$12 Quadcopter Frame from PVC Pipe

Flying ready-made quadcopters is fun. Eventually, though, most hackers get the urge to build their own. One of the most challenging parts is building a robust airframe. [Thomas Jarrett] has an interesting approach: he uses schedule 21 PVC pipe to build a sturdy airframe that is inexpensive and can house the craft’s electronics to boot. You can see a video of the sizeable aircraft, below.

The 1″ pipe is lightweight but sturdy and big enough to hold some circuitry. The rest is secured with Lexan. [Thomas] used off the shelf avionics, but it is obvious you could use the frame with your own choice of flight systems easily.

Perhaps the trickiest part is flattening the PVC for the motor mounts over a stove. The landing gear are also PVC, and formed in boiling water. Just be careful since hot PVC can give off nasty fumes (we aren’t experts on that, but it makes sense that it would be; you can watch a video about safety when heating PVC pipe). The total cost, including some prototyping parts, was under $300.

We’ve talked about building up drones in the past. If you don’t like PVC, you could always try old motherboards.

23 thoughts on “$12 Quadcopter Frame from PVC Pipe

      1. Except the pre-made frame could be replaced more easily, the PVC would require fabrication of a new part. I would bet the PVC is more durable to begin with. half a dozen one way, six the other.

        Doesn’t really matter anyway, I make plenty of stuff that i could go buy…making it is half the fun.

      2. PVC is fragile, especially outside of a narrow interval of temperatures (20 to 40 degrees C). Take this into account if you want to fly anything made of PVC during winter or very hot summer.

  1. How did this qualify for a hackaday post?
    I have a friend who spends a hughe amount of time trying to find new worthy stores and this is posted…

    I am in another country filming a tv show called drone wars and the crazy stuff built here like a toilet seat drone would only just qualify for hackaday.

  2. Considering PVC pipe multirotors have been around for at least 5 years and are documented on every multirotors forum I’m wondering why this would even be posted as it’s trotting along behind thousands of others who have done the same.

    I notice the resonance problem hasn’t been mentioned (which is why most people abandoned it as a worthwhile material.

    Coroplast would have been slightly more novel

    What next a RPi stuck into an old Nintendo case with hot glue as a hack?

    BTW it’s always possible that the author didn’t bother checking but the editorial decisions for what constitutes new or novel seem to be somewhat lacking.

  3. Be aware that PVC tubing becomes very fragile outside of its safe temperature interval, which is among 20 and 40 degrees C. IMO it won’t stand motors vibrations for long, especially during winter.

  4. Lot’s of vitriol here today….
    So it sounds like there’s a subset of Hackaday readers that want the editors to do a quick scour of the internet for previously existing hacks, and just quietly drop anything that’s already been done? Isn’t that a line of reasoning that literally kills the purpose of a site like this?

    I’ve had piles of PVC since I got my first apartment. Lately I’ve been wondering how to reform it, and was looking at air frame applications. I don’t get on to RC sites or drone sites… I’ve got a limited amount of time in my life. I’m going to go look there, because apparently someone has already figured out my problem (how to safely heat a PVC pipe for reforming).

    Dunno… These “Not a hack” and “Already done somewhere else” posts are pretty much useless when they don’t contain additional content (Like: Also done here, at coolsite.com).

    1. If you want references to around half a decade of uPVC multirotors then Google is a fairly efficient method, though I will give you a headstart multi-rotor.co.uk or RCGroups.

      BTW frankly yes if you curate (I believe that is still the hip term) then you really should do some checking before publishing.

      A fairly reasonable definition of a hack is a unique (usually non obvious) solution to a problem.

      Well with many videos on YouTube, builds documented on inline forums for around half a decade, then to be honest no it’s not a hack, it’s repeating what has been done many many times before along with pool noodles, styrofoam, cardboard, wood and paper straws.

      I even avoided the ‘P word’

      I also dislike the term “life hack” things like using glue to stick something back together is not a hack, and neither is eating less may assist in weight loss.

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