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How to build your own Quadrocopter

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A presentation held at SAPO CodeBits 2010 (, describing the operational theory and basics as well as the building blocks of a remote-controlled model quadrocopter. A video of this talk can be found here:

Text of How to build your own Quadrocopter

  • How to build your own Quadrocopter Lenz Grimmer Twitter: @lenzgr SAPO Codebits 2010, Lisbon, Portugal
  • Outline Basics / Operational Theory Building Blocks References/URLs Demo
  • Features A VTOL UAV Simple to build Simple mechanics No servos required Parts Availability / Accessibility
  • Lab/Tech Requirements Soldering station Powerdrill / Dremel Others (Screwdrivers, Saws, Files) Power supply
  • Operational theory Physics Flight Dynamics Movement / Control
  • Physics 2 pairs of counter rotating props Compensate rotary momentum Different RPMs = different thrust
  • Flight Dynamics
  • Movement/Control Regular remote control Behaves like a helicopter Nick / Roll / Yaw Up / Down X, + or Y flight configuration Pilot skills
  • Momentum Compensation
  • Yaw/Rotation
  • Vertical Movement F F Ascending 4F mg F F 4F =mg 4F mg Descending mg
  • Nick/Roll F1 F2
  • Nick/Roll F1 F2
  • Building blocks Frame Motors Propellers Battery Electronics
  • Frame
  • Frame Center plate Arms Battery mount Motor mounts Protective dome Landing gear
  • Propellers
  • Propellers Diameter: 8, 10, 12 inch 2 blades Directly attached to motor 2 each rotating CW and CCW Proper balance reduces vibrations
  • Motors
  • Brushed Motor + -
  • Brushless Motor Phase A Phase C Phase B
  • Motors Brushless Outrunner vs. Inrunner Direct drive (no transmission) 3-phase powered Requires special BL controller Weight (g) / RPMs/V / max. current (A)
  • Brushless Controller
  • Brushless Controller Converts DC power to 3-phase AC signal Drive motor to indicated RPMs Controller speed is essential Receives RPM info from receiver/control unit PWM signal I2C UART (Serial)
  • Battery
  • Battery Lithium Polymer (LiPo) (or Lithium Iron Phosphate, LiFePo4) Lightweight High currents and capacity Handle with care! Voltage / Capacity / Max discharge / Weight
  • Power Distribution / Wiring Motor Motor Motor Motor Sensors RX BLC BLC BLC BLC Central Control Battery
  • Power Distribution
  • Power Distribution Supply the BLCs / Motors Supply the central controller / Sensors Support high currents Main switch or battery plugs Wires or PCB
  • Transmitter / Receiver
  • Transmitter / Receiver Frequencies: 35/40 MHz, 2.4 GHz Minimum: 4 channels Receiver output: PPM (sum signal) or individual channels from receiver (PWM)
  • Sensors
  • Sensors IMU Gyroscopes (Rotation) Accelerometers (Movement) Optional Pressure Sensor (Altitude) Compass/Magnetometer (Attitude) GPS (Location)
  • Central Controller
  • Central Controller Collects sensor data Receives control commands Calculates orientation/location Sends updated motor commands to BLCs Microcontroller (e.g. Arduino, ARM...)
  • Configuration Software
  • Accessories Camera mount Zigbee for telemetry data Video goggles
  • Legal aspects Check local laws for regulations Consider getting an insurance
  • Practical tips Double-check propeller positions and directions Double-check Flight Control orientation Avoid vibration where possible for stable flight Test outside, away from people Don't attach the propellers on the motors until everything is tested!
  • References / URLs Forums RCGroups - DIYDrones - Portuguese Forum - Projects Mikrokopter - UAVP-NG - Arm-O-Kopter - Arducopter - Aeroquad - KK-Multicopter - OpenPilot - Quadrocopter and Tricopter Info Mega Link Index
  • References / URLs Parts HobbyKing - SparkFun - DIYdrones -