5 months ago


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EXPERT TECH TEXT & PHOTOS BY JIM RYAN Budget DIY BUILDING YOUR OWN QUADCOPTER IS EASIER THAN YOU THINK These days, there are so many outstanding ready-to-fly multirotors on the market that it’s easy to forget these aircraft started out as the quintessential do-it-yourself project. The beauty of multirotor aircraft is that they are mechanically simple, and you have tons of options for hardware. With the growing popularity of first-person-view (FPV) racing and 3D aerobatic quads, there’s been a resurgence of interest in building, and it’s easier than you think. So follow along while we build a quad. Building your own quadcopter is a fun project and allows you to mix and match hardware. The do-it-yourself approach is particularly suited to projects like this 250-class FPV racer. (Flight photo by Daren Murrer) Overview Really, the only challenge of building your own quadcopter is deciding on your hardware. The choices seem endless! In general, you need to select your frame, motors, speed controls, props, and batteries, and you need to decide on a stabilization unit for control. There are dozens of online suppliers for builders, along with discussion boards where builders can share information. HobbyKing is a good supplier for these projects because it carries such a wide variety of components, and it offers helpful recommendations for motors and controllers to go with any given frame. For my latest project, I decided to build a 250-class quadcopter with FPV capability. I chose HobbyKing’s Color 250 H-frame, which is inexpensive, molded from glass-filled nylon, and available in a variety of colors for better visibility. I next chose a four-pack of Multistar Elite 2204 2300Kv motors. I like these, in part, because the included prop adapters have both righthanded and left-handed threads—an important feature to prevent prop nuts unscrewing on clockwise-rotating motors. For speed controls, I settled on HobbyKing’s affordable Afro 20-amp controllers. Finally, for flight stabilization, I chose a CC3D unit from With all my parts collected, it was time to clear off the bench and start building. Step 1: To prepare for your build, you need to select your frame, motors, speed controls, and stabilization unit. I selected HobbyKing’s Color 250 frame, Multistar 2204 motors, and Afro 20-amp speed controls. The flight controller is the popular CC3D unit from the OpenPilot project. 40

Step 2: The prop adapters are mounted on the motors with countersunk screws. Be careful to use thread-lock, like Loctite 242, on all metal-to-metal fasteners. I put a drop of Loctite on a scrap of plastic bag so that I can dip the very tip of each screw. You only need a tiny amount, but this is important for all multirotor aircraft. Step 5: The CC3D flight controller from packs a ton of features into an amazingly affordable package. While it includes a wiring harness for connecting a conventional receiver, I chose to wire a single Spektrum satellite receiver. Note that the Spektrum satellite taps power from the 3.3V filtered output at the upper right corner of the CC3D instead of the 5V lead on the Flexi-Port. Step 3: With its molded construction, the Color 250 frame is a faster assembly than a carbon-fiber frame would be. The standoffs for the top plate are secured to the bottom with M3 screws. Again, be sure to use thread-lock on all metal-to-metal screw threads. Step 6: While lots of builders like to bundle the excess speed control wire with zip-ties, I prefer to trim the leads to length and crimp on new connectors from Hansen Hobbies ( Because the PDB has a built-in voltage regulator to power the flight controller, I crimped connectors only on the ground and signal wires to disable the battery eliminator circuit on the speed controls. Step 4: The heart of a quadcopter is the power distribution board (PDB). This circuit board makes wiring the speed controls much simpler. Simply pre-tin the solder pads on the PDB and the input leads on the speed controls and then solder them together. Note that on this 250 racer, I’ve opted to install the speed controls inside the frame rather than mounting them on the arms. This is a personal choice. Step 7: The motor leads are attached to the frame arms with zip-ties. This is important to ensure that the leads don’t get into the props, and it makes the finished quad look better. It’s not necessary for the ties to be supertight. I hide the end of each tie underneath the arm. Gear & Gadgets 41

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