match the ones on the KK2.0 board. All you need to do is take the servo connectors and match up the connectors on your KK2.0 board and your receiver. Once you've finished this we can start setting up the flight control board.

The first thing you'll want to do is attach the piezo buzzer that comes with the board. It connects to the piezo output connector on the front right part of the board. Once you do that you can turn on your transmitter and attach your battery and again you should hear some beeps followed by a few more coming from the KK2.0 board. The first thing you'll notice is that the board says SAFE. This means that if you start messing around with the throttle it wont move the motors.  

Next you'll want to do a receiver test. You can do this by going into the menu on the KK2.0 board and scrolling down until you get to "Receiver Test" hit enter and use the stick on your transmitter to check if everything is working properly. If any of the controls are backwards simply find it on the bottom part of your transmitter and reverse the channel. 

Once you've finished testing all the controls, back out and scroll down until you get to another option called "Sensor Calibration". This will calibrate all the gyroscopes and accelerometers on the KK2.0 board. To do this properly place the quad on a level surface and press enter twice. It will take a couple seconds and your flight control board will be calibrated correctly. 

Now you can load your Quadcopter's motor configuration. Scroll down the menu again until you get too "Load Motor Layout" and choose whichever layout you plan to fly your Quad in. 

EDIT #1 The paragraph below indicates how to get ALL MOTORS SPINNING AT THE SAME TIME. Just calibrating the ESCs with the white programming board will not get them spinning in sync. 

The final step you need to do now is calibrate all the ESC's on board the Quad. This step is made incredibly easy by the KK2.0 board since it allows you to calibrate all the ESC's at the same time. (Before you start callibrating the ESC's unplug your battery and turn off your transmitter.) Start by moving the throttle stick on your transmitter to full and turning on your transmitter. Then go to your Quad and unplug the first ESC servo connector (This makes it so your KK2.0 board wont get any power when you plug your battery in). Then plug your battery in. Push down buttons 1 and 4 on your KK2.0 board and while you do this plug the servo connector you unpluged back into its port. The LCD screen on your KK2.0 will come on and it will say "CALIBRATING ESCs". You'll here the normal chimes coming from the ESC's but you want to listen for two quick chimes coming from your flight control board. Once you here them flip the throttle on your transmitter back down to idle and then wait for one longer chime. You can then remove your fingers from buttons 1 and 4 on the flight control board. 

CONGRATULATIONS! you've just calibrated all 4 ESC's. 

(Because this step is fairly hard to follow here is a link to a explanation video that might help, Calibrate ESC's using the KK2 Board - YouTube)

Step 6: Motor Orientation Test

This is the final step you need to complete before you can properly test your Quadcopter. 

When you plug in your batter you should see the words SAFE displayed on the LCD screen of the KK2.0 board. In this state you will not be able to control your quad because the board is prohibiting any transmitter signals from reaching the motors. To ARM your Quad simply move the left stick on your transmitter down and to the right. The LCD screen should now read ARMED.(To disarm the Quad after testing move the stick on the left side of the Transmitter down and to the left.) 

Move the throttle ever so slightly forward until the motors start spinning. (Notice that they all start at the same time! This is because of the ESC calibration you did earlier.)

If any of the motors are spinning in the wrong direction for how your Quad is set-up, all you need to do to change the direction is switch 2 of the motor connectors so the order is now reversed. 

(motor spinning clockwise) - 123123123123123123
(motor spinning counter clockwise with 1 and 3 switched) - 321321321321321321

You can switch any two numbers and the motor should reverse direction.

Step 7: Final Adjustments

Feel free to do anything else you'd like with the Quad before you decide to take it out for its initial test flight. I recommend at least setting the auto leveling on the flight control board. This will help keep you slightly more stable in the air so you don't have to worry that much about keeping the Quad stable by yourself which will be tough if you're as new to flying these craft as I am. 

I recommend putting an extra band of Velcro strap around the battery to hold it in place while flying because mine fell out after banking really hard and resulted in a nasty crash.

I fully charged my battery before each flight just so I know how long i will be able to fly. If you use the Turnigy Accucel charger then you have two options for charging.
A) Hook the clamps up to a Car Battery
B) Buy a power supply from Hobbyking

Other than that, tighten up your motors and put the props on. You should now be ready to fly!

Step 8: Test Flight


If your test flight goes as smoothly as mine did it means you crashed your Quadcopter a few times. This is normal for beginner Quad flyers and means you can learn from your mistakes. 

Sorry I don't have any video up right now I'll try and post one as soon as possible!

Step 9: Repairing the Quad

After having crashed the Quadcopter a few times I felt like making a step on damage repair would be helpful. 

First thing is you're going to break a lot of Props. It will happen so don't only buy four. You're going to want to stock up mostly because some end up being flimsy or unbalanced, and then crashes tend to decrease the life of props significantly. Get a few sets of 4 so that you don't have to worry about this issue. And swapping them out is incredibly easy.

The next part that may need slight repair every so often is the frame. You shouldn't end up with any broken arms or anything but if you decided to neglect my advice on putting loctite on the aluminum clamps you will occasionally need to readjust and re-tighten the clamps/feet on the Quad.

Second to props, the only other thing that you might want to stock up on is motors. These suckers can really get messed up if you are constantly flying your Quad in an area that's really dusty. If debris gets lodged in the open parts on the motor it can prevent the motor from rotating properly. You can also damage the motor wires if you have a bad crash. This will also cause the motor to spin at a slower speed than the others. So you will either need to swap it out or take it off and re-solder the damaged wires.

(I'll post any other problems I find once I've flown my Quad more.)

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