Multicopters and their MultiWii Beginnings

With more than five years down the road in this successful hack, [Alexinparis] and his pioneering Nintendo controller hack have been taking eager enthusiasts to the skies with homebrew multicopters armed with MultiWii firmware.

The MultiWii firmware, like most other glorious moments that gloss these pages, was as a hack, and a darn good one. By harvesting the (I²C-based) accel-gyro sensor package in a Nintendo Wii MotionPlus, [Alexinparis] developed control firmware for an Arduino Pro Mini, and, thus: the MultiWii Controller Board was born. With a successful WiiMotion Plus pcb extraction, an Arduino Pro Mini, and some help from the forums, the dedicated hobbyist could build their own flying platform with customizable firmware enabling bi, tri, quad, hex, octo, Y6, and Y4 propeller configurations.

With a working flight controller, [Alexinparis] sent his firmware skyward in a tricopter built from scratch. For a light-but-sturdy shell, he opted for a lost-foam cast hull made from fiberglass and carbon fiber tow. This hull houses most of the electronics safely inside the hollow shell while maintaining the strength to sustain heavy blows from crashes. (The version shown above features additional carbon fiber reinforcement in the center.)

multiwiiLostFoammultiwiiLostFoamHousingmultiwiiDone

More than five years later, MultiWii is a mature open-source project with firmware and wiki under constant update. If you’ve ever considered getting started with multicopters, this project stands as a tested-and-tried road to success. In fact, even RC vendor HobbyKing offers low-cost Multiwii PCBs compatible with the firmware. For more details on the project’s humble beginnings, head on over to the RC Groups thread and followup documentation thread.

We’ve seen MultiWii countless times in the past as the firmware in numerous multicopter builds. It’s about time we give [Alexinparis] some well-deserved credit for paving the way.

8 thoughts on “Multicopters and their MultiWii Beginnings

  1. >More than five years later, MultiWii is a mature open-source project with firmware

    From what I can tell the AVR multiwii code is now rarely updated. Most people have moved on to STM32 based flight controllers running (multiwii derivatives) baseflight or cleanflight. You’d be mad to buy an AVR FC from hobbyking for almost the same price as they have their naze32 or banggood etc sells the flip32.

  2. I’m still using the 3DR APM 2.6 and am still very, very happy with it. It uses the InvenSense MPU6000 gyro & accelerometer, and an amsys MS5611 barometer, magneto & compass are external (also from 3DR). The ATMega2560 (clocked @ 16MHz) that runs the flight control algorithms has plenty of time to spare, so i really don’t see a reason to go for a 32 bit platform here. It’s performance is rock solid, so i doubt using higher precision calculations would do much either.
    The 3DR Community also made kickass ground control software (the best there is atm imho), everything is open-source, and new firmware is released on a regular basis. Though the last update only introduced “features” that were probably required by some local laws. (eg. geo fencing airfields etc.)

    1. That’s just not true. 3DR already have a 32-bit platform in the Pixhawk, which runs an STM32, and there are already major features which are in the Pixhawk firmware and not the older APM because they don’t fit.

      All that being said if you actually want to fly your multicopter, rather than have it fly itself, then nothing 3DR makes even comes close to handling like Cleanflight on a super fast twitchy acro machine.

      1. >All that being said if you actually want to fly your multicopter

        +1 to this. I’m sure it’s fun programming your little drone to go off and do almost nothing in the air for a few minutes but it bores the shit out of everyone else after the first time of seeing it.
        To anyone pissing around with APM boards, GPS modules etc: Get a cheap 250 frame built up with an FC that only has gyro and acc and fly like you stole it. FPV is like real life Wipeout if you can get your head around it and flying low and fast LOS is crap your pants scary and fun.

        1. That’s the cool thing with controllers like the APM or PixHawk, you can switch them into different modes.

          Want to fly a cam as smooth as possible? Flip a switch.
          Want to have a chill flight with some stabilization? Flip a switch.
          Want to have full manual control to take it out, flip it and reverse it? Flip a switch
          You fucked up and want the computer to help you regain stability/control? Flip a switch.

          Surely requires a metric fuckton of switches and a radio capable of switch-mixing, but you get the idea.

          1. You can switch flight modes etc via switches in the MW forks too. You can have profiles to select the rates etc via stick commands or switches too.
            The main thing baseflight and cleanflight don’t really have are perfected return to home via GPS. But IMHO that’s of limited utility if you’re actually flying around.

      2. Yes, I know, the Pixhawk was already out when it bought the 2.6, I went with the 2.6 simply because i’m very familiar with the AVR family and already have the toolchain installed etc. Sure, the new platform is well prepared for future enhancements whatever they might be, but it doesn’t offer any features that i care about that the 2.6 cannot handle atm.
        Furthermore, after some tuning, the APM is incredibly responsive, control latency is very low. Stabilize mode flies just like any other simple stabilizing controller, with the benefit that you can just flip a switch and go to alt-hold or loiter (gps hold position) mode to focus on taking some pictures for example. Point being that if you want to fly FPV in stabilize mode, it performs like the best.

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