Friday, 15 June 2012

A new distraction

With photography becoming more and more popular it's becoming harder to find those unique places or shots that stand out from the crowd. With this in mind, as well as a healthy amount of childhood wonder and a large dose of nerdish gadgetry love, I've embarked on trying to build a multi-copter platform that can lift a decent camera (~ 1.5Kg) into the air safely and with enough stability to hopefully be able to take some unique shots.

Build MK II
This post is all about building my first quad-copter.


There are a bunch of Ready To Fly (RTF) commercial grade quad, hex and even octa-copters out there that  range from the low thousands through to tens of thousands. Luckily, there is also a very healthy DIY community out there. With a childhood of soldering Dick Smith electronics kits and flying Remote Control (RC) gliders, I opted for the DIY route with the aim of getting something decent in the air for less than $1000 as a proof of concept. There were a couple of high cost, once off items such as a decent Radio Transmitter and Receiver (8 channel) and the Flight Control (FC) system which pump the price up towards that mark.

As usual with research, Google is your friend and after searching around a bit I found the DIY Drones site which has a wealth of information on all sorts of Flight Controlled multicopters, planes and traditional helicopters.

The following shopping list was assembled!

Shopping List

  • Frame - ArduCopter 3DR Quad KIT, Frame KIT Only
  • Propellers - Propeller set, 10X45 EPP Style
  • Motors - 4 * Motor AC2836-358, 880Kv
  • ESC (Electronic Speed Controllers) - 4 * TURNIGY Plush 25amp Speed Controller
  • Flight Controller - APM 2.0 Purple Full Kit Assembled
  • Transmitter/Receiver - Futaba 8FG 8-Channel 2.4GHz FASST For Helicopter w/R6008HS
  • Battery Charger - Turnigy Accucel-8 150W 7A Balancer/Charger
  • Batteries - 2 * Turnigy 5000mAh 3S 30C Lipo Pack
You'll also need
  • A soldering iron and solder suitable for electronics
  • Various pliers and screw drivers
  • Various connectors such as JST, Dean and Gold Plated Spring Connectors 3.5mm
  • Wire sufficient to carry the amp for each component
  • Heat shrink tubes for insulating wires (and the wife's hair dryer)
  • A bunch of cable ties
  • A lot of patience!


The build is really separated into 2 parts. Building the frame and connecting the electronics. Building the frame is fairly easy. Most of them are put together with nuts and bolts (all be it very small ones!). The electronics take a bit more thought, as connecting them up to a high output battery can easily fry some of the more sensitive components. Additionally, they don't fly well if the propellers are spinning in the opposite direction!

Configuring and Testing

Once it's more or less ready to fly, you have to collaborate all the ESCs to make sure they are all going to output the correct power.

SAFETY TIP: Do this without the propellers on if you want to keep your fingers!

Once it is configured, add you propellers, make sure they are spinning the correct way and you are ready for some flight tests. I did mine tethered. i.e. tied to something heavy with short strings so it can't get too out of control.


When everything is looking good, it's time to give it a real go. Make sure you have plenty of space, as these are more flying lawn mowers than toys and can cause serious injury with the propellers or 1-2 kg falling from a great height on someone.

Here's a video of my build and first flight!

Check out my YouTube channel for some more videos


DIY Drones - Great

RC Groups

Hobby King - Great resource for all RC hobby needs!

HellFast - Australian Prop distributor

Mongrel Gear - Australian FPV distributor

Little Bird Electronics - Australian DIY Electronics distributor

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