One of the most challenging tasks of building your own quadcopter is getting all of the right parts unless you buy a good kit. For my first quad rotor build I bought two kits, an electronics kit and a frame kit.
If you are lucky and do careful research, reading this whole article is a great start, you will get everything you need in one or two orders and will not have to wait for parts in the middle of your build.
There are hundreds of choices when it comes to buying or scratch building a frame. A basic frame will consist of flat plates sandwiched over and under the arms. The plates can be circular, square, rectangular, or any shape really.
Arm materials can be square wooden dowels, square aluminum towel rods, round or square carbon fiber tubing. If you re scratch building your frame square arms are much easier to drill and attach than round arms. I have even seen some builders use PVC tubing and couplings to build their frame.
Your frame layout or style can is something else you may want to consider. Basic setups are a +, x, H or dead cat which is an x in the back and the front arms are spread out wider to allow a camera to be mounted without having the front propellers in the picture of your videos or photographs.
Motor choices are a little simpler than the frame options. You just want to make sure you motors are in the correct size range for your frame size and total weight. Most importantly you want to make sure you have the correct propeller size and pitch for your motors. This combination will dictate what power rating ESC’s (electronic speed controllers) you’ll need.
Don’t worry this part is not a complicated as it seems. Most online retailers have a chart that covers the recommended propellers, electronic speed controller (ESC) amp rating. Multi-rotor frame size range is usually how the motors are categorized as well.
Make sure to buy lots of extras in the correct size range for your motors and frame size. You’ll need replacements when you crash.
Heck I broke two of them before my first flight when I turned the radio off and then back on while the flight controller was armed during setup and testing.
Make sure to leave your propellers off the motors while setting up your machine. You could cut your self badly or leave permanent marks on the ceiling above your work table. I was lucky not to have cut myself and to have learned this lesson without injury.
Electronic Speed Control (ESC)
If you do not buy a matched up electronics set make sure to follow the recommendations on the motor manufactures’ chart for your motors. Also it’s better to go a little over than under on the amperage rating. Don’t go too big because they could end up being too heavy weight wise.
The flight controller is a little more complicated than all of the other parts. See my article on selecting the best multi rotor flight controller here. The main differences in flight boards are the level of automated flight options like auto level and GPS mode.
Most controllers will need to be tuned with software while plugged into a PC. Some come pre programmed but you will still need to sync you radio stick endpoints.
If you do not have a computer look for the KK 2. boards with an LCD screen attached. This is the only board than can be setup with out plugging into a computer via USB cable.
Power Distribution Board
I almost forgot about this as the last model I built had the power board built into the frame plates. This is just a little bare circuit board with a bunch of metal pads marked + and – for you to solder all of your ESC power wires and main battery connector to.
Supplies & Fasteners
You’ll need lots of little supplies, Velcro and some extra fasteners. For those of you in the USA keep in mind multi-rotor bolt, nut sizes and frame sizes are metric.
Here is a list of the stuff I use for my builds
- Blue Loctite, non- permanent thread locker
- Hot Glue
- Hex and or fillips fasteners (bolts) of various lengths, 20 millimeter length is a good size range
- lots of zip ties in various sizes
One thing to note here is if you are going to build your own quad copter you should get a decent soldering iron and learn to solder. You can learn in just a few minutes with some practice wire and connectors.
However if you purchase motors and ESC’s with the correct male and female 3.5 mm bullet connectors pre-soldered you can get away with not having to solder…..much. You’ll also need to make sure your flight controller pins are pre-soldered and that you have the correct battery connectors with some kind of plug in style power distribution board.
I take that back if you don’t at least get a cheap soldering iron and some thin solder wire you should probably buy a DJI Phantom or some other ready to fly quad.
Man what a long post this has become already just giving a basic description of what you’ll need to gather before we get to the actual how to. This is where Youtube comes in. Here are a few of my favorite build videos to watch before you make any final decisions.