Zip Tie Quadcopter Frame is as Cheap as They Come

We’ve seen some cheap quadcopter builds over the years, but this one takes the cake. After seeing somebody post a joke about building a quadcopter frame out of zip ties and hot glue, [IronMew] decided to try it for real. The final result is a micro quadcopter that actually flies half-way decently and seems to be fairly resistant to crash damage thanks to the flexible structure.

The first attempts at building the frame failed, as the zip ties (unsurprisingly) were too flexible and couldn’t support the weight of the motors. Eventually, [IronMew] realized that trying to replicate the traditional quadcopter frame design just wasn’t going to work. Rather than a body with arms radiating out to hold the motors, the layout he eventually came up with is essentially the reverse of a normal quadcopter frame.

Zip ties reinforced with a healthy coating of hot glue are arranged into a square, with a motor at each corner. Then four zip ties are used to support the central “pod” which holds the battery and electronics. No attempt is made to strengthen this part of the frame, and as such the heavy central pod hangs down a bit in flight. [IronMew] theorizes that this might actually be beneficial in the end, as he believes it could have a stabilizing effect when it comes time to record FPV video.

He mentions that he’s still struggling to get the PID values setup properly in the flight computer, but in the video after the break you can see that it’s flying fairly well for a first attempt. We wouldn’t recommend you tear into a bag of zip ties when it comes time to build your first quadcopter, but it does go to show that there’s plenty of room for experimentation.

We’ve covered a number of unique quadcopter frames if you’re looking for something to set your next build apart from the rest. If you’ve got a big enough bed you can 3D print a very nice frame, but if you’ve got more time than equipment, you could always cut one out of a piece of plywood.

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3D Printing a Better Quadcopter Frame

Before you smash the “Post Comment” button with the fury of Zeus himself, we’re going to go ahead and say it: if you want to build a decent quadcopter, buy a commercial frame. They are usually one of the cheaper parts of the build, they’re very light for how strong they are, and replacement parts are easily available. While you could argue the cost of PLA/ABS filament is low enough now that printing it would be cheaper than buying, you aren’t going to be able to make a better quadcopter frame on a 3D printer than what’s available on the commercial market.

The frame features a surprisingly low part count.

Having said that, [Paweł Spychalski] has recently shown off his 3D printed FPV racing quadcopter frame with some surprising results. The frame ended up being surprisingly stiff, and while the weight is a bit high, it’s actually lighter than he expected. If you’re looking to build a quad with the absolute minimum of expense his design might be something to look into.

Of course, [Paweł] is hardly the first person to think about printing a quad frame. But he did give his design some extra consideration to try and overcome some of the shortcomings he noticed in existing 3D printed designs. For one, rather than have four separate arms that mount to a central chassis, his design has arms that go all the way across with a thick support that goes between the motors. The central chassis is also reassuringly thick, adding to the overall stiffness of the frame.

The key here is that [Paweł] printed all the parts with 2 mm thick walls. While that naturally equates to longer print times and greater overall weight, it’s probably more than worth it to make sure the frame doesn’t snap in half the first time it touches the ground.

Beyond the printed parts, all you need to assemble this frame are about a dozen M3 nuts and bolts. Overall, between the hardware and the plastic you’re looking at a total cost of under $5 USD. In the video below [Paweł] puts the frame through its paces doing some acrobatic maneuvers, and it looks like 5 bucks well spent to us.

If you want to go all-in on 3D printed quadcopter parts, you can pair this frame with some printed propellers. Perhaps even a printed camera gimbal while you’re at it. Continue reading “3D Printing a Better Quadcopter Frame”

Control a Quadcopter over Websockets

The interface

Everyone’s favourite IOT module, the ESP8266, is often the go-to choice for any project that needs quick and cheap control over the web. [Andi23456] wanted to control his quadcopter using the luxury of his mobile phone and thought permanently tethering an ESP12-E module to the quadcopter was exactly what he required.

The ESP8266, really showcasing its all-round prowess, hosts both a web server for a HTML5 based joystick and a Websockets server so that a client, such as a phone, could interact with it over a fast, low latency connection. Once the ESP8266 receives the input, it uses interrupts to generate the corresponding PPM (Pule Position Modulation) code which the RC receiver on the quadcopter can understand. Very cool!

What really makes this realtime(ish) control viable is Websockets, a protocol that basically allows you to flexibly exchange data over an “upgraded” HTTP connection without having to lug around headers each time you communicate. If you haven’t heard of Websockets you really should look really check out this library or even watch this video to see what you can achieve.

Dubai Police Test Quadcopter Motorcycle

If you ever wish you could be on your quadcopter when you fly it, you will really want to see the video showing the Dubai police department testing the Hoverbike. The Russian company Hoversurf that markets the device doesn’t provide a lot of technical details, but it looks fairly simple. It is basically a motorcycle seat along with a big quadcopter. From the videos about the device, you can deduce that the pilot can control it or you can fly it remotely. You can see one of the videos, below.

There are a few things that worry us here. Of course, the huge spinning propellers as the pilot’s knee level should give you sweaty palms. In the demo, they even show the removal of the propeller guards before the test flight but let’s be honest, those don’t look like they would keep a falling pilot out of the rotors at all anyway. When looking beyond the hype we find it curious that the demo doesn’t show many (if any) shots of the pilot making a turn. The benefit of a vehicle like this to police should be maneuverability and from what we saw the Hoversurf is still limited.

So is it real? Hard to say. The short videos mostly show vertical or horizontal flight with no maneuvering. Is it hard to turn? Is the battery life really short? One other oddity: When we first saw a letter from the US Patent Office on their site, we thought they might have some new technology. However, that letter is simply showing they registered a trademark and doesn’t reference a patent. If there is a patent we want to know what is new and novel here.

Of course, we know it’s possible to build such a machine since we saw [Colin Furze] do it with two rotors instead of four. The US Department of Defense is working on something with a company called Malloy and there are other practical examples. There are also some less practical examples. What we’re really on the lookout for is a product that works so well it will actually be used. You know, like those Segways that airport police use, right?

We hope Hoversurf can bring this to market because we definitely want one. There’s no reason to think they can’t, but we do wish there were more details forthcoming.

Flexible Quadcopter Is Nearly Indestructible

We’ve all crashed quadcopters. It’s almost inevitable. Everything is going along fine and dandy ’till mother nature opens her big mouth a blows a nasty gust of wind right at you, pushing your quad into the side of a wall. A wall that happens to be composed of a material that is quite a bit harder than your quadcopter. “What if…” you ask yourself while picking up the pieces of you shiny new quad off the ground… “they made these things out of flexible material?”

Well, it would appear someone has done just that. The crash resistant quadcopter is composed of a flexible frame (obviously) which is held rigid with magnets. So the frame works just like the frame of your average quad. Until you crash it, of course. Then it becomes flexible.

The idea came from the wing of a wasp, which you can apparently crumple without damaging it. Be sure to check out the video below of the drone showing off its flexible frame, and let us know if you’ve seen any other types of flexible frame drones in the wild.

Thanks to [JDHE] for the tip!

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The World’s Lightest Brushless FPV Quadcopter

When a claim is made for something being the world’s lightest it is easy to scoff, after all that’s a bold assertion to make. It hasn’t stopped [fishpepper] though, who claims to have made the world’s lightest brushless FPV quadcopter. Weighing in at 32.4 grams (1.143 oz) it’s certainly pretty light.

The frame is a circular design cut from carbon-fiber-reinforced polymer, and on it are mounted four tiny brushless motors. In the center are the camera and battery on a 3D printed mount, as well as custom flight and speed controller boards. There are a series of posts detailing some of the design steps, and the result is certainly a capable aircraft for something so tiny. If you fancy experimenting with the design yourself, the files are available for download on the first page linked above.

There are two aspects to this build that make it interesting to us. First, the lightest in the world claim. We think someone will come along with something a bit lighter, and we can’t wait to see a lightest multirotor arms race. Good things come of technology races, which brings us to the second aspect. Governments are busy restricting the use of larger multirotors, to the extent that in some parts of the world all that will be available for non professionals will be sub-200g toy craft. Any project like this one which aims to push the boundaries of what is possible with smaller multirotors is thus extremely interesting, and we hope the community continue to innovate in this direction if only to make a mockery of any restrictions.

To get some idea of the sort of legislative measures we might be seeing, take a look at our coverage of a consultation in just one country.

$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.

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