Building a quadrocopter

By February 22, 2011DIY
Quadrococo-Dark-With-Lights

I decided to build my own quadrocopter after watching a lot of videos of people flying them around. What decided me is the possibility of mounting a camera to it and film from the air and in other unusual angles. I figured it could be an asset for my video projects. I read a lot of information about how they work and how to built one from scratch and finally decided to jump in and ordered about 2500$-worth of various parts and electronics. The first thing I received is the ArduPilotMega IMU Shiled/OilPan which is a fancy name for the computer that controls the quadrocopter. It runs on an AtMega1280 with the Arduino bootloader which I had familiarized myself before cbd products found quite easy to work with. It has all the sensors needed for such an application, accelerometer, gyro and barometer, plus a magnetometer and GPS that you can order as options.

ArduPilotMega IMU Shield/OilPan

ArduPilotMega IMU Shield/OilPan

Then, came all the rest of the electronics, battery, motor speed controllers, motors, LEDs and transmitter. Everything was ready to be built but I was still missing the frame, which took a couple of weeks to arrive.

All the electronics before mounting

All the electronics before mounting

Once I had received the frame I needed a solution to mount all the navigation electronics to it. I found a couple of preexisting kits on the internet but they didn’t look good are were not a compact as I wished them to be. So I decided to design my own parts and have them laser cut at Ponoko. I designed a system with 3 plastic plates in Illustrator. The bottom one is larger and made with a more resistant plastic to hold the ArduPilot Mega, a middle one to hold the GPS and magnetometer and a top one to protect them in case the quad flips and crashes upside down.

Front of the electronics mount

Front of the electronics mount

Back of the electronics mount

Back of the electronics mount

I encountered a couple of issues with my design, first the xBee module would not fit well where I first intended it to be (attached to the middle plate) because of its antenna, so I attached it to the bottom plate. But since I had not planned to put it there I had to hold it in place with tie-wraps instead of screws. Second, when I mounted the plates to the frame I realized my bottom plate was covering 4 screws used to hold the arms to the frame. I managed to screw them with pliers holding the bolt on top instead of the bottom of the frame. If I ever have to order those plates again I’ll modify them so it won’t happen again.

Detail of the instruments mounting to the frame

Detail of the instruments mounting to the frame

The came the testing phase. The first thing I tested? LEDs!

Lights Test

Lights Test

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