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DIY Quadcopter From Scratch - All

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Flying is something that has been part of man's wish forever. We have wanted to take to the
sky ever since we first saw a bird fly and with the advent of technology we can travel by air
across the world. However a personal flight experience is something unique and the closes
we have come to a personal flying vehicle is an RC aircraft.
RC hobby has taken the world by storm and with electronics getting cheaper, getting into the
hobby is easier than ever. A quadcopter is something that can take flight, hold it's position in
air and you have do a lot with one. However the bigger they become, the more expensive it
gets and in this tutorial I highlight the step I took to create my own quadcopter.
I made the frame from scrap wood, got the motors, props, RC transmitter/receiver and
flightcontroller from ebay and put everything together at my convenience. This is my first
quad and prolly not my last and I hope you can get something out of my experience.

Step 1: Making the Frame

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The first thing to do is make the frame. In my case I started with scrap wood board which was
24mm thick. First we cut up two lengths which are 30mm thick and 2 feet long. From one of
the two lengths, we cut off a 30mm length from a 2feet arm so that we may form the required
structure.
Using the three pieces we form the X and to hold it in place, I used a rectangular piece of
wooden sheet (2mmthick) 60mm x 150mm with nails and glue. Let the glue dry for a few
hours depending on the type of glue.

Step 2: Getting the motors and Props

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Depending upon the size of the quad, we need motors, props and Electronic Speed
Controllers. In my case, I have used EMAX MT2213 935kv Motors and 10inch props from
ebay. For the speed control, I bought the EMAX 4in1 esc which has 4 ESCs in one.

Step 3: Mounting the motors

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Depending on what kind of motors you purchased, this step will vary a bit. I used a vernier
calliper to measure the distance between the mounting screw holes on the motors and drilled
holes accordingly.
I also drilled a hole to allow the shaft and clip of the motor to move freely. This is applicable
for these kind of motors and if your motors came with mountings then you may skip this part.
Finally I used appropriate screws to secure the motors in place.

Step 4: Mounting the ESC

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Once the motors are mounted, I connected the ESC on the bottom side and I used zip ties to
fix everything. I will be hanging the battery under the quad as well but the ESC is tied down
and secured.

Step 5: The Landing Gear

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For the landing gear, I cut 20mm thick pieces of 6inch diameter pipe. I have four pieces that
are essentially rings and used duct tape to fix them there. They are not only cheap but also
help in absorbing the shock when the quadcopter lands.

Step 6: Choosing a Flight Controller


In order to control the quadcopter and make the whole thing stable in air, we need to have an
electronic system that can take care of everything. This computer is called the flight
controller and we need to either make one or buy one. There are a number of open source
flight controller projects out there and the more popular names are as follows.
1. ArduPilot I have followed this project for some number of years and it started as a shield
for an arduino which was called an oil pan and later was upgraded to bigger hardware and is
currently one of the most expensive hardware for RC airframes. The GUI is great and the
performance is great as well. It has automated flight modes etc but to a beginner its just too
much.
2. DJI NAZA I have read good things about this one and the full featured version is called the
DJI NAZA M V2 which is a costlier than the Ardupilot, is closed source but is the absolute
best at what it does. Bucket load of features for a bucket load of money. There is also a DJI
Naza Lite which is much cheaper but again closed source.

3. OpenPilot CC3D The best open source hardware I have read about is the CC3D which is
based on an STM32 based chip and has the MPU6000 and 6 channels. Its open source and
you can install your own firmware on this one like base flight and clean flight(more on this
later). It was originally a kickstarter project but is now available from a number of sources. I
recently bought one of these and I have to say its the EASIEST to setup as the software has a
wizard to guide you through all the steps the first time around. You can mess with the
advanced controls later.
4. NAZE32 The NAZE32 is the next best thing to the CC3D and is a bit more flexible BUT
its a bit more difficult to setup as opposed to the CC3D. Its used by advanced fliers who have
control over the controls and want their quads to do more tricks.
5. KK2.1 This is one of the first boards you will find online when you search for quadcopter
controllers. It has an LCD which allows you to set it up without a PC and is based on the
AVR controllers. It used the MPU6050 as a sensor and you may write your own firmware for
it but you will need a AVR ISP programmer since it does not have one on board. Its cheap but
requires manual tuning and is better for the more advanced flier.
6. KKMulticontroller Yes! its different well almost. Its based on the Atmel AVR (168p) as
well but I think the support for this one has been discontinued. Their website kkmulicopter
com is gone and I think the makers have moved to making 32bit flightcontrollers or
something. Its a bit outdated and used Murata Gyros only for measuring the orientation. No
sensor fusion and the gyros themselves are analog and you have trims to set the offsets. Pretty
neat but highly outdated.
I chose the OpenPilot CC3D due to it's simple configuration.

Step 7: Choosing a RC tx rx
In order to control the quadcopter in the air without wires, we need a wireless remote control
system. There are number of option from Futaba, Spektrum etc which are very expensive and
some other like Turnigy and FlySky that are cheaper.
The number of channels on the remote means the amount of control signals that you
individually send to the aircraft. We need at least 4 channels for

Throttle

Yaw

Pitch

Roll

In addition to these we may need channels for any camera control later. Hence I chose the
flysky 6 channel which is cheap but not recommended for long range flying. Pick one
according to your budget

Step 8: Mounting the Flight Controller

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Before we calibrate the quadcopter, we need to fix everything. I mounted the flight controller
on the top with the heading arrow in the X direction. It was fixed using zip ties the same as
the ESC on the bottom. One major difference is the addition of a piece of sponge under the
Flight Controller. This allows to absorb vibrations from the motors.

Step 9: Connecting the OpenPilot


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We need to connect and configure the Flight controller to our ESC as well as to the Remote
control. I have not been able to upload a video of my own due to bandwidth restriction at my
end so I found a tutorial video which is quite good and to the point.
Additionally, there is a video on how to configure the Flysky remote and if you have a
different remote, you will need to make the necessary changes accordingly.

Step 10: Testing Everything


Before we take flight, we need to verify using the OpenPilot GCS that everything is working
right. GCS has a display to test the sensors etc. Take off the propellors and test with your
remote to verify that everything works well.
I also tested the range by placing the quad at a location and moving away to a significant
distance. The props make enough noise when ON to let you know that they are working well.

Step 11: Finally: Taking Flight


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The quad is a dangerous machine and cause serious damage if not careful. Connect the
battery and place the quad on the ground in an open place. From a safe distance, arm the
flight controller and slowly throttle up. If you feel its trying to drift in a direction, use the
trims to make the necessary correction. Once its stable, experiment and learn how the quad
responds to the various inputs. You can tweak the various PID values till you get the desired
response from the quad.
Congratulations you just built your own quadcopter from scratch! Be safe!

Videos Embedded
https://www.youtube.com/embed/OKMOifCn_xA
https://www.youtube.com/embed/WnfpbAtgXJQ
https://www.youtube.com/embed/NockBffdKG8