Wireless Controlled Hovercraft (Wonder4)




About: From UM-SJTU Joint Institute, Shanghai, P.R.C.

The hovercraft is the device that can travel over land without wheels. Because of the enthusiasm for engineering and the requirement of the course Vg100, we, four students from UM-SJTU Joint Institute, formed the team Wonder4 and made our own hovercraft. Our hovercraft weighs 694g. Its size is 30cm×30cm×25cm.The light weight and small size makes it travel fast. It can go forward and turn under wireless control. To make this hovercraft, you should have fundamental knowledge of propellers and Arduino. You may spend 5-8 hours to finish this hovercraft.

For more information about our institute, please see http://umji.sjtu.edu.cn

Team Wonder4 Creation. Team members: Guo Ziqi, Hou Yijun, Chen Jin, Dong Zheng.

Step 1: Preparing Materials

*The figure for each material is listed below in order.

(1) Electronics:

Three 64mm (4500V) brushless ducted propeller and three corresponding 40A brushless electronic speed controls (ESCs) (Figure 1.1)

PS2 wireless controller and receiver (Figure 1.2)

11.1V 2200mAh battery (with the matching charger) (Figure 1.3)

Arduino Uno board (with corresponding data line) (Figure 1.4)

20 cm male-female DuPont cables×15 (Figure 1.5)

One T-plug and one T-plug wire (Figure 1.6)

9 pairs of 3.5mm banana connectors (Figure 1.7)

(2) Materials:

Artificial silk cloth (>40cm×40cm) (Figure 1.8)

5 cm-thick EPE(Expand Aple Poly Ephylene) (>30cm×30cm) (Figure 1.9)

2.5 cm-thick EPE (Expand Aple Poly Ephylene) (>30cm×30cm)

(3) Tools:

Fiber reinforced tape (or electrical insulation tape or equivalent)




502 glue (cyanoacrylate adhesive, i.e., “superglue”)

Hot-melt glue (HMA) and hot-melt glue gun

Soldering gun and electric soldering iron

Step 2: Soldering the Connectors

(1) Solder each wire of a brushless ducted propeller to a male banana connector for later connection to the ESC. (Figure 2.1)

(2) Repeat step (1) for all three propellers.

(3) Solder each wire of an ESC on the side to be connected to the propeller (Figure 2.2) to a female banana connector. (Figure 2.3)

(4) Repeat step (3) for all three ESCs.

Step 3: Connecting the Propellers With ESCs

Connect all the paired banana connectors in the way shown in the figure to transfer power from the ESCs to the propellers. If the propeller does not generate thrust in the desired direction later, you might have connected wires in the wrong way. (Figure 3.1)

Step 4: Making the Base

(1) Cut the 2.5cm-thick EPE to get a 25cm×25cm square base. (Figure 4.1)

(2) Cut a circular hole at the center of the base to accommodate the propeller. The diameter of the hole should be a bit smaller (approximately 3mm) than that of the propeller to prevent the propeller from dislodging. (Figure 4.1)

(3) Cut three rectangular grooves on the EPE base, whose depth is approximately 1.3cm. These grooves are enclosure to place the battery (location 1, Figure 4.2), the Arduino board (location 2), and the empennage (location 3). The approximate size and location of these grooves is shown in the figure below. Details on the construction of the empennage are given in step 5.

(4) Fix the propeller in the circular hole using the 502 glue. Make sure the propeller generate thrust in the desired direction. (Figure 4.3)

Step 5: Making the Empennage

(1) Cut the 5cm-thick EPE for the empennage. The shape of the empennage is a rectangle, whose length and width are approximately 21cm and 12cm respectively. (Figure 5.1)

(2) Make two symmetric circular holes as shown in the image below to install two propellers. The diameter of the holes should be a bit smaller (approximately 3mm) than that of the propeller to prevent the propeller from dislodging. The approximate positions of the holes are shown in Figure 5.1.

(3) Fix two propellers in the holes with the 502 glue. (Figure 5.2)

Step 6: Making the Skirt

(1) Cut the 2.5cm-thick EPE for a 25cm×25cm square frame, whose width is approximately 1cm. The purpose of the frame is to increase the friction when the hovercraft brakes. (Figure 6.1)

(2) Cut the silk cloth into a 40cm×40cm square. Cut a circular hole at the center to release air during operation. The diameter of the hole is approximately 1cm. (Figure 6.2)

(3) Fix the skirt to four sides of the frame with the hot-melt glue. (Figure 6.3 & Figure 6.4)

(4) Clip the redundant silk cloth at the four corners of the frame. Glue the silk cloth at the four corners again to prevent the air leak. Make sure the hole on the silk cloth is at the center of the frame. (Figure 6.5 & Figure 6.6)

Step 7: Assembling

(1) Fix the empennage in the appointed groove (location3, Figure 4.2, step 4) of the base with the hot-melt glue. (Figure 7.1) Make sure the empennage is perpendicular to the base so that the two propellers on the empennage blow backward.

Caution: The temperature of the hot-melt glue should not be too high, otherwise it may damage the plastic foam board.

(2) Solder six wires (3 ground wires and 3 power wires) of three ESCs to one end of the T-plug. (Figure 7.2)

Caution: Make sure the ground wires and the power wires do NOT touch! (Figure 7.3)

(3) Seal the T-plug with the hot-melt glue to prevent shortening during use. (Figure 7.4)

Caution: Recheck the connections before connecting it to your battery!

(4) Use the DuPont cables to extend the three wires to be connected to the Arduino Uno board (see Figure 2.2, step 2, to distinguish the wires) for each ESC. Seal the junctions with the fiber reinforced tape (or equivalent).

Caution: Remember the corresponding color of the extended cable for later connection!

In our case, we used the yellow wire for the ground wire (the black wire of the ESC), the blue wire for the power wire (the red wire of the ESC), and the green wire for the data wire (the white wire of the ESC). (Figure 7.5 & Figure 7.6)

(5) Use the fiber reinforced tape (or equivalent) to fix the wires and the ESCs on the back of the base. (Figure 7.7)

(6) Cut a hole (diameter approximately 1cm) in the base to pass the power line through. (Figure 7.8 & Figure 7.9)

(7) Use the hot-melt glue to fix the frame (and the skirt) on the base. (Figure 7.10)

Caution: The temperature of the hot-melt glue should not be too high, otherwise it may damage the plastic foam board.

Step 8: Connecting the Circuit

(1) Connect the PS2 receiver and the three ESCs to the Arduino as shown in the schematic drawing below. (Figure 8.1)

(2) Connect the battery to the T-plug to test the connections. At this point you will hear a ring tone as the brushless propellers should initialize. If you do not hear a ring tone, recheck the connections.

(3) Disconnect the battery. Fix the battery and the Arduino board at the appointed positions (location 2, Figure 4.2, step 4) using the fiber reinforced tape (or equivalent). (Figure 8.2)

Step 9: Coding

Code with Arduino programming software. The following code is for reference. Figure 9.1 shows the command of each button on the PS2 controller pad.



//for v1.6, you may download this library from http://pcsx2.net/download/releases.html


PS2X ps2x; // create PS2 Controller Class

int error = 0; byte type = 0; byte vibrate = 0; Servo s1, s2, s3; int p=20;

void setup(){


s1.attach(6); s2.attach(5); s3.attach(3);

error = ps2x.config_gamepad(13,11,10,12, true, true);

if(error == 0){

Serial.println("Found Controller, configured successful");

} else{




void loop(){

if(error == 1) return;

ps2x.read_gamepad(false, vibrate);

if(ps2x.Button(PSB_PAD_UP)) {

s2.write(45); s3.write(45); delay(500);

s2.write(20); s3.write(20); Serial.println("Run!");



s1.write(36); s2.write(39); s3.write(33); delay(500);

s1.write(20); s2.write(20); s3.write(20); Serial.print("Turn Right!");



s1.write(36); s2.write(32); s3.write(39); delay(500);

s1.write(20); s2.write(20); s3.write(20); Serial.print("Turn Left!");


if (ps2x.NewButtonState()){


{ s1.write(20); s2.write(20); s3.write(20); Serial.println("All Stopped!"); }


{ s1.write(32); Serial.println("Floating!"); }





Step 10: Final Adjustment

When the hovercraft is powered, you may find it to run unbalanced because of the uneven distribution of the mass. Depending on the actual conditions, adjust the position of the battery to optimize the weight distribution.

Step 11: Done!

Congratulations! Now you can play with your hovercraft.

Caution: The ducted propellers can run very fast. Do NOT put your fingers in the fan! Do NOT let young kids touch the hovercraft when it is on!

For more information about our institute, please see http://umji.sjtu.edu.cn

Team Wonder4 Creation. Team members: Guo Ziqi, Hou Yijun, Chen Jin, Dong Zheng.

Remote Control Contest

Second Prize in the
Remote Control Contest

Summer #mikehacks Contest

Participated in the
Summer #mikehacks Contest

Epilog Challenge VI

Participated in the
Epilog Challenge VI



    • 1 Hour Challenge

      1 Hour Challenge
    • Pets Challenge

      Pets Challenge
    • Classroom Science Contest

      Classroom Science Contest

    36 Discussions

    MR MJ

    3 years ago

    can you please put the entire code up?

    sushant panaskar

    3 years ago

    can you plz send me entire code for rc hovercraft


    3 years ago

    Please reply me..urgent need of your help


    3 years ago

    Please can u provide me the code

    British Badger

    4 years ago

    Hi, I contacted you a long time ago about making a RC hovercrafts (I was well-made-robots) I've made it now (it looks nothing like yours though I change the design quite a bit) but I'm starting a hovercraft group to share experience and designs to make the best designs, If you interested please message me

    British badger


    4 years ago on Introduction

    Ok, so tell me if I'm wrong, from what I can gather, you will not have half the amount of power that you need from that battery. The battery shown can provide you a constant of 55A, but with 3 motors all hooked up to the same battery all pulling 25-30A, that's a grand total of 75-90A that those motors want. To preserve the life of your battery you will need a battery at least capable of supplying a constant of 100A! You could use two of those batteries and wire them in parallel. Or you could go with less powerful motors.

    2 replies

    Reply 4 years ago on Introduction

    Ahhh.... The fact is the hovercraft works well with the battery. We don't know why but it just works. The reason why we didn't use two batteries was that we had weight restrictions previously.


    Reply 4 years ago on Introduction

    Well I didn't comment on the functionality of the hovercraft. I'm sure it works fine! - it has all the power it needs. But your LiPo is what is going to be damaged. Less powerful motors would be lighter and provide same power as one ones you are using, since the motors you are using aren't getting the current they need.

    Just a little thought,

    Good luck!


    4 years ago on Step 8

    In your diagram, shouldn't the ESC be connected to the Vin pin on the Arduino instead of the 5v out pin (your diagram mislabels the pin as 9v http://arduino.cc/en/uploads/Main/ArduinoUno_R3_Front.jpg)?

    According to Arduino's website (and my personal experience), that pin is a regulated output, NOT input.


    See the power section.

    great project, but there's a much simpler way to do the wireless control: buy a cheap four-channel radio with receiver ($22 on hobbyking.com), which is designed to work with these components (these are all components designed for r/c aircraft). it will all be plug-in compatible, no programming, no creating custom systems for going between a ps2 controller and r/c gear. also, the range will be upwards of a kilometer as opposed to the short-range wireless link of the ps2 controller (which is only designed to go across a living room)

    1 reply

    this is a VERY UNRELIABLE method of connecting the three motor controllers to power. attach one pair of wires to the plug, and connect the three motor controllers to those. a three-way wire to hard-surface connection like yours is very prone to cracking under long-term use and when exposed to vibrations produced by the ducted fans.

    2 replies

    Yes, you are right. In that step, we specially mentioned that the power wire and the ground wire need to be absolutely separated. Another way of connecting the propellers to the battery is to use a parallel T-plug adapter (as shown in the figure).


    4 years ago on Introduction

    Nice and very simple.. How long time with 2200mAh lippo battery are working continuous? is posible another battery ex. 5000mAh (300gram) lippo? or is very heavy for his hovercraft?


    Reply 4 years ago on Introduction

    Sorry, since the deadline of this manual set for us was urgent, we didn't make a video. But our hovercraft did work and got a good ranking in the hovercraft contest of our institute. We will ask our photographer to see if he has taken a video for our hovercraft.