Quadcopters are great fun to fly, even more so if you build it yourself. In this edition of Build It With Tindie, we’ll be looking at some of the options available for those looking build their own small and lightweight multi-rotor.
For a bare bones and lightweight quad-copter the parts needed will look something like this:
- Lightweight Frame
- Coreless DC Motors
- Flight Controller
- Motor Driver
- LiPo Battery
Quadcopters, as their name implies, use four motors for flight. There are also hexacopters and octacopters and so on but the most common for hobbyist use is a quadcopter. The main types of motors you’ll see used is either a brushless motor or a coreless DC motor.
Coreless DC Motor
Brushless motors provide high acceleration and torque but they weigh more than the coreless DC motors. The coreless motors provide high acceleration but not that much torque, so they are generally used on smaller multi-rotors. If you want to strap a go-pro to your multirotor, go with the brushless motor. If you’re going for a small and lightweight multi-rotor, consider using a coreless DC motor.
KISS flight controller – popular with hobbyists
The flight controller uses an IMU(Inertial Measurement Unit) to determine the current orientation of the multi-rotor, it can then control the orientation by driving each of the four motors. Most flight controllers designed for coreless DC motors have transistors built-in to drive the motors. Brushless motor flight controllers normally require an external ESC (Electronic Speed Controller).
Parts Available From Tindie:
ESP8266 Flight Controller:
This flight controller is jam-packed with features. It uses an ESP8266 to allow for control via a WiFi connection. It’s got an accelerometer, gyroscope, and magnetometer on-board, all being combined to give a very fast reacting and stable IMU. There is a 4MByte flash chip included which allows you to program the device over the air via the ESP8266 and would also come in handy for flight data logging. Power comes from a 1S 3.7V LiPo battery. A 5V boost converter is included to power the ESP8266 or an RC radio in the event you don’t want to use the on-board WiFi chip. N-type MOSFets are included on the board for driving the motors. You can easily tweak the flight control program as the board can be programmed via the Arduino IDE, several example programs are provided with the board for you to experiment with.
The frame needs to be lightweight and stay in one piece when the inevitable crash happens. This 3d printed carbon fiber composite frame sold by Deadbee Labs is durable enough to withstand even the toughest of punishment. It weighs a measly 10 grams which will really help towards keeping our overall weight as low as possible.
Parts From Other Suppliers:
Parts like the motors, propellers, and the battery will need to be sourced elsewhere. These parts are readily available from Chinese wholesale websites at a fraction of the cost compared to most dedicated quad-copter part supply websites. When moving toward a purchase you should weigh your reliability needs against cost savings.
Parts From Your Parts Bin:
Unless you feel like making your own flight controller board, pretty much every part that goes into a multi-rotor is a special purchase just for it. With the exception of a few jumper wires and some fasteners you’ll keep that parts bin stocked for the next project!
Build It With Tindie Score:
Here’s a breakdown of how much of a quadcopter you can build using Tindie:
- Tindie: 50% (frame, flight controller)
- Other Suppliers: 50% (battery, motors, propellers)
- Parts Bin: 0%
Building a quad-copter is at the top of the list of coolest electronics projects a hobbyist can undertake. From aerial photography to racing to freestyle flying, there is a lot of fun things you can do with it. If you really feel up to a challenge, try making it autonomous !
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