Build a quadcopter

I’ve decided to build a Quadcopter!

I blame the weather.  It’s time for me to build a quadcopter.  Recently a friend has been talking about picking up a basic quadcopter and learning how to fly.  Naturally with both of us having an interest in these things it stirred my desire to drop expensive electronics from a height as well.

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I’ve done a little bit of reading about them over the years, but had resisted until todays overcast weather and a “Raining Cats and Drones Sale” ad came up on the laptop.  Yes it was off to HobbyKing.com to see what bargains were on offer.

The Rough Plan

  1. Build a “legal” to fly quadcopter
  2. Fly quadcopter
  3. Record video from flights
  4. Add GPS/auto-pilot (mission) capability
  5. Add FPV capability
  6. Not spend more than AUD500 by the time this is done (otherwise I should just buy a complete Ready-to-Fly one).

Through the process I’ll try to keep to this plan, track my costs and see how things go!

1. Build a Quadcopter

This sounds pretty easy, but there are two considerations.  It has to be “legal” for me to fly in Australia (sub 2kg flying weight) and low-cost.  Ideally I’d like to have an initial completed weight of around 1kg.

Weight – Google helped me understand that it’s pretty easy to build a 250mm drone that will be below my weight criteria – however as most of the parts are sold with set weights I’ll include a tally.

Low-cost – The Hobbyking.com sale helped in that regard as the parts I’ve ordered were significantly discounted.

So lets get down to todays shopping list on my mission to build a quadcopter.

Step 1: Order Parts

  • HobbyKing FPV250L Long Frame
    Price Paid (RRP): AUD7.66 (AUD27.39)
    Weight: 160g
    I really like the look of the all carbon fibre 250mm chassis kits but this kit combines carbon decks with a fibre-reinforced-plastic base.  I’ve chosen the “Long” version because the additional space may help with my future expansion plans.  Reviews indicate it’s durable but we shall see.  Can’t argue with the low price!
  • Emax Quad MT2204 Brushless Motor Set with ESC
    Price Paid (RRP): AUD54.28 (AUD130)
    Weight: 25g (per motor) 7g (per ESC)

    Motor Specs:
    Motor: MT2204
    KV: 2300
    Max Thrust: 440g
    Weight:25g
    
    ESC Specs:
    ESC: Micro 20A (BLHeli with Oneshot125 support) 
    Burst:30A
    Weight: 7g
    
    4 x Carbon Fiber Propellers (6x4.5) (2 x CW, 2 x CCW)

    I opted for a matched set with propellors and ESCs rated for 20A instead of the marginally cheaper/lighter offering.  Hopefully this pays off in terms of improved durability or longevity.  The low price and fact that these are sold as a complete set should mean that it all should just pull-in and go!

  • HobbyKing™ KK-Mini Multi-Rotor Flight Control Board
    Price Paid (RRP):  AUD7.07 (AUD27.39)
    Weight: 8.6g

    Specs:
    Size: 36x36x11.5mm (mounting holes 30.5x30.5mm)
    Weight: 8.6g
    IC: Atmega644 PA
    Gyro/Acc: 6050MPU InvenSense Inc.
    Auto-level: Yes
    Input Voltage: 4.8-6.0V
    AVR interface: standard 6 pin.
    Signal from Receiver: 1520us (5 channels)
    Signal to ESC: 1520us
    LCD size: 24*18mm
    Mini buttons size:Four 3.3*4.2mm
    Voltage sensor: One red positive pin header for.
    Input rail: Single row 2.54mm pitch pin header for input signal
    
    

    I have to be honest I know nothing about these units, so when the web page suggested this was beginner friendly I jumped at it!  I suspect the basic feature set will not be ideal for anything beyond controlling flight, but it’s where I need to start!
    KK Mini Flight Control

  • ZIPPY Compact 1500mAh 3S 25C Lipo Pack
    Price Paid (RRP): AUD10.95 (AUD13.81)
    Weight: 143g

    Spec:
    Capacity: 1500mAh
    Voltage: 3S1P / 3 Cell / 11.1V
    Discharge: 25C Constant / 35C Burst
    Weight: 143g (including wire & plug)
    Dimensions: 106x34x21mm
    Balance Plug: JST-XH
    Discharge Plug: XT60

    I’m going to confess that I grabbed this on the spur of the moment.  There’s a heap of parts I still need (large and small) but I also know that working out mounting the larger/heavier items is also important.  My trusty old Duratrax Intellipeak Ice will have to come out of retirement for this!

Step 2:  What have I forgotten?

This part is actually pretty easy.  I know I’ve got no mounting hardware for the various parts – nor do I have radio gear – but I do have enough parts coming to build a quadcopter.  In all honesty without the latter I’m not flying anywhere, but I also want to buy smartly, which means something that will support all of my “wishlist” of objectives.

The Cost & Weight Tally:

Total Cost (RRP):  AUD79.96 (AUD198.59)
Estimated Flying Weight:  440g (plus propellors, receiver, camera etc)

What next?

I suspect the next post in this “build a quadcopter” journey will be the arrival of the above parts and some postulation about radio equipment.

At the moment I’m leaning towards being really cheap and spending under $100 on the radio gear so I can be flying sooner.

Published by

Aaron

Geek, Car Guy, Former entrepreneur looking for the next big thing while doing the things I should have done 20 years ago.
Key pusher and thinker for a large organisation who dreams to be doing something else.

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