AeroQuad – build your own quadcopter

It hurts us to look at this quadcopter, agonizingly so when we watch the video after the break. That’s because we feel the unstoppable compulsion to build one. This four-rotor helicopter has a lot to be proud of; it features Gyro stabilization, Xbee remote control for very long distance operation, and computer interface for data graphing and calibration.

We like the quadcopter that we came across at CES but building one of our own is more fun than buying it ready-made. The pain we’re feeling is mostly in our pocketbook. To help ease the agony we scoured the parts list and the assembly instructions in order to get an estimate of what this might cost. We’re looking at around $415 plus shipping, not including transmitter and receiver for controlling it.  Yep, that’s a sharp stabbing pain but we’re not sure we can just let it go.

[Thanks Roy]

58 thoughts on “AeroQuad – build your own quadcopter

  1. I too have felt the stabbing since I started seeing these things. $415 actually doesn’t seem all that bad to me after looking at how much retailers sell quadcopters for. I’m hoping these things begin to “take off” and we’ll start seeing some cheaper mass produced versions in the hobby shops.

    1. The real killer on the price for quadcopter designs is the sensors they use. The Rx & Tx units are cheap because they are the same as RC airplanes, boats, cars, and helicopters. The CPU on these can be really cheap ~$5. The sensors are still ~$100.

  2. haha no first post for you ali! Maybe you woulda got first post had you not stopped to be a dick and typed, “first post.” Ah-hahahahahah!

  3. This one’s fans are not ducted. Ducted fans increase the fan efficiency tremendously, so you could get away with smaller motors and therefore less battery weight..

    1. > i would really really like to build one but a 14 year olds budget doesn’t allow for it…
      Get parents/relatives to sponsor your kickstart/indigo project to pay for the copter. ;)

  4. @mj

    You sure ducted fans offer improved efficiency for something like this? From what I’ve read they only really offer benefits at high speed and even then usually not enough to justify their cost

  5. jup, stuff at mikrokopter.de is nice.
    only half the fun to use their designs, but their stuff works. it’s more like building a kit-car.

    ducts work, makes the thing quiter aswell, if you are not standing right below it.

    thing is, if you go for a custom body, ducts are not that much more. have to use different propellers to get the most out of them.
    what i like most about using the “duct design” is that the copter is much less prone to damage something in minor accidents or while navigating realy tight spaces.

    helps to have some material engeneering students on hand that also know their cad software.

  6. I’m ALWAYS tempted when I see these – I’ve always wanted to build one!

    I actually met up with someone else from Hackaday and we wanted to build one, but I was too busy. Still am, sadly.

    Some day I will build one.

    Anyone know any links to info about simplified Kalman Filters that don’t use matrix math? I never did a lot of that in college and I’d love to dive into something without having to re-learn all that, if i don’t have to.
    -Taylor

  7. As an electrical engineer noob, my question is:
    If you used two of those recommended batteries in parallel, could you pull a theoretical 40C current?
    Either way, you’d get way more flight time from a 306g payload.

    I want to build one so bad, but that is not within a 20 year old college student’s budget :\

    From looking at the build pictures, I could see a couple weight-reducing components to make up for the second battery I would add.

  8. What I would like to see is a variation of a quad copter to become a tilt-rotor craft. I know you’re probably thinking that when you tilt the rotors, they’ll be cocked outwards, but it should be possible to have the mating surfaces at an angle to each other… now to go try to figure out the correct angle…

  9. @by_matt

    Yes, you can pull double current. You would be able to pull 40C, assuming the recommended batteries are 20C. 60C if you had three, etc.

  10. Does anybody happen to know what kind of flight time you can get with this copter with the 4000mAh battery? I assume that is the battery size this one is using as that’s what’s listed in the parts list.

  11. If you could get the weight down then you really need very little thrust to keep it up . Probably the easiest way to experiment with something like this is styrofoam for a structure and some cheap DC 12 volt fans like a pc uses, use it wired till you get a feel for the overall design.

    Could also do the steampunk way. Use a very small steam generator powered by something like sterno to power the electronics.

  12. Roman candles firing randomly at the ground and flying in a back yard that is under power lines. Did anyone else notice this?

  13. For what it is, $400 is cheap. I’ve seen many different designs for these pop up, many never made it to flight.

    This one looks pretty solid, the parts are reasonably cheap and easy enough to get. Assuming he is supplying all the needed code and you could replicate his electronics package exactly, you could easily have this running in a weekend, and from what I can see on his web page that isn’t much of a stretch.

  14. at 18, I can barely fit the necessary parts for my VW into the budget, I don’t think I can afford this quite yet. I always wanted to build one of these or get one and mod it but I’ve never had the time or money..

  15. Does anyone else think $415 is way too much for something like this? Looking at the parts list, I see so many cheaper alternatives. Easily $150 can be saved by making a custom circuit board. There’s no need to buy a $30 arduino, a $75 (eek!) accelerometer and gyroscope module, $46 worth of breakout boards. Integrating the motor controllers and battery monitor will save another $44.

    I know this doesn’t take into account the components needed to populate the PCB, but they’re most definitely far less than $150. Pretty much everything can be sampled for the prototype.

    Not to criticize the designers for the lovely proof of concept made from off the shelf parts, but there is room for vast improvements and cost reductions.

  16. hmm.
    as for a source of cheap batteries, the ones used in the ipod touch 3G (32G+) are pretty light and small.

    i just obtained some 300mAh LiFePO4 CR123 replacements but they are pretty heavy, though have the advantage of being able to handle ridiculous currents without risk of fire.
    stepup converter + cell = 12.5V from one CR123 :)

  17. Hahaha, this post was posted about 3 days after I started building my Quadrotor based on the frame design of the one hackaday has linked to. (The power and electronics will be very different).

    I’ve spent about £300 and the only thing left to get is the IMU.

  18. This can be in anyone’s budget if you want it bag enough. I’ve already labeled a jar. $40 a month and I’ll have one in a year or so.

    Can’t wait!

  19. I never said it wouldn’t be stabilized. And the gyros are cheap, just not in a prepackaged module. $23 worth of parts sold for $115.

    If anyone would like to help me design a PCB, we could make these things very cheaply.

  20. I was tempted to start building one after the CES posts, now I am afraid that I might actually do it. These things look like a lot of fun.

    @Rachel,
    While I agree that you could make the build significantly cheaper, I was also wondering what your plan for stabilization is without the gyro/accelerometer.

  21. @Spork: There isn’t one. You still use the same IMU components, just not the $75 breakout board version… The dual axis gyros are about $7 in singles, the 3 axis accelerometer about $6. You need two gyros and an accelerometer for their 6DOF, that’s $20 in parts. The breakout boards will run you about $120.

    But I wouldn’t want to be the guy soldering these tiny leadless packages by hand either…

  22. I don’t have time to read all the comments but it doesn’t look like anyone has mentioned the X-UFO. It is a very affordable quadcopter that comes with the controller and everything. Be aware when looking that you won’t get far with the stock gyro though. There is at least one company selling solid state electronic gyros for them and I hear they are bulletproof.

    Sadly, I have two of them sitting on a shelf collecting dust. I lost interest (read: time) before I could upgrade the gyros. I upgraded the battery to LiPo and they run very nicely. Check youtube for them. Most of the sites I found with info were in German.

  23. @error404
    I was thinking the same thing. Sourced from digikey, it comes to $13+shipping for the 3-axis accel and the 2-axis gyro. I had read her post thinking she wanted to get rid of the gyro and accelerometer.

    Those parts wouldn’t be so bad if they were in a TQFP instead of LFCSP, but as they are now it’s VERY difficult to solder by hand. It seems like the whole control board price could be cut down significantly if you were willing to put a little effort into the build. Plus if you had access to a plasma cutter, you could use Nicholas’ idea and cut your frame from fiberglass (or carbon fiber in his case) it would be very inexpensive. The only cost that is more or less fixed would be the motors and batteries.

    All of that being said, my budget doesn’t even want me to look at this project anymore for fear of not eating.

  24. That’s odd. They create the software to allow for yaw, but then angle all the rotors directly up so that there’s no possible way to get that yaw.

  25. In theory YOu could actually do it for a hell of a lot less, Example get the motors proppellers and speed controls from hobbycity.com ( you can even find combo packs for as litle as 20 for those three parts x4 so $100us get a 4ch rc transmitter 2 stick aircraft type not pistol you can find these controls for as cheap as $40us with 2.4GHz tr module and rx module. next you need either gyros or accelerometer you might even want to toss in a BEC (battery Elimination Circuit) to cut down on weight so you don’t have to have a battery pack for the rx module as well as the main power supply Bec is about $10us using gyros your looking at $60us for all 3 or $10-30 for a accelerometer (3-axis) and a stmicro discovery board for $10 (s\h included) finally you’ll need and want a frame…you can get carbon fiber rods and tubes from a few hobby stores online and they aren’t that expensive so whats the guestimated total? just under $400 probly less if you could find some deals, for a quick design idea check out rc groups.com.

  26. Hello Mike Szczys!
    I’m from Germany so I apologize for my english!)
    It’s some time ago but perhaps you still have the code you programmed for your Arduino-motherboard!?!
    The could you plz send it to me?!
    (Email: p-steiger@live.de)
    Hopeful waiting, Patrick;)

  27. @sam
    I haven’t read the build, so I may be wrong, but I’ve heard of quadcopters getting yaw control by rotating the propellers in opposite directions. By having opposing props rotating in the same direction, you can increase the rotation speed of two opposite props and decrease the speed of the other props, generating torque.

  28. @Zach
    Yeah I was thinking frictionless when I made that comment :P I read it after I posted it and was like “Shit, I’m retarded.”

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