E-Waste Quadcopter Lifts Your Spirits While Keeping Costs Down


The advancement of Quadcopters and their capabilities over the last few years has been amazing. Unfortunately, the price point to get into the sport with a decent size, non-toy, vehicle is still several hundred dollars. And what’s the fun with buying one when you can built it?!? Strapped for cash and feeling the same way, [Hans] over at the hackerspace Knackatory decided to build a quadcopter from e-waste.

The + shaped frame is made from lightweight plywood. It’s pretty obvious that the main rotors are PC Fans, 140mm in this case. Normally, these wouldn’t be able to create enough lift to get out of their own way except the on-board 24v Dewalt cordless tool battery bumps up the fan speed to 15,000 rpm. The one orange fan allows the operator to maintain a visual reference to which side of the ‘copter is forward.

An Arduino running MultiWii control software is the brains of this UAV. The MultiWii software uses the sensors from part of a Nintendo Wii remote to sense orientation and movement. While there is no hand held transmitter with this quadcopter per se, communication to the host computer is handled by a wireless router running OpenWRT. The router is the gateway that allows the Arduino and Ethernet Shield combination to communicate through the Hackerspace’s wifi network. Flight plans are pre-programmed. Admittedly, the real time control through computer keyboard commands needs a little work. The team plans on interfacing a regular USB game controller with the software.

Making stuff out of e-waste is a great way to recycle. Remember this e-waste 3D Printer?




  1. Bracken says:


  2. polar says:


    • Obv. This sort of thing COULD be done, but you’d be removing a lot more plastic than this pic shows. A LOT. There would have to be nearly nothing carried on-board.

      • qwerty says:

        A computer fan cannot even lift itself alone because of its intrinsic weight and low performance, this is 100% impossible.

        • jasper says:

          have you ever overvolted a delta fan?

        • fdsa says:

          +1. Have you ever overvolted a pc fan? These things are pretty gutless. Let alone to lift their own weight AND the battery pack AND the huge webcam AND router (the cases of the webcam and router would be the first thing I’d strip off if it was mine for sure). I call this fake until I see an actual video of it flying.

          • fdsa says:

            Oh wait its april the 1st xD

          • RBMK says:

            I had some 48V cast-aluminium fan with a lot of power, but that didn’t lift itself too. I think this hack will be possible, if you rewind those motors with thicker wire and lower turns, and put some big MOSFETs behind that hall switch. I that will not work, then shove some outrunner motors in those fans.

  3. di0de says:

    10/10 this is amazing.

  4. Jouni says:

    Syö silliä, juo kuravettä!

    April fools :)

    • Jouni says:

      BTW: check out the propeller rotating directions .. All in the same direction :)

      • KNfLrPn says:

        This is by far the most definitive proof that this is fake. It’s at least slightly possible that one could overpower the fans to get the necessary power, but in this configuration you’d just end up with a whirling mess.

        • dghfsrhf says:

          Which begs the question: has anyone pushed the limits of these fans?

          • DainBramage1991 says:

            Yup. They usually start to smoke at around 18v and are dead by 20v.

          • danielsroseman@gmail.com says:

            I have tried overvolting pc fans. At about 1½ times the rated voltage they most unspectacularly emit a puff of smoke and die.

          • Jadoo says:

            what I would like to see is someone who can teardown the fans and replace the motors with some high power brush less ones but still leaving a somewhat convincing looking pc fan

          • Pinomelean says:

            I’ve overvolted a lot of fans, most die at 2x the nominal voltage, but i have tested some up to 32v for an instant, and they could’t even lift themselves!
            This is definitely fake.

  5. Dolf Traanberg says:

    april 1st?

  6. Scott says:

    I don’t have a wifi router but do you think it would lift my laptop? I can power the motors from the USBs then I won’t need a heavy external battery?

    • Indyaner says:

      Thats actually a brilliant Idea! How we were! Just cut the power-plug off your cable and solder a USB-Port on it. It will charge in a loop! GENIUS!

    • Greenaum says:

      Actually that would be an awesome desk. Attach some really powerful fans / propellors to a bit of wood, and use those inertial measurement things that I forget the name of, to keep it in one place. With power coming in through a cord, you could do it! Hoverdesk, patent pending! And I’m saying this on April 2nd!

  7. sneakypoo says:

    A bit over the top, should’ve toned down the amount of stuff on there to make it believable.

  8. fartface says:

    You guys forget that the pressure from that old wifi device makes the whole thing lighter when near the ground. those old units are high power and follow the inverse square law to cause actual lift when powered at a high voltage, you can make them hover on their own as well as increase range to 1-2 miles.

    • Eirinn says:

      Yesyes and the webcam has been modded with a gamma flux capacitor to act as a LIDAR.

    • lastchancename says:

      The mitigating factor to all these arguments of overloading, is the fact that as the overdriven fans and payload heat up, the air (e.g. inside the various small enclosures) gets lighter – hence making the whole vehicle less earthbound.
      The co-rotating fans are compensated by the ‘ducted fan’ design of the box fans – as opposed to the open-rotor type used in most quads.
      This is brilliant thinking over the horizon.

  9. Aztraph says:

    this has to be an april fools joke, the physics isnt there

  10. Matt says:

    I want one, please tell me there’s a kit and they ship to the UK !!!11!

  11. Dave says:

    Why not just bump the fan voltage up even more? Instead of running 12v fans off 24 volts, why not 240 volts or even 2400 volts? If you did that, then you could ride it to work and avoid traffic (plus by Nissan logic this is zero emissions!), or you could hire out your quad to construction companies to lift building materials at construction sites…

    Maybe if you went to 24,000 volts, it could even be used by NASA to lift objects into LEO…

  12. BeatJunkie says:

    sorry. too obvious.

  13. ejonesss says:

    it has to be fake because there is no way a pc fan would work like that.

  14. Thomas Thiel says:

    Thanks guys, you made my day. :D

  15. ameyring says:

    The Arduino looks like it has its PWM pins connected to the digital pins!

  16. April fools! The lift generated by the fans may keep a 800watt PSU cool, but not enough to lift the webcam alone! perhaps there ‘Droning on’ (http://hackaday.com/2014/03/31/droning-on-resources-and-first-steps/)

  17. Ohh says:

    Hahahaha! You got me for a second, count all my spare-vents before i smelled the rat..
    Awesome. Haha. Best from Germany.

  18. Funny. Does any one know what the hex and binary message was? My netbook won’t let me cut and paste or screenshot so I have no way to Google it.

  19. Dynamo Dan says:

    definitely a joke, the wimpy little motors in those things would burn up before they made enough lift, not to mention the lack of counter rotation.

  20. Brandon says:

    The first photo appears to have been taken with a Samsung Galaxy Exhilarate, the second one with Adobe Photoshop :D.

    The ELA is also far too high in the second photograph for the quadcopter in comparison to the background.

    Did I also mention that the laws of physics were being violated…

  21. Dude85 says:

    :) Had a laugh when reading this article and in the description in the youtube video:
    -proof of concept-

    And do i see a telescopic whip antenna for the router? haha

  22. cr0sh says:

    Heck, throw this and the video on kickstarter, and you’d be funded in no time!

  23. AJ Jeromin says:

    I built the same thing 70 years ago. It flew great. Still flying today.
    Arduino is overkill. We used moxy to for power back then though.

  24. ijnoij says:

    2/10, too lame.

  25. Tech B. says:

    I wish this wasn’t a joke. I don’t have the money for a quad or any “cool” copter. Really this is kind of an insult to people who wanna do cool shit, but simply don’t have the cash to do it.

  26. jan says:

    This has to be 1st of April joke – that battery alone weighs about a kilogram, not to mention the rest of the setup.

    Those fans have no way to lift so much. I would also love to see a 12V fan that would survive being powered from 24V. The BLDC controller would die immediately. Also the entire thing “hangs” on the tiny bearings of the fans – the props would likely be torn off from the fan frames by the forces required to lift this contraption up in the air.

    Nice try, folks :-p

  27. Thinkerer says:

    Kudos for taking the time to plug all that stuff together and make it look reasonably respectable for a one-shot joke. That said, why not take this to the next level and offer a challenge to see what kind of aerial mayhem *can* be made with cooling fans eg. a hovercraft [http://youtu.be/_GT-8C2G2Vk].

  28. Nice touch with the 24V tool battery. It’ll fly as far as he can toss it :D

  29. StinkySteve says:

    I just ordered 4 of the fans from ebay and a second hand cordless drill battery. Can anyone let me know what else I need?

  30. McGuiver says:

    NASA has a new platform for….wait I call BS. It is fake.

  31. Roger Wilco says:

    I think all the post should be like this today

  32. sparky says:

    This is one of the more reasonable diy ideas I’ve seen here.

  33. jimmy_pop says:


    I did my tests a few years ago, though. These propellers suck very much, it seems.

  34. Steven Clark says:

    Probably hasn’t heard that the ethernet shield is kinda redundant. Most OpenWRT-capable wireless routers have at least one TTL serial port on board, and linksys likes to pair them so he might not need to even give up his debug console.

  35. danielsroseman@gmail.com says:

    jeeze. You can do better than that Hackaday… Remember the type of people your readerbase is composed of.

  36. rbrat3 says:

    Aside from the joke here PC fan lift could be plausible. I had a few deltas that could hover over a surface and if the fan cage weight was stripped from the motor it might just take off :D

  37. Florin Fecioru says:

    Haha! But does it work during high emissions when the retro-turbo-encabulator is at peak stress?

  38. Mystick says:

    Sorry, I call shenanigans on this one…

  39. xeon says:

    Those fans canot lift them self captain. XD

  40. Me says:

    Imagine how awesome it would be to live in a universe where this was real. Then again.. we would probably all go flying backwards every time we exhaled.

  41. Mahtool says:

    Seriously, who puts this stupid stuff in here? How the hell is it possible to fly a freakin huge battery just using 4 pc fan turning in the same direction? Man and worth is that some of you guys are believing it!

  42. justice099 says:

    Me too! Me too!!!

  43. Haku says:

    Oh my god! I’ve got a bunch of spare PC fans kicking around, I’ve got to try that!

  44. OpenglMan says:

    jaja, what a fake !

  45. Tim says:

    So awesome, made me look at the calendar. Now in the spirit of Myth Busters let’s make it fly!

  46. uri says:

    April Foolishness, for time wasters.

  47. Pez says:

    I have been able to make cooling fans hover by running them !well! over their rated voltage .. so this hack is probably plausible if you eliminate the on-board battery adn power it externally.

    But as described, it sure seems like a hoax … The DeWalt battery is probably not far enough above the rated voltage of the fans to make them run super-fast, and it’s a little on the heavy side.

  48. kamnxt says:

    It works! (On the ISS, spinning in circles :P)

  49. kor says:

    Haha! :) For a few short seconds I bought it, I even had time to think “Do I have any span computer fans lying around?”. Nice one!

  50. Galane says:

    There are some 4″ fans that can move 50 CFM at around 5K RPM. (Keep fingers out, please!) That amount of blow comes at the cost of being very loud, over 40 decibels. I had seven of them a friend gave to me. I thought about mounting them all inside a large diameter pipe (ring of 6, 1 in middle, not inline) to make a 350 CFM blower but instead gave the noisemakers to another person.

    Carefully shaving off what little molding flash there was on the blades, smoothing sharp edges and profiling the four struts resulted in a perceptible noise reduction but the fan I did that to was still too effing loud.

    If only the brushless DC fan industry would make fans in left and right rotation.

    Hmmm, there’s a hack. Alter the driver on the fan to run the other way then 3D scan and mirror then print a new blade with a high resolution resin printer, make silicone mold, cast new blade in hard polyurethane.

    Orrrrr, instead of trying to use the existing blades, just use the motors (from the highest RPM/CFM fans you can find) as outrunners and attach left and right propellers.

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