Combine Broken Drone Propellers For A Second Spin

If you’ve ever flown or watched anyone fly a racing drone for any length of time, you know that crashes are just part of the game and propellers are consumables. [Adam] knows this all to well, decided to experiment with combining multiple broken propellers into one with a 3D printed hub.

A damaged propeller will often have one blade with no damage, still attached to the hub. [Adam] trimmed the damaged parts of a few broken props, and set about designing a 3D printed hub to attach the loose blades together. The hubs were designed let the individual blades to move, and folding out as the motors spin up, similar to the props on many photography drones.

Once [Adam] had the fit of the hubs dialed in, he mounted a motor on a piece of wood and put the reborn propellers through their paces. A few hubs failed in the process, which allowed [Adam] to identify weak points and optimise the design. This sort of rapid testing is what 3D printing truly excels at, allowing test multiple designs quickly instead of spending hours in CAD trying to foresee all the possible problems.

He then built a test drone from parts he had lying around and proceeded with careful flight testing. The hubs were thicker than standard propellers so it limited [Adams] motor choices to ones with longer shafts. Flight testing went surprisingly well, with a hub only failing after [Adam] changed the battery from a 3 cell to a 4 cell and started with some aerobatics. Although this shows that the new props are not suitable for the high forces from racing or aerobatics/freestyle flying, they could probably work quite well for smoother cruising flights. The hubs could also be improved by adding steel pins into the 3D printed shafts, and some carefully balancing the assembled props.

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Quadcopters Go Inverted By Reversing Their Motors

Inverted Quadcopter? That generally means a crash is soon to follow. Not so for a new crop of quadcopter fliers. These new quadcopters are capable of sustained inverted flight. We’ve seen inverted quadcopters before here on hackaday. However, previous inverted quadcopters always used collective pitch to control the thrust produced by the blades. Collective pitch on a quadcopter is much simpler than it is on the main rotor of a traditional helicopter. R/C and full-scale helicopters mix collective and cyclic pitch to articulate the main rotor blades. A quadcopter only needs the collective portion, which is similar to a traditional helicopters tail rotor mechanism, or a variable pitch prop on an airplane.

These new quadcopters are using a much simpler method of flying inverted: Spin the motors backwards. Quadcopters control their flight by quickly varying the speed of rotation of each motor. Why not completely reverse the motor then? Today’s brushless outrunner motors have more than enough power to quickly reverse direction. The problem becomes one of propellers. Standard propellers are designed to create thrust in one direction only. Every quadcopter uses two clockwise rotation and two counterclockwise rotation propellers. Propellers will generate reverse thrust if they are spun backwards, however they will not be as efficient as they would when spinning the direction they were designed for. The quad fliers have found a partial solution to this problem: Remove the curve from the blade. R/C propeller blades are sold by diameter and blade pitch. The pitch is a measure of the angle of attack of the blades. R/C blades also have an airfoil style curve molded into them. Removing this curve (but not changing the pitch) has helped the problem.

This final problem is control systems. Since quadcopters already are relying on computer control for basic flight, it’s simply a matter of loading custom firmware onto your flight board to support motor rotation reversal. Speed controls also have to be capable of reverse rotation, which means new firmware as well. We’re curious to see how the quadcopter community settles on the control systems for inverted flight. The R/C helicopter community went through several iterations of control systems over the years. At one point they were using “Invert switches” which reversed controls as well as handled the collective pitch changes. As time went on, these switches fell out of favor and are now known as “Crash switches” due to the result of accidentally hitting one while flying, or before engine start.

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