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Build Your Own Drone – DIY Drone Guide

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There are many reasons to learn how to build a drone. Many people are doing it as a hobby. On the flip side, those who prefer do-it-yourself projects love building these amazing machines from start to finish. However, if you love this hobby too, you may purchase pre-built drone kits and build drone like a LEGO set.

 

Although this can be a fun project for drone builders, there is one big disadvantage with having a pre-built drone kit. That is that you do not have the opportunity to really build up the craft from the beginning, you simply have to get it ready for flight and take off.

 

This can be a good idea if you plan on taking it apart and putting it together again after flying, but otherwise you must learn how to build a drone all by yourself. When you have all the necessary materials and equipment to build a fully functional drone, you will save a lot of time and money.

 

But what about the cost? How can you afford to start a drone-building business from scratch?

 

Of course you could do it with your spare cash. Or you could find a pre-made kit and build it from scratch using materials that can be purchased from a local hardware store. If you are really ambitious, you may try to make it entirely from scratch. This will take more time and patience than a kit, but it can still be a fun project if done right. You just need to take some time to decide what type of craft you want to build, and what material you will need.

 

For a beginner, it is important that you learn as much as you can about the hobby before you try to become a drone builder. In other words, learn about the history of the crafts, the basics of aeronautics and the laws governing the use of remote controlled aircraft. The more you know, the better prepared you will be. When you know enough to start building your own drone, you will have confidence and be able to build a successful flying vehicle.

 

If you choose to make your own drone from scratch, do not forget to find a local hobby store where you can purchase all the materials that you will need. {including blueprints, parts, etc. If you cannot find what you are looking for at home depot or your local hobby store, consider visiting an auction site such as eBay. {which sells kits from hobbyist enthusiasts who have sold them previously. The best part about eBay is that you can see if there are any sellers offering lower prices.

 

Once you have all the items that you need, start with your first flight, put together the components that you bought, and put the kit together. {and then make a couple more flights. {in no time you will be flying your very own remote controlled helicopter. Once you are comfortable flying it, you may find that you love it so much that you will want to build more of them.

 

If you are looking for a way to get into the hobby drone-building business, consider building a radio control model airplane. Although this is slightly harder to operate, especially when it comes to controlling the propeller, it is also more complicated than a remote control helicopter.

XKY K10 GPS Drone WiFi FPV Drone with Adjustable HD ESC Camera ...

With the radio control model, it is much easier to set up your transmitter and receiver and control your flying drone. {so that you can fly it indoors, outside and even hover it over your yard. {or the side of your house. {or your balcony, or even in the air! You can easily move the drone anywhere you would like, but never lose it and have to deal with getting to it again.

 

If you plan on working alone, this hobby will be quite rewarding. {as you will be building something that people can see and enjoy. {and in return, they may even come out and buy one of their models from you. {which you can then turn around and sell. {to someone else!). It is a great way to make friends and spread the hobby and make new friends with the local community while building something that you can keep.

 

There is no limit to how much work you can put into your hobby, and in many ways this hobby is similar to the remote control models in many ways. {and even has many similarities. {such as flying a helicopter or a quadcopter, and flying an airplane. {or helicopter in real life. {or a glider. {or a remote controlled car. {or even a jet plane! However, a drone is controlled by the person controlling it. {or not. {or not at all, which makes it much different. {or much more difficult. {or much more rewarding. {or not). A remote controlled vehicle is just a vehicle that flies.

 

Drones are not just good for capturing action but they can also be used for surveillance. Here are some tips on responsible and ethical use of unmanned aerial vehicles:

o First, let people know about the purpose and the limitations before you begin recording. Make sure to get permission from landowners who are not necessarily willing to allow surveillance. Consider the area surrounding the drone’s flight path as well as its altitude, if any.

o Be aware of your own safety. If there are flying objects in the way of your drone’s view, it is best to steer clear of the area until the object goes away. Even if the object is a moving object, it is still considered a threat to the drone and requires maneuvering into a safe position. If you find yourself in an area with a moving object, it is important that you avoid making sudden movements that could damage the drone.

o Understand your own personal laws and regulations. There are laws governing how you should maintain your own drone. For example, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) regulates how owners of remote control aircraft must properly store and transport their unmanned aerial vehicles.

o Consider safety issues when using the drone itself. Some states have strict laws regarding the use of drones, including how to handle the drones’ cameras while still remaining within the confines of their laws.

o It is also important to note that it is illegal for the government to sell or distribute your aerial footage without your consent. For example, if you are recording footage for the Department of Defense, you may not post that footage on the internet without your approval.

o Be careful when using the drone. Although the laws regulating the use of remotely controlled vehicles differ from state to state, it is still illegal to shoot down the drone in flight. You may, however, be allowed to fly the drone below 400 feet above the ground.

These tips are designed to help you understand what are the appropriate and ethical uses of drone videos. Remember to ask any and all questions before you begin filming.

o First, consider your personal safety. If there are flying objects in the way of your camera’s view, it is best to steer clear of the area until the object goes away. Even if the object is a moving object, it is still considered a threat to the drone and requires maneuvering into a safe position.

o If you are using your drone for commercial purposes, make sure you keep all personal safety issues in mind. There are also laws governing the use of remotely controlled vehicles, such as when they fly beyond line of sight.

o Be very careful when posting your drone videos on the internet. As with any other forms of visual media, copyright issues can play a role in whether you can freely broadcast or upload your video.

o Think carefully before publishing your drone videos on YouTube. YouTube is one of the biggest social networks, and not all drone videos there will be acceptable for free use.

Be aware of the fact that many sites, including some major ones, are going to charge a fee before they will let you upload your videos. Many people also have a right to charge you for your drone footage. Before you start shooting, make sure you read the terms and conditions associated with those sites, especially the terms of service related to video broadcasting.

It is also a good idea to read up on the law in your particular area. As a general rule, it is against the law to fly your unmanned aerial vehicle above 400 feet, so be very careful where you fly them.

Finally, before you post your drone footage, be sure to check the local news. Some localities have regulations regarding the use of drone footage, so it pays to check with your local government before uploading your footage to the internet. This will ensure that you are within the limits of your own area’s rules.

Be sure you follow the instructions of local authorities and never forget that you have a responsibility to protect yourself. and others around you. The safety and security of all persons must always come first when you are operating a drone.

Basic Tools Needed for Building Drones

  1. Soldering Iron and solder (Required): You will need a soldering iron for assembling some of your drone parts.
  2. Helping Hands (Optional): Helping hands keep you sane while trying to solder. They basically hold the part wanting to be soldered in place.
  3. Multi-meter (Optional): A multimeter is just generally a good tool to have in your toolbox, and could greatly help in diagnosing any electrical problems you may encounter with your drone
  4. Double sided sticky tape (Required): This is almost the most important part for any drone build, and I’m only sort of kidding. You will be fixing many parts to your frame simply with double sided sticky tape.
  5. Velcro (Required): A strip of Velcro is very helpful for fixing your lipo battery to your frame
  6. Zip Ties (Required): Some drone hardware is easier to fix to the frame with simple zip ties, like ESCs (See below).
  7. Heat shrink or electrical tape (Required): Your motors and ESCs will probably be connected with bullet connectors (More foreshadowing, see below). If these metal bullet connectors touch while you’re flying, the circuit will short out and your drone will probably crash down to earth. Avoid this terror by placing an insulator around your metal bullet connectors.

Tools for Drone Building

Basic Drone Parts

Frame

There are two main things to note about the frame of your drone. The first being how many arms there are. Each arm will normally have one motor, which will have one propeller. For this reason, drones with multiple motors are simply referred to as ‘multirotors’.

Drone Frame Quadcopter

Tricopter: A drone with three motors.

Quadcopter: A drone with four motors.

Hexacopter: A drone with six motors.

Octocopter: A drone with eight motors.

Quadcopters are by far the most popular, so we will be focusing on how to make a quadcopter in this guide.

The second thing to know about frames is the size. Frame sizes list the farthest distance that two motors are from each other. For quadcopters, this normally means measuring the distance between two di

agonal motors in millimeters (sorry Americans).

Drone Frame Size Quadcopter

Nano Drone: 80-100 mm

Micro Drone: 100-150 mm

Small Drone: 150-250 mm

Medium Drone: 250-400 mm

Large Drone: 400+ mm

Motors

There are two main types of motors: brushed and brushless. Your cheaper ready to fly drones will be using brushed motors, and that’s because they are the cheaper motor. While cheap, they wear down and break much faster than brushless motors. Brushless motors last much longer and are the preferred motor of choice for diy drone builds.

There are innumerable amounts of brushless motors out there. To help you determine what motor will go best with your build, most manufacturers give you some information about the product. The two most common specs are the size and KV rating

Let’s look at a particular example.

2213 935KV Brushless Motor

Brushless Motor: 2213 935KV

Here the motor size is 2213. That is really representing two numbers and should be shown like this: 22-13.

The 22 is the width of the stator in mm, and the 13 is the height of rotor in mm. Typically, the wider the width, the more torque the motor have.

Another spec that comes with brushless motors is the KV-rating. On our example motors, it is 935KV. Don’t confuse KV with kilo-volts. Here KV rating means RPMs per one volt of input.

So if we supplied 1 volt to a 935 KV motor, it would spin at 935 RPMs. Two volts input would cause 1870 RPMs etc.

Lower KV motors produce much more torque, so can spin larger props at slower speeds to get lift. Larger KV motors produce much lower torque, but spin smaller props much faster to get lift.

Typically larger drones use low KV motors, and smaller drones use high KV motors.

The last thing I’ll say here is most manufacturers will show you the specs of parts that should be used with the motor, which can prove helpful in selecting parts once you’ve chosen your motors.

Our example motor comes with the following helpful information.

Propellers (Props)

Propellers will always come with a four-digit number like 8045, or 1045 or 6030.

The first two digits communicates the diameter of the prop in inches (Yay Americans!). So an 8045 prop will be 8 inches in diameter.

The last two digits represent the pitch, in inches. The 8045 example has a 4.5-inch pitch, and the 6030 prop has a 3 inch pitch.

Pitch is a little less intuitive to understand than diameter. Qualitatively, the higher the pitch the more air will be pushed down. A prop with a pitch of 0 inches would be like spinning a butter knife.

To understand what the pitch actually means let’s use an analogy. Screws have pitch as well. If you turn a screw one rotation into a piece of wood, it will dig itself into the wood at some constant depth.

Let’s now imagine that we placed the pitch of our 8045 prop onto a screw, so the screw now has 4.5 in pitch. One rotation of the screw would cause it to dig into wood by 4.5 inches. We can now see that the higher the pitch of a prop, the more substance (air) it will move.

Higher pitch props are normally used with low KV motors since they provide more torque. They can spin slower since high pitch props are pushing a lot of air per unit of rotation. Lower pitch props are used with high KV motors since they spin much faster. They have to spin faster since they are pushing less air per rotation.

Electronic Speed Controllers (ESC)

If you are using a brushless motor, you will need an electronic speed controller. Brushed motors do not require an ESC because they only need a simple DC voltage input.

Brushless motors on the other hand require an input of three out of phase voltages. Don’t worry, this sounds scarier than it is. All you have to do is supply the ESC with a DC input voltage, and it will automatically generate three out of phase voltages that connect to the Electron Speed Controllermotor, causing it to spin.

Your manufacturer will tell you the range of input voltages your ESC can handle, so keep an eye on that.

Typically your ESC will come with three outputs, and you will solder some male bullet connectors to the ends that will attach to the female bullet connectors of the motors.

 

Lithium Polymer Battery (Lipo battery)

Your battery powers everything on your drone.

Almost always the battery of choice for drones is the Lipo battery. This is for its attributes of high capacity and high output current.

A typical Lipo battery will come with specs like this: 3000 mAh 4S 50C

Lipo Battery

Lipo Cell Count

Let’s start with the 4S part. A battery pack is a bundle of individual little batteries, called cells. A lipo cell always has a voltage of 4.2V when fully charged, and 3.7V when depleted. So the 4S means that four of these Lipo cells were placed in series. Since batteries connected in series add voltages, we know the fully charged voltage of the total battery pack is:

(Cell count)(Fully charged Voltage)=(4 cells)(4.2V)=16.8 Volts

Capacity

Lipo Cell

Individual Lipo Cell

Moving onto the mAh spec. This is a measure of capacity, and capacity is normally measured in Coulombs of charge. Think of capacity like the volume of a liquid container; it simply represents how much charge is in the battery.

SUPER NERD STUFF ALERT. SKIP TO C-RATING IF YOU DON’T CARE ABOUT UNITS!

But wait! mAh has no units of Coulombs in it! It actually does, but it’s just hidden. Let me explain.

1 Amp = 1 Coulomb/second = 1 C/s

1 h = 1 hour = 3600 seconds

m = milli = 1/1000

So subbing in our variables into mAh:

3000 mAh = 3000(1/1000)(1 C/S)(3600 s) = 10800 Coulombs

So 3000 mAh is the same thing as saying 10800 Coulombs.

The next part is the C-rating

C-Rating

The higher the C rating, the higher the output of current can be for that battery.

To find out the maximum current output your battery can handle, take the C rating and multiply it by the capacity of your battery in units of Ah.

The C rating has units of inverse hours (1/hour)

3 Ah*50(1/h) = 150 A

So this hypothetical 50C battery could output 150A of current!

Now there is some confusion on what the C rating actually means. Some manufacturers’ C rating simply means the maximum burst current you could output for 30 seconds, and others use the C rating to indicate the maximum continuous current output. Check with your specific battery manufacturer to determine which C rating they are using!

Power Distribution Board (PDB)

Power Distribution Board with Battery Connector

Power Distribution Board with Battery Connector

The power distribution board is where your main electrical components will connect. The main things you will solder to your PDB are your ESCs and battery connector.

When you plug in your battery to the PDB, it provides power to everything attached, so this is where your ESCs will be drawing their current from.

Flight Controller

A flight controller is basically the brains of the drone. It is essentially a hardware hub that all your drone parts will attach to. Things like the ESCs, GPS, Telemetry, RC Input and many other components.

All flight controllers should come equipped with a gyroscope and accelerometer (IMU), which together help to automatically balance your drone without any manual input.

All flight controllers are controlled by the firmware. Depending on the flight controller,

Flight Controller Board Pixhawk

Flight Controller Board Pixhawk

you may have access to flash new firmware to the board. Firmware can either be closed source (property of a company that the public cannot see), or open source (the public can see the code and make modifications).

If you’d like a drone with open source firmware like ArduPilot or PX4, be sure that the board you are buying is supported.

GPS

GPS modules can be bought for pretty cheap. Typically they use the UART or I2C protocol, and most of GPS modules intended for drone use come equipped with a magnetometer as well.

You should have your GPS/magnetometer module lifted up in the air to get away from the magnetic fields being produced by your drone’s electronics.

If your GPS is too close to the electronics, it could be causing incorrect readings producing some funny flight.

RC Controller

Radio Controller Transmitter

Radio Controller Transmitter

An RC controller will consist of a transmitter (the thing being held by the pilot) and a receiver (to receive the commands from the pilot).

 

The receiver will plug into your Flight Controller.

You have some options with the RC controller. Cheaper RC controllers have a lower number of channels. The minimum number of channels you should use is probably five or six for a drone.

RC Receiver

RC Receiver

Every drone will take up four channels automatically with the Roll, Pitch, Yaw and Throttle control.

Your excess channels can be used for more unique control, like changing the flight mode of your multirotor.

Telemetry

Telemetry is also used to wirelessly communicate with the drone.

There will be one module attached to the drone, and another to a computer (sometimes referred to as a ground control station GCS). This is typically plug and play.

The GCS can then communicate with the drone remotely. It can both send and receive

Telemetry Modules

Telemetry Modules

information.

 

For example, the GCS could track the drone’s position on a map, determine how fast the drone is moving, see battery voltage levels and many other things.

It can also be used to command the drone, meaning you wouldn’t actually need an RC controller to fly it.

While this is something that is possible and something that is actually done, telemetry is mostly used for receiving data back from the drone.

 

 

 

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