How to build quadcopter

How to build a quadcopter – Part I

Back in 2012 I read an article about the so called “Drones” and I was very excited about the idea of building my own drone. I will share my experience and show you how to build a quadcopter. In Part I you will find which parts you need for building it. I will update this article regularly with the newest coming parts, because the parts I bought in 2012 are mostly outdated.

Basic components for a quadcopter:

  • Frame
  • Flight controller
  • 4 x Motors
  • 4 x ESCs
  • 4 x Propellers
  • Battery
  • Transmitter and Receiver

SG Adventure v4

The frame is a very essential part of a quadcopter. Many beginners underestimate its importance. A bad frame will cause vibrations and vibrations are the biggest problem for multicopters. My personal advise is to avoid plastic frames. I used a X525 glass fiber frame for my first quadcopter, but now I prefer carbon fiber frames because of the light weight and durability. I can absolutely recommend using a smaller frame, like the 250mm and 350mm class. It is just easier to fly.

Pixhawk

The flight controller is the brain of every multicopter. There are many different flight controllers on the market and there is no “the best flight controller”. Some have more sensors, like barometer and compass, and can use GPS for autonomous flights. Others are made for the best possible flight experience, like KK2.1 or Naze32. To choose the best one for your needs first clarify what are going to do with your quadcopter.

T-Motor MN2206

You will also need four electric brushless motors. On my first quadcopter I used  “D2830 1000kv” motors from Turnigy. These were fine for the X525 frame, but are be too big for 250mm class frame. You choose the right motor according to your frame size and expected total weight of the quadcopter.

T-Motor Air 10A

After you choose the motor, check its manual or datasheet. You will find the current in Amps (A) according to the propeller and battery combination. By knowing this you can pick the right ESCs (Electronic Speed Controller). For example: the MN2206 2000kv T-Motor draw a maximum of 8 (A) with 6×2 propeller on 3S battery (11.1V). The ESCs should be rated for at least 10 (A). For achieving best flight performance the ESCs need to have a special multicopter firmware installed. You can check my tutorial how to flash yours or buy ESCs with stock flashed firmware.

For a quadcopter you need two clockwise (CW) and two counter clockwise (CCW) propellers. The propeller size is typically in inches. Pick the right size according to your frame and motor size. I build my first quadcopter with 10” propellers. On most 250mm class frames you can use max 6” propellers. It is a good decision to buy some more propellers for replacement.

On multicopters we use Lithium Polymer batteries (LiPo). The weight of the battery is a significant % of the total weight. Too big or too small battery will dramatically reduce your flight time. I do not recommend using LiPo’s with voltage over 11.V (3S) for a beginner. 4S and 6S voltage batteries are for advanced pilots. For example: a typical 250mm quadcopter will be fine with a 3S 1300mAh battery. And if you are building a 350mm quadcopter, go for 3S 2200mAh.

To control your drone you will need transmitter and receiver. You will be ok with a simple 4 Channel (4CH) radio, but is much better to have at least 6 channels. I bough myself a Turnigy 9x a.k.a. FlySky. It has 8 channels, can be upgraded and flashed with better firmware. It is a great value for its price and I still use it. If you need more range and functionality for an reasonable price, take the FrSky Taranis.

Read how to connect everything in Part II. If you have any kind of questions or want to give me a feedback, please do not hesitate to leave a comment

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9 Comments

  1. Rahul

    Hi Sergey,
    I wish to build a drone with autolevel,altitude hold and a camera . Will you please help me to listout the necessary components and their ratings like a good FC ,TX & RX , motors etc.

    • Sergey

      Hey Rahul, for a camera drone with altitude hold and gps functionality you will need more advanced flight controller like the Pixhawk or DJI Naza. There are several versions of the Pixhawk because it is opensource project. You can get a “clone” for about 60$ or for example the Pixracer from Arsov. For more info about the Pixhawk controller check this article: http://dronehitech.com/pixhawk-clone-hkpilot32-review/ If you are going to carry a camera, like GoPro for a steady video you also need a Gimbal. I have only used the one from Tarot, but there are cheaper ones. TX and Rx: I have ever used an upgraded Turnigy 9x radio, which is now 4 years old and still works fine. Taranis is the best for its price. Motors and ESC: it very much depends how big the drone will be and if you are going to carry a small GoPro camera or something bigger. 30A BLheli ESC will be most probably ok. What kind of camera do you want to have on board? Best wishes, Sergey

      • Rahul

        I guess i have to rethink about the camera. I dont need a very big quad, 210 mm frame will be enough.
        Will you please suggest a good and cheap FC

        • Sergey

          Well, 210mm is mini size quad and you can not go for a bigger camera than a GoPro, Xiaomi Yi or similar. You can also not use gimbal on such small quad. The Pixhawk is the cheapest FC, than can do good GPS-hold and auto missions. If you only need altitude hold you can go for a Cleanflight based controller, like the Naze32, but get the version with barometer for that. Best motors for that frame will be 2204, 2205 or 2206 type. Maybe best with 2300kv. I have tested a lot of these, so you can find info here on the blog. Same for ESC: LittleBee, Flycolor, DYS XM30 or XRotor 20A. Best, Sergey

          • Rahul

            hi Sergey,
            Will you please suggest me a cheap and good FC ? I need a better stable quadcopter.

          • Sergey

            Hey Rahul, I answered that question in my last reply. The best one for stable and autonomous flight are the NAZA and Pixhawk. If you want something cheaper than the Pixhawk (about 60$ for a clone), you can take the Naze32 board with a barometer (around 20$) and install Cleanflight firmware on it. Hope my answer helps you. Best, Sergey

  2. shine

    Hi! I’m a beginner build quadcopter, I use arduino uno R3 and MPU GY-521. I use multiwi 2.4 to upload to arduino board, before I upload its code, I have edit as the instruction of multiwi. After that I run the TX devo7 with multiwiconfig. I saw that Throttle, rudder,aileron, elevator all fine on multiwiconfig test, but when i want to fly, I on the Tx and put the battery on quad that sound beep-beep-beep…. it shows that all motor already to spin, and i set the”arm”, stick the throttle down-right side and elevator down at the same time. I try to stick the throttle up slowly, the 4 motors no spin. Could you explain me how to solve it, sir!

    • Sergey

      Is the quad level? Have you tried with a bit more throttle? Check for some safety options, that do not allow to arm. Best, Sergey

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