In the multi-rotor family, one of the most popular craft is Quadcopter. Every flyer thinks about a DIY Quadcopter sooner or later. But it is a little more challenging and expensive to build a quadcopter at home. Observing your self-made machine to move up, down and also sideways will be a great experience. If this is your first attempt, it may be a bit difficult to do. So, here is an instructable on How to make a quadcopter at home for your assistant.
There are many paths to follow while building it yourself. I will try to provide you a general walk-through in this article that should work in most cases. Along the way, there may also be several options at some points. Your choice will depend on your budget and which quality of the vehicle you expect.
Welcome to DIY Quadcopter:
The quadcopter is the most common and popular aircraft vehicle to all drone lovers. As the name shows, four motors are used to lift and propel it. Extra rotors can make it little heavier but boost its lifting capabilities and duration of a flight.
To build your own quadcopter, you will have to learn about how its materials should be, important parts you need and soldering process in detail to get the final product. I will mention here about its materials, various parts of a quadcopter with their uses, how to assemble them, some important tips and some factors to consider before purchasing.
What You Need To Build A Quadcopter:
Discovering “How to Build Your Own Quadcopter” demands you to have proper knowledge about all the basic parts of it. Actually, I will give here two lists of parts of a quadcopter. One list is for the important parts that are essential for you to make the drone. Another list mentions some optional accessories and tools you might use depending on which pieces you select for your quadcopter parts.
List of Essential Parts:
- Quadcopter Frame
- Flight Control Board
- The Propellers
- ESCs (Electronic Speed Controls)
- Power Breakout Cable or Power Distribution Board
- Battery Charger
- Radio Transmitter and Receiver
- Low Voltage Alarm
- Programming Card
List of Tools and Accessories
- Small Screwdrivers
- Zip ties
- Double-Sided Tape or Velcro or Battery Strap
- Hex Wrenches
- Heat Shrink
- Heat Sink
- Needle Nose Pliers
- Small Clamp
- Mounting Foam (Flight control board to frame)
- Soldering Iron and Solder
- Gorilla Glue or Loctite
You may not get all the parts listed here easily, or they may not be in stock at the time you go to purchase. Again, sometimes, new items will be designed probably with better quality and cheaper price. So, you have much opportunity to use those improved parts based on your taste.
What The Parts Do:
Let’s have a look at the items in the parts listed above. Here I will try to explain briefly what each of them (in the essential parts) does and why you need it. I’ll also mention some options as the suggestions for you to consider those specific parts. These are the elements mandatory for building a quadcopter by yourself. Other tools and accessories are optional here. They will only bring some additional features to your quadcopter. Feel free either to add one or more of these items according to your taste or completely avoid them.
Building a quadcopter:
Four arms or legs and the central body make the quadcopter frame. You will attach all other parts to it. You can get the frame as a kit and need to assemble it. The choice of a frame depends on what you prefer your machine to do. If you want your first DIY copter to fly or not, take pictures, do aerobatics or anything else fancy; choose the frame that’ll meet minimum requirements accordingly.
You can choose the perfect quadcopter frame from the list below. These popular items can handle your demands or do even more:
- DJI F450
- Turnigy Heavy Aerial Lift (HAL)
- Turnigy Talon Carbon Fiber
- HobbyKing SK450 Glass Fiber
- HobbyKing X525 V3 Glass Fiber 600mm
- HobbyKing Q450 V3 Glass Fiber
Flight Control Board
Flight Control Board is the “Brain” of a quadcopter that controls what it will do. It is in charge to make sure that everything is doing well. It also performs the sending and receiving the signals between your aircraft and the transmitter.
The control board produced by HobbyKing is a very common and well-known product. Same “KK” board with different numbers can be a reference for you to find out from various versions of firmware. One good suggestion for you is to get the one with the highest numbers. Here are the options:
- HK PilotMega 2.7 Flight Controller
- HobbyKing KK2.0, KK2.1 or KK2.1.5
At the end of each arm of your frame, you’ll need to place 1 motor. Motors are required to create the thrust and lift the machine into the air along with the propellers.
- Turnigy 2836 Brushless Outrunner 1200kv
- Turnigy Aerodrive SK3 – 2826-1130kv Brushless Outrunner Motor
- Turnigy D2830-11 1000kv Brushless Motor
- NTM 28-30S 800kv / 300W Brushless Motor
- NTM Prop Drive Series 28-26 1100kv / 252w
Two of the propellers on a quadcopter spin clockwise and two spin counter-clockwise. Ensure at least one pair of each. Sometimes sets are also sold as – two of each. As a new quadcopter builder, or a beginner, you are likely going to damage some of them during the flights. So, you should by extra props than you have planned. You may also get colorful propellers in the market and enhance your drone’s look.
- 10×4.5 SF Props 2pc CW 2pc CCW (colors are available)
- 10×4.5 propeller set
- GWS Props 9x5x3
- 9×4.7 SF counterclockwise set
- 9×4.7 SF clockwise set
Electronic Speed Controls (ESC)
Your battery produces DC power while the whole system needs AC. The Electronic Speed Control systems convert DC to AC. You can change the motor’s speed according to your needs by varying the current as well as the speed of the electrical pulses. You’ll need four ESCs for the four motors as each motor has to be connected to it.
I would highly recommend the ESCs from The Afro brand as they are designed for particularly quadcopter use. HobbyKing or Turnigy products would also be good choice.
- HobbyKing 20A BlueSeries Brushless Speed Controller
- HobbyKing 25A Red Brick
- Turnigy Multistar 30 Amp Multi-rotor Brushless ESC 2-4S
- Turnigy Multistar 20 Amp Multi-rotor Brushless ESC 2-4S
- Afro 30 Amp Multi-rotor Motor Speed Controller
- Afro 20 Amp Multi-rotor Motor Speed Controller
- Turnigy Plush 25A
- Turnigy Plush 30 Amp
Power Breakout Cable or Power Distribution Board
Each of the four motor-propeller sets is connected to one of the ESCs. Your whole power distribution system will be neatly connected by just one battery pack. Use either a cable or a circuit board to get this four-to-one connection.
- HXT 4mm to 4×3.5mm bullet Multistar ESC Power Breakout Cable
- HobbyKing Quadcopter Power Distribution Board
The whole aircraft is powered by the battery. Depending on the motor size, weight of the machine and the flight time you want; you should choose the size and type of your battery.
You can find a suitable one from the list below;
- Turnigy nano-tech 3S 3300mAh 25~50C
- Turnigy 2200mAh 3S 20C Lipo Pack
- ZIPPY Flightmax 1800mAh 3-cell 20C
- ZIPPY Compact 4000mAh 3S 25C LiPo
Battery Charger is the next thing you must have to get as you need to charge your lithium polymer batteries for many times. The charger that can balance the charging among the cells is preferred for the battery pack you use in your quadcopter. So, get the perfect one among many chargers available in front of you.
- Turnigy 2-3S Balance (Battery) Charger
- Turnigy Accucel-6 50W 6A Balancer Battery Charger
Radio Transmitter and Receiver
Many many transmitters (Tx) and receivers (Rx) are available in the market of the drone world. If you choose the one with four channels at least (for speed, yaw, pitch, and roll), you’ll do fine. Mode 2 is probably preferable where the left control stick manages the throttle and the right one takes the elevation. On the other hand, these are reversed in a Mode 1 transmitter. But if you get the one with more channels, more options will be there in front of you for the future.
- HobbyKing 2.4Ghz 4Ch Transmitter and Receiver V2 (Mode 2)
- Turnigy 9X 9Ch Transmitter with Module & 8Ch Receiver (Mode 2)
- OrangeRx R610 Spektrum DSM2 6Ch Receiver
- OrangeRx T-SIX 2.4Ghz DSM2 6Ch Transmitter (Mode 2)
Low Voltage Alarm
Once your LiPo battery loses its charge completely, you won’t be able to recharge it. For that reason when the charge is getting low, you will want to be alerted. That is what the Low Voltage Alarm system does. It will tell you when you should stop flying your quadcopter and bring it to recharge. And of course never use the battery for so long that it becomes empty.
- HobbyKing Lipoly Low Voltage Alarm (2s~4s)
This is the only item that can be considered as optional. You can do you ESCs programming manually but a Programming Card will make it much easier. Within an ESC you can set the variables as follows:
- Chemistry of Battery: Lipoly, Nimh, and Life
- Type of LVC Cut-Off: Hard cut / Power reduction
- LVC Voltage (for each cell): Lipo 2.8-3.2, Nimh 0.6-0.9 and Life 2.2-2.8
- Brake options: Off, Medium, Hard
- Soft Start options: Slow, Medium, Fast
- Timing: Low, Medium, High, Auto
- Turnigy Multistar ESC Programming Card
- Turnigy BESC Programming Card
How to Assemble Quadcopter Parts?
Quadcopter involves so many parts. So, it can be a tricky thing while building it yourself for the first time. How you’ll assemble all the parts depends on which individual parts you are selecting. At this stage of my article, I’ll give you a general explanation that can help you most of the time.
Step-1: Frame Configuration:
At first, you should start with the frame where everything will be attached. if your frame comes in pieces you will need to put them together. Four arms will be exposed outward from the center where probably the two base plates will go. Assemble and attach each of them to the base plates according to instruction (if provided any). Then apply a little Gorilla glue or Loctite to the nuts and bolts.
The remaining steps, most of them, depending on your frame configuration. The basic configuration process is as follows:
Battery – Flight Controller Board (FCB) – Power Distribution Cable / Board – Electronic Speed Controls (ESC) – Motor/Prop
Step-2: Attach The Receiver To The Control Board:
Now attach the receiver and the Flight Controller Board together using the following configuration with male-to-male servo connectors. Make sure the signal wire in each set, on the board, is faced inward.
Front Left – M1
Front Right – M2
Back Right – M3
Back Left – M4
Step-3: ESC Calibration:
You may need to solder the ESCs to the connectors. If the ESCs are stretched out along the arms, here the use of zip ties to secure them.
If You Have A Programming Card:
Just plug in the battery and use the programming card to calibrate each ESC as per following specifications:
- Brake = OFF
- Type of Battery = Li-xx
- Cut Off Voltage = Low
- Cut Off Type = Soft-Cut
- Timing Mode = High
- Start Mode = Normal
- Governor Mode = OFF
- Music/LiPo Cells = (none)
If You Don’t Have A Programming Card:
Without a programming card you’ll have to manually calibrate each ESC following the steps:
- Disconnect the battery, for safety, and remove the propellers.
- Figure out the channel that is the throttle on the receiver. They are marked on the board.
- Remove the control cables from your receiver.
- Now remove one of the ESC cables from your control board. Then plug it into the receiver’s throttle channel.
- Remove the stand-alone Battery Eliminating Circuit (BEC) from the control board, if you have it, and plug it also into the receiver. Other than the throttle, use any spare channel.
- Turn on the transmitter and let the throttle stick move to 100%.
- Connect the battery; you’ll see a receiver light turns on.
- As the battery is connected, a long beep following a short tone will be heard instantly from the ESC.
- Return the transmitter’s throttle stick to zero.
- A confirmation beep should come from the ESC and then again the startup tone.
- Your ESC is now calibrated.
Now unplug the battery. Connect again the ESC’s control wire and the control board together. For each ESC you’ll need to repeat the steps 4-10 mentioned above. Reconnect the BEC and control wires of the receiver into the control board.
Step-4: Other Attachments:
Attach your Power Distribution Boards and Flight Controller to the base plates at the center. Orient the Flight Controller in such a way so that the buttons of it are at the quadcopter’s rear.
Strap your battery to the bottom with the dedicated strap. You can also use regular Velcro if it doesn’t come with the kit. Connect the plug-in low voltage alarm to the balance lead.
In this step, you’ll place the motors at the ends of the arms and give connection. Use the provided hardware to add your props there.
If you have a KK Boards:
If you use KK2.0 (or later) board, connect the piezo buzzer (you should have) in the designated place. The board is now usable for receiver testing, motor layout loading, sensor calibration and also switching mode from safe to armed mode.
- Set auto leveling, your quadcopter will be easier to control.
- Charge the battery fully.
- You are ready to fly!
Tips for Quadcopter Construction:
- If this is your first effort, start building your own quadcopter for beginners.
- Build something that is simple and easy to make.
- Try something with a ready to fly type quadcopter or an all-inclusive kit.
- As a starter, you should go for inexpensive, safe and sturdy parts.
- Buy extra pieces of your items, especially the propellers, more than you need.
- Those with good DIY capabilities can try Almost Ready To Fly quads.
- Do not initially try to build multi-copters with photo, video or First Person View features. It is important to build just a good copter.
- A small and agile quadcopter will always give lot more fun to build and fly than a big one. So, choose wisely.
- It will take time, keep patience. Don’t be depressed if it fails for few times initially.
- Last but not least keep confidence in yourself. Nothing is impossible.
Factors to Be Considered Before Purchase:
Before you purchase the necessary parts, you should think about some important factors.
Decide what to build
Before purchasing even a single part of your quadcopter must come to a decision about what you want it actually to do. Because you can include or exclude the parts of a drone depending on the purpose it is going to be built. So think very well that if you want to make it only for fun-fly or for aerial photography or both. Then purchase necessary items accordingly.
Buy the Right Materials:
Your first and main concern should be the weight of the quadcopter when you begin to build it. Your drone should be built with sturdy materials with minimum weight so that it can be durable. At the same time, it has also to be a lightweight device so that it can fly easily. That is why it is essential to consider the types of materials.
Sometimes the frame itself is responsible for weight elevation or reduction. Besides, motors can rip apart the materials. You cannot go and grab any material for the construction as it also depends on how powerful your motors are.
Use a Suitable Construction Method:
If you want a lightweight vehicle, go for the box method. As an additional benefit, you can run the wires back into the pipe allowing less exposed wires to avoid any wrong condition.
Select the Perfect Motors and Propellers:
Next, you will need to decide which kind of motor and prop system you want to use. You must not want too big props that consume too much energy to spin, but not also too small where you won’t get proper thrust and a higher setting is required to run them. So, this job may be a bit critical, find out the perfect items carefully that exactly match to your needs.
Look For an ESC Depending On the Motor Power:
Depending on how much current the motors consume, you need an Electronic Speed Controls (ESCs). Then you can control it from your remote controlled transmitter after connecting it to the battery and motor.
Buy Perfect LiPo Batteries to Get Long Flight Time and Build PDB Accordingly:
Nowadays the aircrafts are powered by LiPo batteries that come in various sizes. Depending on the size you use for your batteries, they can last from 10-30 minutes. For example, a 5000mAh 11.1 volt 3 cell battery can give you about a 30 minutes flight time.
You will have to make a Power Distribution Board (PDB) for the motors to power all the parts. The PDB allows one battery to instantly power all the 4 motors.
Your Transmitter and Receiver Should Be Suitable for Your Purpose
Select your transmitter and receiver according to your needs. You need at least 4 channels for any multi-rotor copter. These four are for throttle, yaw, pitch, and roll and all other basic commands. You will have to choose 5 channels or more if you want to control LED lights or add autonomous functionality on your quad.
Use the Quad’s Micro-Processing Board That Suits Your Needs
The micro-processing board is the brain of a quadcopter. It controls all the functions of the quad from moving towards every direction to staying stable when hovers. There are many options of choice that you can make for the board but you should use the one that matches to your demands.
Congratulation!! You are now able to build your own quadcopter at home. You are very much welcome to mix and match the parts as your choice to bring varieties on your machine’ outlook. Hopefully, my article contains enough information to serve you well. Here I have tried you to provide a complete guide on How to Build Your Own Quadcopter.
Wish you’ll feel how it tastes to fly a self-made quadcopter very soon. Go, try and build your one today and surprise your friends. I promise you it’s going to be the newest and the happiest moment in your life. It’ll surely make your day in a totally different way that you have never experienced before.