As with any project, the first step in a DIY quadcopter build is planning – you need to determine your parts list, make sure everything is compatible, and finally order the parts. This step in and of itself can be incredibly time consuming and frustrating, especially for someone like me who doesn’t have a lot of experience with RC aircraft. It took a ton of research over several months, poring over blogs, forum posts, and Chinese parts suppliers’ shady websites before I felt that I had a proper understanding of what I needed. The best advice I can give someone who is embarking on a DIY quadcopter build project is to find a parts list from someone more experienced and try to use the same parts. Once you’ve built one or two of your own machines, you will have a much better idea of which parts are compatible with each other and how you can modify or upgrade certain parts of the quadcopter to make it perform exactly the way you want. I want to give a shout out to OddCopter for having such an amazing build guide with parts list. I wasn’t able to get everything mentioned in that post because a few things were out of stock, but it is a great starting point and my first build will be largely based on that guide. After a handful of false starts and abandoned shopping carts I finally pulled the trigger on a batch of parts from HobbyKing. There are other suppliers but I wanted to be able to get everything from one place, in one order if possible. Aside from the quadcopter frame I was able to do so. Here’s what I ordered:
UPDATE: I do not recommend the wooden HobbyKing frame originally featured in this post. The frame and landing gear are weak and flimsy and my package was missing parts and hardware. You’re better off buying a more legit frame kit or building your own from scratch.
See a few of the DIY quadcopter frames I’ve built since this post was first published.
I recently rebuilt this quadcopter on a DJI Flame Wheel F450. Read my Flame Wheel F450 review.
If you are interested in getting all the parts from one vendor in one order, I’d recommend this 450mm quadcopter frame (DJI Flame Wheel F450 clone) from Amazon.
I like this frame for a few reasons: It was in stock. I’ve learned that out of stock parts are a huge problem for multirotor enthusiasts. Especially when you don’t quite know what you’re doing yet it can be really discouraging to think you’ve finally settled on your parts list only to find out that one crucial piece is backordered. I got this frame from the HobbyKing USA warehouse which means that it arrived before my larger order from the International warehouse in Hong Kong. It’s cheap. At just over $20 including shipping this is a very affordable frame. It’s made of wood so it won’t be as durable as carbon fiber or other more advanced materials but the fact of the matter is there will be a learning curve on flying this thing so I don’t want to risk breaking a $150 frame on my first flight. The frame is definitely one of the first things I’ll want to upgrade once I get up and running. I’ll also be looking into building my own frame(s). It has an attached camera platform with rubber vibration dampeners:Like many quadcopter builders out there, I want to eventually attach a GoPro or FPV camera system to my quadrotor so I can get some sweet aerial video footage. While I’m sure this frame’s camera mount isn’t as stable as having an advanced gimbal with dedicated servos, it at least offers a convenient place to strap in a GoPro with some vibration dampening.
KK2.1.5 Multi-Rotor LCD Flight Control Board. This board is pretty popular, seems relatively straightforward to configure, and because so many people use it there are a lot of resources out there for instructions and guidance. It’s also got settings for all types of multi-rotors so later on if I decide to build a tricopter or octocopter this board will work for that as well. I also ordered one of these to load different firmwares on the board: USBasp AVR Programming Device for ATMEL proccessors.
ESCs (Electronic Speed Controllers)
30A Speed Controllers. SimonK firmware is a good option for multi-rotors
1000kv Brushless Motors. Pretty standard motors, not the cheapest ones out there but not the most expensive either.
Turnigy 9XR PRO Radio. OddCopter mentions a cheaper option which is a 4 channel radio for the low low price of $23, but I opted for a slightly more expensive 9 channel system so I’ve got room to grow if I decide to use this radio for future projects.
Battery, Charger & Battery Strap
That’s pretty much it. I have a soldering iron, wire of various gauges, and basic tools already from previous projects. I bought some heat shrink tubing on Amazon which always comes in handy for projects like this. Total cost for all parts was under $350 which includes a little over $50 for shipping from China for the large order consisting of everything but the frame. My next post will cover the basic assembly once the parts arrive.
Go to Part Two: Assembly