When I first got this crazy idea of building my own copter from scratch, I decided that this shouldn’t be yet another radio controlled quadrocopter, using just a stabilizing system. If it’ll ever gonna take off, it should be more of a real autonomous UAV.

Well, some kind of communication (and most certanly some human input) will be required. Using a regular WiFi network would feel really nice – and would be a good knowledge for future projects as well, regardless.

RN-XV WiFly ModuleAfter a couple of minutes at google, I found this little masterpiece: the RN-XV WiFly Module at Sparkfun! The support for ad-hoc networks, WPA-2 encryption and the regular TTL uart serial interface in particular caught my interest.

This means I can have a 115.2 kbps (theoretically a lot more, actually) open connection between the copter and a laptop, or similar, to offload heavy calculations. In flight control, like the stabilizing system, must of course be done by the on-board computer.

I haven’t spent any time testing it yet. I hope it’ll work and there will probably be a separate post on that subject later on.

Electronic Speed Controllers

The four speed controllersI decided to go for a recommended set of speed controllers for my engines. The Hobbywing 18A seems to be quite easy to work with and should suit my Tiger motors quite well with their 17 amp maximum continuous current. To my surprise, the engines were ready fitted with 3.5 mm gold connectors, so last night I mounted the ESC’s with  3.5 mm female connectors and Deans connectors for the power supply.

I realized I forgot to measure the overall height of the ESC’s. It turned out that there was a rather thick capacitor mounted at the end of the ESC, making the total height almost 10.5 mm – that certainly won’t fit in the 8 mm gap of the frame. I solved that by adding small splines of acrylic glass on top of the carbon fiber rods, making the gap 11 mm instead. Well, that was the first setback so far on this project. 😉

Building the frame

The frameI spent a few hours during the weekend building the copter frame. I first thought of bying a ready made frame, but that’ll wouldn’t be as fun as creating my own. I started with a 8×8 mm carbon fiber rod and mounted it around two 150x150x3 mm acrylic glass sheets. The carbon fiber rods were quite easy to work with. Cutting them with a disc using a Dremel were far easier than I expected. Drilling the holes using a regular 3mm HSS drill worked fine as well, though the drill itself was quite worn out afterwards.

The two larger holes are for the signal cables to the ESC’s and there are two identical holes on the bottom sheet for the power supply cables.

Mounted engineI also made some small discs from acrylic glass to use as supports for the engines. From a small brass tube I got some shims to give the engine mounts extra support (not in the picture). I’m actually quite happy with the result. The whole construction became really torsionally rigid.

Total weight, so far, is a bit below 1.2 kg, including calculated weight of all known components. The PCB with some cables still needs to be added though, but I’m quite confidente that the 2 kg limit won’t be a problem. The result now looks like this:

The frame with mounted engines


Quadrocopter engines

The four brushless engines

The Tiger Motors MT2216 800 kv Coptermotors

Last week I received the four brushless engines for my quadrocopter project from The MT2216 from Tiger Motors seemed to be quite good for this project with its high performance and still reasonable price. I plan to run them on a three cell LiPo battery with ten inch propellers. That’ll give them 960g of thrust each, almost 4kg of lift in total. So I set a goal of max 2kg total weight of the copter. I think that’ll make it quite maneuverable.

Btw, why do the engine manufacturer specify thrust in g instead of Nm?

The Quadrocopter project

A couple of weeks ago I started building a little quadrocopter. My main reason isn’t actually having it flying nicely, but to learn a bit more in detail about how modern sensors work. All my electronic stuff has been stored in boxes for almost ten years, so I thought it was well about time refresh my mind a bit.

I quite soon realized a lot has happened during these ten years and, among things, found out that my old AVR programmer didn’t work any longer in a modern OS. Nor doesn’t every computer have serial and parallell ports…

Instead of investing in a lot of new equipment, I found an old laptop that actually had a rs232 port. Installing a 32bit version of Windows also solved a lot of driver problems. So, after some struggle, I had a simple development environment up and running and created the mandatory Hello World program on a simple ATmega8515 CPU.

So, now I just needed a fun project to work on. I recently saw this amazing Ted talk about flying robots, and I though I may give it a try myself. Maybe I’ll make it half way and actually make it flying 😉