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Build A Quadcopter

Table of Contents   Drones are fun   Quadcopters are fun   ConvertaQuad   PhotoQuad   Multicopters are fun   Robots are fun   CNC is fun


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There are Lots of Ways you Can Put Together a MultiCopter

  1. Thoughtful, slow progression is better than jumping in with both feet, you can get discouraged by trying to do too much too fast.
  2. You are likely to have a good experience if you start with a simple, small QuadCopter, either a Ready to Fly or an All Inclusive Kit.
  3. For for those with good DIY capabilities an Almost Ready To Fly build like the F450 FlameWheel described below can work well.
  4. For your first MultiCopter, DO NOT initially try to build a Photo / Video or First Person View copter, just build a good QuadCopter.
  5. Even if you know that’s what you want to do, it will take you some time to come up to speed on our copters and flight controllers.
  6. If you just want to get a taste and have a lot of fun, try one of the inexpensive, safe, sturdy, ready to use Micro-QuadCopters below.
  7. If you know you’re serious, try the Flamewheel ARF Build or if you just want to fly and can afford it get a first rate Iris QuadCopter.
  8. The Iris includes a top end Pixhawk flight controller and both the Iris and the Flamewheel can do FPV or Video when you are ready.
  9. Don’t start with a Frame Up Build unless you have a complete article on how to build a good simple Quadcopter like the Flip Sport.
  10. Absolutely do not start by trying to Build Your Own Frame, even among experienced builders there is more failure than success.
  11. It is very important to NOT start out with a big (dangerous) multicopter with a bunch of photo or video stuff on it, you will regret it.
  12. A small, agile QuadCopter is always a lot more fun to fly than a big, ponderous and slow Hex or OctoCopter in any case.
  13. Except for top end professional HD video or photography requiring big cameras you are better off thinking small, light and agile.
  14. Safety is very important with multicopters, keep plenty of distance from living or expensive things and review our Safety Page.
  15. Here is a link to DroneVend.com for some useful drone and component classified advertisements.

Chinese Imports Good Deal / Bad Deal?

  1. It is tempting especially when just starting out to buy lots of Chinese direct import stuff because it is so much cheaper: Bad Idea!
  2. As you gain experience, you will learn which import items are serviceable, if you try to do it at the beginning things will not go well.
  3. You should always get the main electronics (Flight Controller) from a proven source, the Pixhawk from 3DRobotics or a DJI Naza.
  4. You will also want to get the electronic accessories (GPS, magentometer, telemetry and OSD if used) from 3DRobotics or DJI.
  5. If your going to do first person view, get a 3DRobotics FPV kit or a FatShark Attitude video goggle and transmitter.
  6. As for cameras, the GoPro Hero 3+ and especially the Black is the one to get, because it is what everybody uses and it works well.
  7. The DJI Flamewheel ARF kit which is recommended is made in China but is a known quality setup, so where you get it is up to you.
  8. The Traxxas, Hubsan and Helimax recommended starter micro-Quadcopters are made in China but are still a great way to start.
  9. Motors, Batteries, ESCs, frames and FRSky or Turnigy RC transmitters and receivers can be very good deals direct from China.
  10. A lot of items we buy domestically are actually made in China and of course, quality varies widely, regardless of country of origin.
  11. A $25.00 RC-Timer motor will not be of the same quality as the equivalent $100.00 Tiger-Motor or KDE, but hey, it’s only $25.00.
  12. Although direct Chinese imports generally have pretty reliable shipping, aftermarket support or returns are often very problematic.
  13. If you build in a ten to twenty percent broken, damaged or not included expectation for Chinese imports you will not be disappointed.
  14. In any case, start with two or three of the recommended builds below so that you can experience success and learn to fly first.

Inexpensive, Ready To Fly Nano, Micro or Small QuadCopter

If you are new to MultiCopters, It is highly recommended you start with one of these inexpensive, ready to fly Quadcopters.

  1. They come with everything you need including the radio and the battery, require no assembly, are very sturdy and great for learning.
  2. They are also a ton of fun, can easily and safely be used indoors and typically cost less than a hundred dollars.
  3. Importantly you will get you a much better understanding of how they work and of what you really want to do next.
  4. The Traxxas QR1 QuadCopter is an inexpensive RTF Micro Quadcopter that is great for a first experience.
  5. For $45.00 the (Hubsan X4) is identical to the Traxxas and for $55.00 you can get it with a still photo and 720P HD video camera.
  6. For $200.00 there is even an easy to fly FPV version of the Hubsan that comes with a RC transmitter with an excellent LCD display.
  7. Even the parts for the Hubsans are readily available: Hobby Flip
  8. The $78.00 UDI 818A is a bit larger but is very safe (with prop protection), it flys like a full sized quadcopter and it has a camera.
  9. The Helimax 1SQ and the Blade Nano QX are also high quality, inexpensive and easy to learn with micro QuadCopters.
  10. There is even the really, really tiny $40.00 Estes Proto X actually a Hubsan H111 which flies remarkably well.
  11. If you are a beginner, you should also jump to the A Drone Of Your Own page for complete information and flight instructions.

Small, safe, inexpensive and easy to learn fly ready to fly quadcopters

All Inclusive Kit

  1. The easiest way to build is to buy a single kit that has all the parts necessary in one box and a set of instructions for each step.
  2. Outside of (Ready To Fly) a good all inclusive kit is the most reliable and straightforward way to construct a quality MultiCopter.
  3. Usually all of the components are well balanced with each other and the entire craft can be expected to perform well.
  4. For an all inclusive kit, assembly is just nuts and bolts and possibly some soldering.
  5. The assembly procedure is usually well explained in the supplied instructions.
  6. The downside is that often quality kits are a bit more expensive than other alternatives and customization has to be added on.
  7. If you are not already well qualified at Do It Yourself projects, A good all inclusive kit is definitely the best place to start.
  8. The 3DR ArduCopter is a complete assemble it yourself kit with a Pixhawk flight controller and some specifiable options.
  9. The innovative Iris QuadCopter is actually Ready To Fly and comes with the top of the line Pixhawk flight controller.
  10. It is capable of fully autonomous flight and includes the RC transmitter, the battery and telemetry, at $750.00 it is a bargain.
  11. The Iris structurally strong, resilient and it is set up to support a GoPro camera or FPV (First Person View) when you are ready.

3D Robotics APMCopter and Iris

Almost Ready To Fly (ARF)

  1. If you need everything and want the most versatile copter possible you can’t beat the Iris above, it is simply a great deal.
  2. You can save some money and still build a really high quality autonomous QuadCopter.
  3. Even if you are just starting there are still a few really good choices.
  4. The DJI F450 Flamewheel QuadCopter ARF Kit may well be single the best choice at this time.
  5. This kit comes with frame with built in power distribution board, the 4 motors and the 4 Electronic Speed Controls and 8 Propellers.
  6. You need to add a Pixhawk Flight controller, a battery, a 2.4 GHZ Radio Control Transmitter and a PPM-Sum capable receiver.
  7. The supplied equipment in the kit is all first rate and the real DJI Flamewheel frame is very stiff and sturdy (a good thing).
  8. Cost: F450 ARF kit $180.00, Pixhawk with GPS/Compass $280.00 and a Battery $35.00 = ($495.00) plus a PPM-Sum receiver.
  9. As an alternative, the smaller DJI F330 Flamewheel Quadcopter is also an excellent choice and can be better in smaller spaces.
  10. There is a page on constructing the F330 (Here!) but it is applicable to the F450 as well.
  11. Most ARF kits that are cheaper than this are not nearly as sturdy and the components generally fail much more frequently.
  12. You can buy the DJI F450 ARF Kit Here This source has the F350 ARF kit also.
  13. DO NOT get a clone kit that looks like it, real DJI motors and ESCs are top quality, the frame is stiff and strong, clones are not.
  14. There are more expensive high quality ARF kits available but FlameWheels give great service and have very high performance.
  15. If you want to keep initial cost to a minimum, start with a Simple Flight Controller then graduate to a Pixhawk when you’re ready
  16. The F450 can also serve as a competent Gopro and Gimbal carrying photo and video copter or as an FPV platform.
  17. The DJI F550 ARF Hexacopter is a good choice for more advanced uses, but it is not ideal as a first MultiCopter.

DJI Flamewheel F450 Frame, Motors and Escs

Frame Kit: Hoverthings Flip 380 Sport Quadcopter

  1. You should definitely start with one of the little recommended RTF toys to learn how to fly and whether you are interested.
  2. And normally you would be better with an RTF or at least ARF build for your second copter.
  3. But if you are mechanically inclined, a Frame up build is the best way to construct a really dynamite copter.
  4. I have built the Hoverthings FLIP 380 Sport QuadCopter and it is fantastic.
  5. My freind Oliver constructed the Hoverthings FLIP FPV Pro, possibly the best GoPro and brushless gimbal quadcopter available.
  6. The Hoverthings Flip 380 Sport Frame is billed as the most indestructible frame ever.
  7. It uses incredibly stiff and strong CNC machined 1/4 inch thick Fiberglass arms and G10 Fiberglass center plates.
  8. It can incorporate the same motors and ESCs as used in the DJI Flamewheel and can use up to 10 inch propellers.
  9. I purchased the Flip Sport Kit plus an extra pair of tab type center sections and extra 7/8 inch spacers.
  10. The extra center plates mount below the stock plates on 7/8 inch spacers to accommodate the battery and flight gear.
  11. I am using 4 of the stock DJI Flamewheel motors and a special 4 in 1 ESC placed between the center plates of the copter.
  12. BuildAQuadcopter/4in1ESC.jpg
  13. The 4 in 1 ESC produces much less RF and DC interference and is neater than 4 ESCs and a power distribution board.
  14. I am using GemFan DJI hub compatible 10 inch carbon filled propellers because they are stiff, tough and very efficient.
  15. My goal was to build an even tougher and higher performance copter than the DJI F450 Flamewheel, inexpensively.
  16. Since building it I have crashed it into walls, trees and the ground (a lot) and have succeeded in breaking - Nothing - Get One!
  17. The reason for the crashes is not due to a fault, rather because it flies so well it encourages excessively spirited piloting.
  18. Although it’s a small copter the Flip is powerful and agile enough to use FPV video and/or a GoPro Camera and brushless gimbal.
  19. Here is a link to the Hoverthings Flip Sport Quadcopter Build Page using a Pixhawk or PX4 flight controller.

Hoverthings Flip Sport frame with PX4 flight controller and DJI 2212 motors

Frame Kit: Hoverthings Flip FPV Pro Quadcopter

The Hoverthings Flip FPV Pro is quite possibly the best GoPro camera carrying quadcopter.

Hovethings Flip FPV Pro

Frame Kit: Tarot 650 Quadcopter

  1. The Tarot 650 is a carbon fiber frame that is quite large for a QuadCopter and it can incorporate up to 17 inch propellers.
  2. I am using 360kv slow speed, large diameter Pancake Motors designed to turn the more efficient large propellers at low speeds.
  3. I will be using a variety of 14 to 17 inch propellers to explore performance and efficiency at various propeller diameters.
  4. Although the Flip Sport build shown above could be appropriate for a first QuadCopter, this Tarot 650 build is definitely not.
  5. This quad is big enough to serve as a heavy lift or long endurance copter or to carry a big video or still camera, but:
  6. For lifting a 2KG payload with a quadcopter you need some serious motor and some serious prop.
  7. Four Tigermotor MN4010 475 KV motors at $86.00 each, four 15 x 5 or 16 x 5 props and four high quality 30 amp ESCs.
  8. It needs 10,000mah of 4 cell Lipo battery to achieve approximately 10 minutes of flight time at 4KG total weight.
  9. It should be capable of lifting 4 KG total (including 2KG payload) and leave about 50% reserve thrust (minimum needed) (6kg total).
  10. You will need 16 inch x 5 props to achieve the thrust and efficiency necessary to lift 4KG total with reasonable flight times.
  11. That is why the bigger motors with the lower KV are required and they need to be high quality to withstand continuous high output.
  12. It is very highly recommended that you do not attempt to construct one of these for your first build.
  13. A really handy link for quickly calculating performance requirements for various multicopters and components: eCalc - Xcopter Calc

Tarot 650 Quadcopter

Scratch Built

  1. Although this is often attempted by those who have never used a multicopter, it very seldom turns out well.
  2. At the simplest level a functioning QuadCopter can be built out of sticks or dowels and plywood that will fly.
  3. But it is very unlikely to fly well or to be very serviceable or to well tolerate less than perfect (landings).
  4. And this is no way to save money, RTF, Kits and ARF include high quality matched components and actually cost less.
  5. Even if you are an experienced model builder, machinist or engineer, DO NOT START HERE!
  6. Multicopters have their whole own set of flight dynamics and structural demands.
  7. Until you have become experienced with them you stand virtually no chance of designing and making a worthwhile MultiCopter.
  8. There is a really lovely QuadCopter design made by a newbe from bent sheet aluminum on DIYDrones site right now.
  9. Unfortunately sheet aluminum is soft, the copter is heavy and hard landings are common so a very bent copter is inevitable.
  10. Even if you are very experienced, you will certainly need to make several copters before you achieve a worthwhile design.
  11. I won’t say Experts only, but you need to go through 3 or 4 commercial MultiCopters before you even think about doing this.
  12. I have made many CAD designs and I am finally getting ready to build my first scratch built, a small carbon fiber tube H dead cat.
BuildAQuadcopter/QuadCompactH13FPV.jpg

Brand Name Ready to Fly

A few words about the Brand Name Ready To Fly QuadCopters like the Parrot, the DJI Phantom and the Blade 350QX.

DJI Phantom and Blade 350QX

Which Approach is Right for You

  1. It is very important to match your approach to your capability level, if you overreach you can end up with a negative experience.
  2. It is also much more important to take a robust and conservative approach than to try to do everything the first time out.
  3. The simplest approach is to get a Ready to Fly system or an All Inclusive Kit.
  4. However, a good Almost Ready To Fly kit plus some carefully chosen components can also result in an outstanding copter.
  5. The ARF approach can often cost somewhat less and enable you to construct a copter that is specifically tailored to your needs.
  6. The Frame Kit approach presumes that you have sufficient knowledge to specify appropriate components that will work together.
  7. But it does let you put together a copter that is specifically optimized for your needs and desires.
  8. Unless you find and scrupulously follow a comprehensive article detailing a specific build a Frame Kit should not be your first copter.
  9. Clearly that goes double for Scratch Built. It isn’t actually all that hard to build a MultiCopter frame.
  10. But the overall process and component matching to make it work well is really for the experienced MultiCopter operator / builder.
  11. There are expensive, high end Multicopters, generally oriented to commercial photo or video use and outside our scope here.
  12. All of the Copters I have and will be putting together incorporate genuine 3DR APM, PX4 or Pixhawk Flight Controllers.
  13. These are the best and most capable flight controllers available and they have great DIYDrones community support.
  14. Beware of clones and counterfeits, they often have small differences that end up making them completely unusable.
  15. Don’t say I didn’t warn you: Caveat Emptor and You get what you pay for.
  16. Though not necessary for your first copters, eventually you will probably want a camera and likely FPV as well.
  17. When you are ready you are really likely to want to be able to carry and use effectively:
    1. A GoPro camera in its protective case. (The GoPro is very sturdy and has excellent 1080P HD video recording capability).
    2. A vibration damped brushless 2 axis gimbal (maybe 3 axis) specifically made for the GoPro.
    3. Very likely an FPV camera in parallel with the GoPro camera and the FPV transmitter and OSD.

  18. The Hoverthings Flip FPV Pro is an excellent small frame that can accomodate all this, it also is a great flyer and is very sturdy.
  19. The TBS Discovery Pro frame is more expensive, but also a popular choice. (The Flip is a bargain with CNC machined G10 arms).
  20. BuildAQuadcopter/FlipFPVPro BuildAQuadcopter/TBSGimbalPro
  21. The SteadiDrone Q4D is a small high quality frame for GoPro video and photo use in RTF, ARF and Frame kit.
  22. The SteadiDrone Mavrik is a high quality larger frame for Pro video and photo use in RTF, ARF, Frame and as an Iris upgrade.
  23. BuildAQuadcopter/SteadidroneQ4D BuildAQuadcopter/SteadidroneMavrik
  24. The Quadrysteria Black Mamba V2 is a very small (370 sized) high quality CF frame for FPV and GoPro video and photo use.
  25. BuildAQuadcopter/BlackMambaV2

3DR Pixhawk Flight Controller

Which Flight Controller? APM - PX4 - Pixhawk

Box O Copter

"And Now For Something Completely Different" A quadcopter built from a toolbox.


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