Quadcopter build log


This is a succinct summary of the Drone based blogs, which cover each area/topic in much greater detail.

This blog is, basically, a chronological list (or, if you will, a retrospective diary) of events that I encountered when attempting to build my first drone from scratch, with my broaching of the subject – having had no prior experience of UAVs, what so  ever.

See also

The events

  1. I want an octocopter! After having read about them in a Dutch news article, and having seen a few on eBay, I thought that it would be an interesting hobby to get into…
  2. Pushing the octocopter idea aside, and aiming at a simpler design, I tried to buy a reasonably priced ready built, or half built, hexacopter kit – I was initially drawn to the DJI F550 Flame Wheel complete kits that are on offer on eBay for around £80, but the flight controllers that came with them, KKmulticopter clones, seemed rather basic. Then I seriously considered the Tarot FY680 Pro for a while, and missed out on a reasonable Tarot T810.
  3. I looked into ArduoPilot/ArdoCopter flight controller software and the APM flight controller, for a very long time. However, as the APM was end of life w.r.t. the ArduCopter software and not up to scratch for use was an Octocopter, I started looking at the more expensive PixHawk hardware.
  4. My initial purchase was a UBlox NEO m8n GPS, as it was on offer.
  5. Regarding the UAV frame, I quickly understood that the more arms your UAV has, the greater the costs, w.r.t. ESCs and motors.
  6. Ordered a 1S-8S LiPo tester/alarm for £0.99
  7. Finally the choice, as to which frame to get, was made for me, when I  unexpectedly won an auction and ended up with two cheap cloned ZMR250 (one fiberglass, one carbon fiber) and a cloned Tarot TL250A racing frames. They also came with a 12 mm spacer, a couple of Diatone PDBs (v.2.1 and 2.2) and a RCTech v.4 PDB.
  8. Ordered a CC3D EVO flight controller, with came with a case, as it seemed simple to use, then I realised that I should have got the Revo version, en lieu of the EVO
  9. Ordered an anti vibration kit for the CC3D EVO
  10. Got some reasonable Emax MT-2204 motors and 12 A FlyColor ESCs second-hand
  11. I assembled the ZMR250 and TL250A frames – The ZMR250 was assembled in a variety of ways until I homed in on the correct design. The TL250A struck me as a more elegant design when compared to the ZMR250
  12. Ordered some M2 nuts, bolts, washers and spacers, for the TL250A frame, as there seemed to be two missing, and then cancelled them as I realised that I didn’t need them, due to the fact that the clone did not require the two front most spacers, in the front arms.
  13. Ordered a cheap Chinese 1S-6S LiPo Tester/Discharger/Balancer – it had been a toss up between the cheaper, read-one-cell-at-a-time variety or the simultaneous reader of multiple cells. I plumped for the latter, as it was also more likely that it would be able to balance and discharge – whereas the cheaper cloned one-cell-at-a-time testers could not be guaranteed to have the circuitry enabled (only the later versions were able to do this, which cost the same as the multi cell tester).
  14. Fitted the motors to the arms of one of the ZMR250 frames – the Emax motors, having M3 mounting screws, only fitted one of the ZMR250 clones. Additionally, one of the motors didn’t fit correctly, due to a badly drilled set of mounting holes in the arm.
  15. Ordered 3mm thick M3 spacers to remedy the ill-fitting motor
  16. Realised I needed 1804/1806 motors with M2 fittings, in order for them to fit the remaining two frames. Saw some for £17, £29 with ESCs, but I held off the purchase, for the time being.
  17. Looked into building my own RC transmitter, to keep costs down, saw the ArduinoRC project – ordered Arduino Mini, veroboard and header pins.
  18. Ordered a Naze32 Full flight controller to fit the RCTech PDB V.4 that came with the ZMR250 kits
  19. Ordered a protective case for the Naze32
  20. Ordered a XT60 to Deans connector adapter/gender changer, for the PDB with the Deans connector (see below)
  21. Ordered a 20 mm spacer for one of the ZMR250 frames, in order to gain the additional height needed, for use with the RCTech PDB, which would have a Naze32 Full mounted upon it
  22. Bought a basic PDB, just in case, and to solder bullet connectors on to. It was cheap in an auction, for under £1
  23. Bought another basic PDB, which comes with a Deans connector. This was also cheap, in an auction, for under £1
  24. Transmitter – Turnigy 9XR Pro – it was cheap, due to a flickering screen, and I could not really justify the price of a FrSky Taranis X9D Plus for a simple project. The Taranis could wait…
  25. Transmitter module -XJT –  for a future proof transmitter, en lieu of the older DJT
  26. Receiver modules – 2 x L9R, for long range control
  27. Receiver module – D4Rii. These Tx and Rx modules came in one lot, for £50, which was a bargain
  28. Bought two 3S 1500 mAh Turnigy LiFePo batteries for the transmitter, one was by accident on an auction that I had forgotten that I had bid on. The auction ended up cheaper (£10) than the “Buy it now” battery (£11.95). Oh well.
  29. Purchased a servo tester (3 outputs)
  30. Bought some 3.5 mm and 2 mm gold bullets for use in a modular design, where I could (possibly) swap ESCs and motors in and out of designs, more easily than if they were hard-wired in.
  31. Purchased various widths of heat shrink 2.4 mm and 4.8 mm, realised later that I need more variety
  32. Then I started looking at FPV, after a friend mentioned it. Up until that point I had not even considered FPV. Initially I was looking at complete second hand Fat Shark kit, that were going for around £120, but figured I could do it cheaper, using Chinese clone parts, although the quality might end up being questionable
  33. Ordered two Micro MinimOSD, as they fit the RCTech PDB and were the cheapest OSD available
  34. Ordered both CMOS and CCD FPV cameras to compare the two.
  35. Got a 40 channel 600 mW video transmitter – should have bought a 48 channel 25 mW transmitter, in order to stay legal in the UK.
  36. Trying to find a reasonable 5.8 GHz 48 channel Receiver – not easy as the casing is identical for Chinese cloned 32/40/48 channel 5.8GHz video receivers
  37. Bought four 20 A unbranded ESCs, because they were cheap (£5) and would be useful for one of the other two racing frames that have no motors/esc as yet.
  38. Looking into LiPo batteries – many auctions for second-hand LiPo batteries passed me by. I know I need 3S batteries, 4S are a possibility but not entirely necessary with my 2200 KV motors. I was unsure about the wisdom of purchasing second hand LiPo batteries,. considering how dangerous they are and how quickly they can deteriorate, if badly charged, or stored at the incorrect voltage.
  39. LiPo charger: I initially considered the cheapest clone iMax B6, but realised that it was dangerous (due to the possibility of over charging, poorly implemented hardware, etc.), so I then looked at the original SkyRC B6, being moving on to the PC capable B6AC version 2 and then finally the B6 Mini, as a separate PSU seemed most sensible for heat issues. I, then, considered a Turnigy Accucel 6 80 W, until I realised that you can not calibrate them (the later models), and so I finally settled for a SkyRC B6 Mini, with the SkyRC WiFi adapter, for £35
  40. Purchased a KK2 flight controller, and the vendor kindly 3D printed a complementary case, at no extra charge. I steered clear of the older V.5 KKmulticopter, and instead plumped for the more easily programmed KK2 with the LCD display, for simplicity
  41. Purchased a XT60 to EC3 adapter/gender changer – it worked out cheaper to buy the battery with the EC3 connector, and a separate adapter, than a battery with the correct XT60 connector.
  42. I was very tempted by a Turnigy 20C 3S 1500 mAh LiPo battery, with a EC3 connector, for £9.97, from a UK vendor, but ultimately I purchased a Zip Power Chinese LiPo 3S 1500 mAh 40C, with XT60 connector, for £8.98, purely for the higher C rating. This effectively made the previous purchase of the XT60 to EC3 adapter pointless, but no doubt it would come in useful in the future.
  43. Purchased some right angle single row header pin strips, 10 x 40 for £1, so that the micro MinimOSD can be attached to the RCTech PDB, along with the Naze32 Full.
  44. Purchased a 48 channel 5.8 GHz receiver, a Boscam clone for £16.30
  45. Finally managed to purchase some cheap XT60 (5 pairs for £0.90)
  46. Soldered 2 mm female gold bullets to the Diatone v2.2 PDB, for the power connections of the four ESCs, along with four header pins for the ESC control, and 2 pins for the 5V connections to the regulator/BEC. I did not add pins to the 12V regulator/BEC, although I will need to for the FPV equipment (camera, VTX etc.) Also, added a pin, on the positive terminal pads of the LiPo, for the battery monitoring by the KK2 mini.
  47. Realised that the soldered gold bullets soldered to the board would not allow the ESC connectors to fit (even with a 20mm PCD spacer) between the bottom and middle plates of the ZMR250 so I removed them and refitted them on flying leads instead of about 5-10 cms in length. Added heat shrink around the gold, to prevent short circuits from occurring.
  48. Found that the right angles single row headers were the wrong type, to be used for the micro MinimOSD. They were too long on one side – that is to say that they were bent in the middle of their length, whereas the right angled pins that came with the micro MinimOSD were shorter on one side and longer on the other, so that the shorter ends could be soldered to the OSD while the longer side reached down to the RCTech PCD.
  49. Soldered the XT60 to two lengths of mains cable, the length o the PCD, so that the XT60 would fit in the hole in the 20mm PCD spacer and the cable would run the length of the PCD to the power pads for the LiPo at the rear of the PCD. Not sure how wise this is, given the resistance (although there is minimal resistance in the thick cable) and maybe should have used shorter cables and used the power solder pads at the front of the PCD, nearest the hole in the 20mm PCD spacer (there are two sets of power pads)
  50. Screwed quadcopter together.
  51. Wired up the KK2 mini to the ESC pins and the RC RC D4R-II,
  52. Destroyed the KK2 mini, by connecting the 5V in reverse polarity, see KK Mini
  53. Switched to OpenPilot/CC3D FC
  54. Configured OpenPilot, see blog CC3D.
  55. Bound D4R-II to the XJT transmitter module.
  56. Put triangular legs on the ZMR250 arms.
  57. Tested the motors (video?) on the kitchen table, securing the quad to the table top.
  58. Mounted LiPo on underside – as the lead from the LiPo is too short to reach from the velcro on the top plate, to the XT60 male mounted in the 20 mm PCD spacer.
  59. Test maiden flight, or rather hop. Battery is clearly in the wrong place as it drags along the ground (video?) and also, appears to make the quad too heavy at one end. The battery needs to be mounted more centrally, however, yet again, the power lead is too short.
  60. Repositioned LiPo in the rear of the frame, between middle and top plates at the rear, wedged in under the FC plate rubber mounts – perfect fit
  61. Realised that the FC plate was at the wrong end, so switched plate around, so that the FC plate was at the front, with the camera below. Now the battery is still at the rear and somewhat loose, but held in place with sellotape.
  62. Purchased four Diatone LED boards for £0.99
  63. Purchased two pairs of 5×3 5030 3-Leaf Propeller for the TL250A, for £0.07 and £0.26 respectively.
  64. More test flights – one of the motors seems to be more powerful, or kicks in quicker, than the others, and so this has to be compensated for when taking up by steering to the direction of the side which has the more powerful motor in other to lift vertically. Re-calibration is probably required.
  65. Purchased four 1806 and SP3 racing FC for £25.50 for the TL250A
  66. More test flights – easier to fly the quadcopter with the quadcopter facing backwards.
  67. Crashed the ZMR250 into a wall and broke a propeller (pic and video)
  68. Purchased 10 pairs of 5040 propellers for £2.97
  69. More test flights with broken prop (video). Flight is very erratic.
  70. Purchased, erroneously, 4 pairs of “unbreakable” 6040 propellers (white), for £1.67
  71. Purchased, erroneously, 4 pairs of”unbreakable” 6040 propellers (green), for £1.67
  72. Purchased, erroneously, 4 pairs of”unbreakable” 6040 propellers (orange), for £1.67
  73. Mentioned the erroneous purchase to the seller and they offered me £1 off the next purchase
  74. TL250A soldered on ESC pins to underside of PDB
  75. TL250A soldered on right angle pins to the remaining connectors on PDB
  76. Purchased, 4 pairs of “unbreakable” 5040 propellers (white), for £1.67
  77. Purchased, 4 pairs of”unbreakable” 5040 propellers (green), for £1.67
  78. Purchased, 4 pairs of”unbreakable” 5040 propellers (orange), for £1.67
  79. After a hiatus, more flights, more practice and many more broken propellors of the ZMR250
  80. Had to resolder the PDB battery connection, as it had come loose, on the ZMR250
  81. Tightened all nuts and bolts down on ZMR250
  82. Purchased APM Power Module for £2.94
  83. Noticed antennas were getting damaged by the propellors
  84. Intermitent motor failure, front left,  on ZMR250 (possible loose connection?)

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