RC Long Range Quadcopter Build: From Scratch




Introduction: RC Long Range Quadcopter Build: From Scratch

This instructable will teach you how to make your own quadcopter from scratch even if you have no prior experience of aeronautics, it will also teach you how a quadcopter works and how can you build your own easily. Please watch the videos as they will explain the concept to you better. (this is just an experiment I will not be responsible if anything happens).

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Step 1: How Does the Quadcopter Work

So before building the quad you need to know how it works, so if there are any problems with it in the future you can try to troubleshoot it yourself in the future. (watch the video as it will give you a better insight on this).


The first thing to know about is how the quadcopter takes off from the ground.

How does it hover in the air?

The basics of aerodynamics consists of 4 forces namely lift (the upward force), thrust(the forward force), drag(the backward force) and weight(the force of gravity). Now in order for the quad to fly the lift should cancel out the weight and the thrust should cancel out the drag.

Well you will be surprised that not all the motors don't run in the same direction motors 1 and 3 are running clockwise and 2 and 4 are running counter-clockwise(like in fig.1).

Now if all the rotors move in same direction then the quadcopter would not fly and would be spinning on its own axis and not go straight up, simply because Newton's 3rd law kicks in.

in order to generate lift and over come Newton's 3rd law, we have to make it rotate such that the 2 rotors on opposite end move in clockwise direction and other 2 in anti-clockwise. This way when all the forces are equalized, the quad rises up straight depending on the speed on the rotors.


Pitch means that the quad is tilted upward or downward in respect to the horizon at an angle vertically to move forward or backward. To move forward the quad should be tilted downward. therefore motors 3 and 4 should spin faster than motors 1 and 2 (like in fig.2). To move backward the quad should be tilted upward. therefore motors 1 and 2 should spin faster than motors 3 and 4 (opposite of fig.2).


Roll means that the quad is tilted right or left in respect to the horizon at an angle horizontally to move right or left. To move left the quad should be tilted downward. therefore motors 2 and 3 should spin faster than motors 1 and 4 (like in fig.3). To move backward the quad should be tilted upward. therefore motors 1 and 4 should spin faster than motors 2 and 3 (opposite of fig.3).


Yaw is a bit more complicated as the quadcopter should spin on its own axis like the earth. now to rotate towards the right (clockwise) motors 1 and 3 should run faster than motors 2 and 4 (like in fig.4). This will cause it rotate towards the right. To rotate towards the left (counter-clockwise) motors 2 and 4 should run faster than motors 1 and 3 (like in fig.4). This will cause it rotate towards the right.

Step 2: How Does the Quad Understand the Commands That You Give

Before building the quad its good to know how does every part of the quad communicates to each other and this will help you check if the parts are compatible with each other.

There are 3 main parts to this:-

1. Transmitter and receiver:-

the transmitter is actually what you hold in your hand and give commands to the quad. Now the quad reeds the movements of the sticks throws the data, the receiver receives that data and tells the quad.

2. Control board:-

The control board is not the transmitter or reviser and this is not the auto-pilot. It is the heart of the quad and it controls what the quad should do after you move the sticks on the transmitter.(watch video for more info).

3. ESC:-

ESC that stands for electronic speed controller. well as the name states it controls the the speed of the motor.

Now we will learn how they will communicate from transmitter to receiver to control board to ESC. Please watch the video for more information on this subject and is more easier for me to explain all of this.

So what actually happens when you move the sticks on the remote controller?

Well when you move the stick on transmitter it communicates with the receiver via a radio frequency the most common one is 2.4 GHz. This is a wavelength that varies its length to transmit different commands the receiver reads this length and according to that gives a PWM(pulse-width-modulation) signal to the control board. According to the strength of the signal and from which wire the signal is received the control board makes the calculation and tells the ESC what to do and the ESC controls the speed of the motor and all that happens in a fraction of a second. I hope this all made sense to you.

Step 3: Knowing What Kind of Quadcopter You Want to Build

The first thing you must know is what you want to build and for what purpose is it is. Do you want a fast drone for flying in drone races, do you want a fpv(a fancy name for live camera) on it, etc. And for how much time do you want to run it.

So why do we need to know this? Well it’s to decide the type of your frame, motors, battery and the overall weight of the quad.

So, give a thought about it and make some notes on the way you want to use your quad.

So after you have decided what quad you want to build the next thing is going to be deciding the weight of the quad and also how big do you want the quad to be. This will help you shortlist the frames.

The last thing is to set a price range as this will help you narrow everything down. Remember that always the most costliest stuff is not the best so do some research on this.

Step 4: Choosing the Parts of a Quadcopter

After know what kind of quad you want to build then the next thing to do is understand each of the parts.

1. Frame:-

Now the first part you have to decide before anything is the frame. The frame is the most important part of the quad as it will hold everything together. So there are a lot of frames in the market and you have no idea what to buy. Well the first thing to do is figure out how much space are you going to need on the quad and what are you going to put on it.

2. Motors:-

The next thing is the motors. Now you need to do some research to see that if the motor is compatible with the frame that you have chosen. The most easiest way to do this is to check on the mounting bracket of the motor and see if the frame supports that bracket you can also just buy the motor that is recommended buy the seller who sold you the frame. If you want more thrust produced by the motor (want your quad to lift some weight like fpv), then you have to go for a lower kv (this does not stand for kilo volt but stands for revolutions per minute (rpm) per volt) motor. If you want a faster quad , then you have to go for a higher kv motor. (watch the video for more information)

3. ESC:-

ESC stands for electronic speed controller. well as the name states it controls the the speed of the motor. This is the one of the easier parts to select. All you need to know is the amp rating of the motor (refer data sheet of your motor) and find a ESC which meets that. Please buy an ESC that is at least 5 to 10 amps more than the actual rating, as its just safer and it wont burst. Please be careful with this as if you short circuit your ESC, it will blast.

4. Battery:-

The battery is what powers the whole thing. Now first of all your regular batteries wont work and you need a lipo battery. lipo stands for lithium polymer. Now when your buying this there is a few things to keep in mind like what amount of time do you want to fly the quad. Now if you want to fly the quad for a longer period of time then you should buy some thing with more mAh (milliamp Hour). More mAh = more flying time. The next thing is the number of cells that is represented by an S. 3S means 3 cells. Please check your data sheet of the motor to check the proper number of cells. Please ensure that the weight of the battery is not too much asthe motors would not be able to lift the heavy weight.

5. Transmitter and receiver :-

The transmitter is something that you really want to look about as it will be with you for life and all your projects not only this one project. You have to decide that if you want something only for this project or are you going to make more project's. because they are costly, if you want to buy a proper one.(watch video for more info).The receiver is included in the transmitter. Please buy 2.4 GHz transmitter and not a 5.8 GHz as it is outdated.

6. The control board:-

The control board is not the transmitter or reviser and this is not the auto-pilot. It is the heart of the quad and it controls what the quad should do after you move the sticks on the transmitter. The control board is important and you will have to do some research on it.(watch video for more info). 7. Propeller:-

For the propellers just check the datasheet of the frame as its the best. just be sure to get multirotor props which both cw(clockwise) and ccw(counter clockwise) propellers. If you are still stuck just ask in comments bellow.

8. Power distribution board:-

The power distribution board distributes the power equally among the 4 ESC's. if you don't have this board then you have to buy 4 batteries to power the board. Some frames come included with the power distribution board so be sure to check on that. Some boards as much more convenient and you don't need to solder them.

9. Other parts needed:-

You will also need a soldering station/ soldering gun.(this is only if your power distribution board doesn't come soldered with connectors all ready). And also zip-ties to keep everything neat and tidy.

The parts that I bought are:-

The quad that I'm building is not for racing. Its for FPY and lifting its not going to be very fast, but packs a punch.

    1. This is the quad frame that I bought which is really good and expandable

    Alien 450 quad

    Alien 450 quad (India)

    2. These motors are 1000 kv

    C2830 Motors

    Sorry i couldn't any link for parts outside India any 1000kv or 850kv is good

    3. These ECS's are 30A thought the rating is just 20A. Just to be safe.if your buying a different motor please check the rating.

    30A ESC(India)

    30A ESC

    4. This is a 5200mAh 3S battery with a pretty descent fly-time.but anything with 3S or 11.1v is enough. but make sure its more than 2200mah as if its very less you will only get a flight time of 2 min.

    5200mAh battery(India)

    I couldn't find a link for parts outside India any thing that is more than 2200mAh is good

    5. The transmitter that I bought is not available now. Avionic RCB6i is a decent one but please do some resherch and buy the one that's best for you

    Avionic RCB6i

    6. the CC3D is the best one i can think of as its best with beginners.



    7. the props that I am using is 10x4.5

    1045 prop

    1045 prop(India)

    8. I bought a board without the pins soldered

    power distribution board with the plugs soldered (India)

    power distribution board without the plugs soldered

    power distribution board without the plugs soldered (India)

    That's it for the parts but please check it if it meets your own purpose

    Step 5: Assembling the Frame and Mounting the Motors

    So, assembling the frame is very easy. Just ensure that you don't over tighten it as the quad will develop cracks over a period of time which we don't want either. If under tighten it then the quad will break in mid air and obliviously we don't want that to happen. Just tighten it enough with the allen key.

    Now when you mount the motors its the same thing don't over tighten the screws else it will touch the coils in the motors and that will short the motors and will burn you ESC's and motors

    Now all of this sounds scary but if you just double check you connections and the sizes and it will work. Just don't put a lot of power when you tighten the screws but make sure it doesn't become loose even if you shake it a lot.

    Step 6: Soldering Everything on to the Power Distribution Board

    Before mounting the ESC's on the frame its better to solder the ESC's onto the power distribution board. Now there are 2 ways to do this:

    • is to solder the plugs to the board which is the harder thing to do but will allow you to remove the ESC's if needed.


    • is to desolder the plugs from the ESC's onto the power distribution board which is not recommended but still works. and this is what I did.

    Please watch the video for more information.

    Now after you are done soldering then please check if any connections are shorted as this will destory all the components on the quad and will even cause a fire.

    After everything is soldered I like to put a generous amount of hot glue on it so it wont move out of its place.

    If you have already bought a one with the pins soldered then just connect them as simple as that

    (If you are confused then watch my previous video)

    Step 7: Mounting the ESC's

    Now after you have mounted everything on the board then next is to mount the ESC's. Now it doesn't matter which way you connect the plugs they will do the same thing.

    Now use zip ties to tie the ESC's down to the arm of the quad.

    It is recommended to mount the ESC's close to the motor as it will cool down the ESC's at the same time.

    The next thing is cable management. Its important that cables don't make contact with the propellers of the quad.

    (If you are confused then watch my previous video)

    Step 8: Using the Battery to Get the Center of Gravity Right

    Now the next thing is to get the center of gravity right.

    Now as the battery is the heaviest part of the quad it should go in last. Now we can use the battery to set the center of gravity of the quad.

    I took a cylindrical object and placed perpendicular(to the frame) under the quad. The weight of you quad should be balanced front and back. Don't worry if its not balanced, just put the battery where it is lighter at the end, the weight of the front of the quad should cancel out the weight from the back of the quad. Then mark the points.

    Then place the cylindrical object horizontally, again the weight from the right of the quad should cancel the weight from the left side of the quad. Then mount the battery.

    I would recommend to buy some velcro as it would be easier to mount the battery.

    If you are planing to use a 2 battery configuration(2 battery means that having to batteries and then merge them into one using a y-splitter wire) then i would recommend rapping them together and then do this method.

    Step 9: Connecting Everything on to the Control Board

    This is the last step for the hardware part connecting everything to the control board (i have used CC3D board).

    This set up is demonstrating only about the CC3D board. If you have any other board please check out how to wire and configure that board.

    Now the first thing is to hook everything on to board.

    Now to hook the ESC's up on to the board your white/brown pin should be near the board and the black wire should be the last one. The first one should be the ESC on the top-left arm of your quad, second top-right, third bottom-right, fourth bottom-left after this the next thing to do is to hook up the receiver that comes with the transmitter.

    The actual way to hook this up is a confusing process as you have to change the settings of the transmitter. Now there is another way to do it but not according to the manual but it works for most people. So hook it up like this instead

    1. the blue wire from the left goes in the first slot
    2. the yellow wire from the left goes in the second slot
    3. the wire with 3 connectors goes in the third slot
    4. the green wire from the left goes in the second slot
    5. the next one is the flight control switch(if you are doing this for the first time then don't plug this in) which is the orange/ yellow wire from the right and goes to the fifth slot on your receiver

    Next thing to do is download the software called libre pilot

    If some of you are confused as other websites on the internet mentioned about using open pilot software with the CC3D board, be aware that open pilot software is no longer available for download. So please go ahead and use libre pilot. The setup is the same as mentioned for open pilot software.

    Then click on the vehicle setup wizard and follow the instructions or just see the video.

    Step 10: Fine Tuning and Flying

    Now you are ready to fly your quad.

    But a word of caution before flying, practice on a simulator. It is a bit hard on simulator initially and first just start with a little lift.

    Then start using the pitch and roll and finally high.

    If you want to something about the PID settings then i recommend to tie it onto rocks and then making the modifications. Please fly it only at places where there is a rc flying zone and enjoy flying!!!!

    This was my first instructables and if i have forgotten something or if you didn't understand anything be sure to ask me in the comments.

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      5 Discussions


      1 year ago

      great build right there, but what if I want to build a controller for a drone with a single motor, what should I put into consideration?


      Reply 2 months ago

      A single motor drone is basically a helicopter. So yea look at helicopter controllers


      2 years ago

      nice job! my question is in 2017 in the United states is a self build with dji naza lite & gps (I had a 450 built years ago and needs to be rebuilt) worth it? I see so many brushless quads with even more functionality cheaper than I even initially paod for the board. or are there better boards if you can build from scratch? I just see so many functions on cheap drones and wonder if I should just go with that and not bother rebuilding with the dji naza control board


      Reply 2 years ago

      if you are ok with the cost of a dji naza then go for it


      2 years ago

      That's a neat build :) You should upload a video of how it handles when you fly it as well.