All PCB quadcopter makes the most of each component

It’s difficult to contain our excitement for this tiny quadcopter project called the Picopter. [Frank] managed to pull together an impressive collection of features when developing the project. First off, the quadcopter itself uses all-PCB construction. Even the supports for the motors are PCBs with keyed slots to mate perpendicular to the main control board, then held firm with solder joints. We think this will be a moreĀ resilientĀ option than this other all-PCB build.

The control board seen in the foreground has an edge connector which mates with a Wii classic controller connector. This is what you use for flight control. But there’s even more. The pinheader just visible on the left side of the controller mates with a socket on the ‘copter board. This allows you to sync the two so that there’s no radio frequency interference, and recharge the batteries from a USB connection. Speaking of those wireless communications, [Frank] chose to use an ATmega128RFA1. This is a newer microcontroller from Atmel that has a radio built into it. Add a gyroscope sensor and some motor control and you’re in business.

Don’t miss [Frank’s] video after the break when he explains all of the goodies found in his build.

[Thanks Franz]

31 thoughts on “All PCB quadcopter makes the most of each component

  1. Just to balance the mood out:
    I want to say great job!

    I honestly don’t care if there is a video of the quadcopter flying or not. Even if the thing doesn’t work correctly (which it might work great I dunno), he has already completed an impressive feat.

    The multitude of various hardware engineering/firmware/software hurdles that must have been overcome in order for him to have gotten this far makes this impressive.

    Even if he is reusing/modifying existing designs and software (which I am not sure how much is 100% original and how much is a remix) does not detract from his efforts at all.

    Color me impressed.

    1. Not trying to litter the replies with me too but I’d probably buy a kit in a heartbeat too!
      Plus I didn’t know there was an atmega with a radio built-in, I’ll have to check it out!

      1. I am working on something eerily similar to this to sell as a kit. Ive made 2 revisions of it so far but have yet to get the right motor/prop combination to get it flying. I will certainly let you guys know when its complete. Itll be on HAD im sure.

    2. I e-mailed him to get on his “waiting list” but I also told him to start a Kickstarter. It would be a great way of organizing “pre-orders” of kits or pre-built units and that way he can get volume discounts on getting his pcbs printed and parts. Here to hoping he can get something setup!

  2. Hi it’s Frank

    I explained why it doesn’t fly in the “instructable step” about the motors. In short, I need bigger but sold-out motors.

    Some of the software is borrowed, there’s an entire “instructable step” dedicated to how I wrote the software and what was borrowed.

    1. I’m too excited to read over the whole instructables page.
      What’s the BoM on that thing?
      Will there be kits? Sign me up for one.

      1. I have a BOM spreadsheet that’s telling me about $125 without shipping if I ordered parts in single quantities. But you always order extra SMD resistors… right? RIGHT?

        That number doesn’t include the Wii Classic Controller, which I already had. It also doesn’t include PCB prototyping, which is $40 for 10 pieces.

        So I guess the total is closer to a bit over $200.

  3. Frank, you’re my hero. I’ve been heading towards the same scale and materials in my own dream Quad Copter. Nice bit of kit already for a 1st. iteration. Thanks for sharing your obvious labor of love.
    P.S. It seems like may be using an excessively large Li-Po pack for power. I think you can get 3 C discharge for half the weight. And you may want to consider more slender/longer rotors. Just a hunch there from my days in Army helicopters.
    Best of Luck,
    Look forward to seeing your progress hear on HAD.

    1. I got the Li-poly cells from HobbyKing and they only have 20C cells

      I also don’t think 3C is sufficient, or at least leave a big enough margin for me to be comfortable, it just sounds so small. I estimated stall current to be 1A each, and 4 motors might stall all at once if it crashes upside down or something.

      1. I was thinking of the air hog microcopters when I said 3 C (and only 3C need for driving one copter. So at those weights and measures, to be on scale with these toys, you could reasonably assume 12 C. My strategy has been to get my hands on a 4th. out of service copter to begin my build. The 3 I’ve collected have dead batteries which is usually how they end up in the trash or the back of peoples closets.
        P.S. Consider a PTC fuse to protect in case of calamity such as inverted landing.

  4. Very impressive! I am trying to work my way up to a project of that magnitude. I’m sure you could easily sell small batches of kits for it.

  5. he needs stronger motors so he can triple the size of the battery pack.

    A lot of guys build these and design it to run for 3-5 minutes. just scale up to 30 minute run times guys.

  6. I feel obliged to mention the missed pun opertunity in the title “All PCB quadrocoptor makes the most of etch component”.

    Also very cool.

    1. Seeed Studio does ten pieces at a time. $30 for 10cm x 10cm, and $10 for 5cm x 5cm, so the two parts I need adds up to $40 for ten pieces. Actually it addes up to $50, since I need three (motor-arms, ‘copter, transmitter)

  7. Guys, do you think it’s possible to hook up bigger motors/battery to this PCB? I mean – to make a bigger quadcopter out of this. Given the size/weight seems like an ideal design for all types of flyers – am I correct?

  8. Ive been flying microhelis for years now and have only recently stepped up to a larger, single rotor heli. I was shocked to find that the average battery life was roughly 6-7 minutes.

    My point is don’t be discouraged by short flight times. Just have swappable batteries and lots of extras.

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