How to build your quadcopter from scratch Tutorials
This is a part of the Tutorials of showing you how to build your own quadcopter from scratch. This is especially useful to beginners. There will be 2 parts in this DIY drone series.
In Part 1 I will cover my requirements and the parts list and I will go through the detailed steps I went through to build this quadcopter.
In Part 2, I will set up the transmitter, ESCs and KK2.0 board so I can make a maiden flight. I will show you how to tune the quadcopter’s PI settings to optimize its flying performance.
I might also in the future cover how I attached a camera to the quadcopter to take video from the air (Aerial photography, video and FPV guidance).
Quadcopter Building Goals
I wanted the budget to be near $200 for everything needed to fly. That includes all the basic elements: Frame, ESCs, Flight Controller, Motors, Props, Battery and Radio. I have not include the charger because many people might have one already and the prices of a charger varies.
As for the frame, I aim at something rigid and strong, but not too heavy. I wanted to stay away from the inexpensive F450 type frame because they are easy to break and they are a little too soft making them harder to tune. Also, it would be useful there is room under the frame to attach a lightweight camera like a GoPro which can be kept out of view of the props.
Many people found solder messy, so I will try to provide a “plug and play” solution. Unfortunately, ESCs with bullet connectors already soldered on can be hard to come by, so I included another ESC option that requires soldering on bullet connectors.
Easy to Tune
The quadcopter should be easy to be configured and turned. I chose a flight controller and ESCs that are easy to setup. This meant no ground control systems and no complex code to change and flash.
The Quadcopter Parts Shopping List
Turnigy H.A.L. (Heavy Aerial Lift) Quadcopter Frame 585mm 1x = $35
Even though this is heavy, but it’s easy to fly, low cost and rigid. Also, it has a nice landing gear and protective cover for the electronics. It is very stable and fun to fly around, but it is not a super lightweight frame designed to do acrobatic flying.
There is plenty of room under the frame where a camera’s view isn’t obscured by the props, it should support a small GoPro camera directly attached for very basic amateur aerial photography.
To do more serious heavy lifting would involve spending more money on bigger low kv motors, bigger stronger props, more sophisticated flight controllers and radios. Of course, it could be upgraded.
Professional aerial photographers use very expensive hexacopters or octocopters equipped with the very best parts to protect their investment in expensive camera equipment and get the very best quality video.
KK2.0 Multi-rotor LCD Flight Control Board 1x = $30
Though it is a little more advanced and not required, a USBasp AVR can be used to easily load newer versions of the KK2.0 firmware using the LazyZero KKMulticopter Flashtool. The later versions of the firmware have much better self-leveling capability, so I always upgrade my firmware. Here are the pins to connect the USBasp to the KK2.0.
Motors & Props
D2830-11 1000kv Brushless Motor 4x = $40
Slow Fly Electric Prop 9047R SF (4 pc Right Hand Rotation) 1x = $3
Slow Fly Electric Prop 9047SF (4 pc) 1x = $3
No Soldering – but usually out of stock
Note: The OPTO ESCs don’t have a BEC (battery eliminator circuit) to provide power to the KK2.0 flight controller. At least one standard Multistar with a BEC is required to power the KK2.0 board. Ordering the 3 OPTOs withtout BECs lowers the cost a little.
Turnigy Multistar 30 Amp Multi-rotor Brushless ESC 2-4S 1x = $12
Turnigy Multistar 30 Amp Multi-rotor Brushless ESC 2-4S (OPTO) 3x = $30
Turnigy Multistar ESC Programming Card Optional 1x = $4
Must be Soldered – but usually in stock
TURNIGY Plush 30amp Speed Controller 4x = $46
PolyMax 3.5mm Gold Connectors 10 PAIRS (20PC) 2x = $3
TURNIGY BESC Programming Card Optional 1x = $7
Battery & Power System
ZIPPY Compact 4000mAh 3S 25C Lipo Pack 1x = $22
HXT 4mm to 4 X 3.5mm bullet Multistar ESC Power Breakout Cable 1x = $3
Turnigy Battery Strap 330mm 1x = $2
Hobby King 2.4Ghz 4Ch Tx & Rx V2 (Mode 2) 1x = $23
10CM Male to Male Servo Lead (JR) 26AWG (10pcs/set) 1x = $5
Those are the parts that I have now received and assembled. The total cost is just over $200. Of course, there is shipping on top of that of around $50 from China.
The quadcopter frame I chose came with a diagram showing how all the individual parts fit together. I should have assembled the landing gear and attached it to the bottom center plate of the frame first, then assembled the arms and center plates. Unfortunately, I did the arms and plates first and had to take them apart to get the landing gear attached. Also, I wanted my quad to fly in and X configuration, so I had to make sure I screwed the landing gear to the center plates correctly for that setup.
Finally, I attached the motor mounts upside down from how they are shown in the diagram. It made more sense for the countersunk holes to be on the bottom so the motor screws would be flush against the mount.
Securing the Power Harness
I threaded the power harness between the two center plates. I left the 4mm HXT protruding through the bottom center plate where my battery can easily connect to it when attached. I ran the 3.5mm bullet connectors through the top center plate to enable connecting my ESCs and secured them with zip ties.
You can see in the picture above how the battery connects to the power harness when strapped on to the bottom center plate.
Attaching the Motors
As I mentioned above, I reversed the motor mounts so the countersunk screw holes would be on the underside of the arms. I aligned the 16mm and 19mm holes in the Turnigy D2830-11 motors with the appropriate holes in the motor mount and secured them with the screws that came with the motor. I used a small amount of blue removable loctite on the screws for a more secure hold.
Securing the Props
This X configuration quadcopter requires two clockwise(CW) rotating props and two counter-clockwise(CCW) rotating props.
I attached the props to the motors using the collet type prop adapters that came with the motors as pictured above. I used one of the plastic adapter rings that came with the props to match the size of the collet adapter. The plastic ring fits inside the center of the prop. After placing the prop onto the collet adapter, I tighened it down with the bullet shaped nut.
Before doing any setup or tuning (Part 3), I removed all of the props.
The props sit a bit high on the motor shaft. I was tempted to cut the shafts down, but didn’t. I may do that as a modification at some point.
Attaching the Flight Control Board
I attached the KK2.0 flight controller to the frame using the nylon risers that came with the frame. The programming buttons are on the same side as my battery connection which is the rear of my configuration X quad.
Connecting the ESCs
I attached my ESCs directly to the frame arms using two zip ties with the power wires and BECs running towards the center plates and the motor phase wires towards the motors. I used one zip tie on each side and placed the ESC on top of the frame arm so it can be cooled by the wash of the prop. I placed the labeled side of the ESC down facing arm. The labelled side has a heatsink cooling and protecting the electronics. The electronics on the other side are less protected and might be damaged if tied tightly to the arm.
I connected my ESCs in three different places.
I connected the red and black power wires from each ESC to red and black power wire from my power harness. I connected red to red and black to black to avoid shorting and ruining the ESC.
Motor Phase Wires
The order these wires are connected determines the rotation direction of the motor and prop. Depending on the ESC being used the colors may vary. I initially connected the three motor wires from each ESC to the 3 motor wires in any order. Later, I can switch any two of the three motor wires to reverse the direction of a motor and prop if necessary.
Battery Elimination Circuit(BEC) & Signal Connector
Finally, I connected the BEC power and signal wires to the flight control board. Most flight control board manuals suggest only connecting the BEC power wires from one ESC to the flight control board. A board only needs one power source and multiple power and ground wires can cause problems. The easy fix for this is to just remove and place heatshrink around all but one ESC power and ground wires.
The KK2.0 is unique in that only the first motor connection supplies power to the board. So, it is not a problem if all of the ESCs power and ground wires are connected and I didn’t remove any of the BEC power and ground wires. For each motor, I connected the ESC BEC/Signal connector to its matching flight control board connector.
You can see from the picture above that my ESC BEC/Signal wires are brown, red and orange. Brown is the ground, red is power, and orange is the signal wire. Many other ESC BEC/Signal wires are black, red, and white where black is the ground, red is power and white is the signal wire.
Attaching & Connecting the Receiver
I attached the reciever to the front of top center plate using some double sided foam tape.
I used two male to male servo leads to connect the receiver to the flight controller. The HobbyKing 4 channel TX/RX only uses channels 1-4 on the receiver. The connector labels mean the following:
CH1 = Aileron
CH2 = Elevator
CH3 = Throttle
CH4 = Rudder
Each connector has three pins. One for the signal, one for power and one for a ground. The pins on the inside are the signals, the middle pins are for power and the outer pins are the grounds. The receiver gets its power from the flight control board and only needs one power and ground wire connected. You can see I connected all three pins on the aileron channel with one servo lead to provide power to the receiver. Since the other channels only need to carry a signal, I used another servo connector to connect the signal pins of the elevator, throttle, and rudder.
And There it is
Finally, I placed the cover over arms and center plates. It fits nicely, protecting the flight control board and receiver. I secured it with the included knobs and cotter pins. I also made an easy DIY mount to attach my GoPro housing to this frame that I will cover in Part 4.
Those are the details on the parts I am using and how to put all the quad parts together. The quadcopter is solid and flies well. In Part 2, I will set up the transmitter, ESCs and KK2.0 board so I can make a maiden flight and how I tuned the quadcopter’s PI settings to optimize its flying capabilities.