I’ve gotten a few quadcopter flights under my belt and have had a chance to experiment with building different types of DIY frames.
From the beginning I had some doubts about the durability of this frame, because it just felt cheap and shoddy. Even with the more robust landing gear I made out of aluminum and plenty of superglue on all the joints, it still wasn’t very sturdy. So it wasn’t a total surprise when on one of my very first flights, on a slightly out of control but not extremely hard landing on grass one of the arms broke and I was left with this:
None of the electronic components were damaged, and I’d been looking forward to making my own DIY frame so I wasn’t too upset. I did want to get back in the air as soon as possible, so I went to Lowe’s and bought a few parts that I thought would make a decent frame. I got an eight foot length of 1/2″ square wood, and an 8″ by 10″ piece of acrylic. I made some wooden arms that would extend past my propellers in case of another hard landing, and I used the HobbyKing frame’s center plate as a template for where to drill holes. After I attached all the same components and aluminum landing gear, and ended up with my second quadcopter, which I dubbed The Ugly Duckling for obvious reasons.
I think acrylic can be a great material for building quadcopter frames, but thicker pieces are a must. The sheets they have at Lowe’s and Home Depot are very thin and brittle to begin with and drilling a bunch of holes in them can’t be good for the structural integrity. On another not-too-rough grass landing some damage was done to the acrylic sheet that served as the central component of my frame.
My next attempt was to use some 1/8″ thick wood as the center plate for my frame. Again I used the HobbyKing frame as a template for the hole placement and re-used the arms from the Ugly Duckling. I cut the aluminum pieces of my landing gear in half and used one piece on each of the four arms to give it a wider base. Behold the Spruce Goose.
Here is a really short flight video of the Spruce Goose.
The Spruce Goose actually flew pretty well, but I got a little carried away and crashed into a fence. The thin wood split right along the grain.
They aren’t pretty, but the good thing about all of these DIY quadcopter frames is that there are a lot of ways you can build one where the parts only cost around $10 or so and are available locally. If every part of it breaks I can go get replacements immediately, without waiting for spare parts to ship from a website. Also, when you’re building your own you can re-use parts for multiple frames, improve upon your designs quickly based on what works and what doesn’t, and make modifications depending on what you’re trying to do with a particular quadcopter.