Breathtaking video recordings and cool high-tech toys – drones are in vogue. But instead of buying a drone, you can learn here how to build your own drone. Let us proceed!
Building a drone yourself is not that complicated. What you need are technical interest, a kit, and instructions. The DIY drone can be made according to your ideas and can be given cool features.
Building a drone yourself – what do I need?
The quadcopter is the most common drone model. It consists of four rotors, electric motors, sensors and controller components, a battery, and a camera for great aerial shots. Also, the small aircraft are controlled with a remote control or smartphone app. Since drones take off and land vertically, they are considered helicopters.
You can build a quadrocopter relatively simply by yourself using a ready kit. But it is also possible to buy single components and plan the drone according to your ideas. However, some technical knowledge is required for the complete self-construction. Unlike with kits, no finished construction manual is available.
A complete quadcopter kit usually consists of a frame, which holds the different components. These include the four rotors, each of which is driven by an electric motor. To ensure that the quadcopter flies stable in the air, the rotors are also connected to sensors and the flight controller.
The copter gets energy from the battery, usually a lithium-polymer battery. Depending on the frame’s size and the battery’s capacity, the drone can be equipped with additional features such as a camera or cool functions like GPS and a coming home function.
The self-built drone consists of these components:
The components of the Multicopter are mounted on the frame. If you build a quadrocopter yourself, the frame must fit the components’ weight and be stable. The heavier the frame and the components, the better the copter’s flight characteristics in wind and bad weather. However, a heavy frame also consumes more power, and the flight time is shortened.
Rotors and motors:
The quadrocopter has four rotors, which are often called propellers. However, some models have six or eight rotors. In this case, one does not speak of a quadcopter but of a hexacopter or an octocopter. However, the way these multi-copters work is always the same:
Like helicopters, the copters take off and land vertically. The rotation speed of the rotors can be controlled individually. Thus these aircraft can fly sometimes forward, sometimes backward, sometimes to the right and sometimes to the left. Each rotor is driven by a motor.
Each drone has different sensors that stabilize the drone during your flight or make the flight possible in the first place. These include the gyroscope, the acceleration sensor, the magnetic compass, and a barometer.
The battery is the power source of the copter. Without a battery, the drone cannot fly. Most quadcopters are equipped with a lithium-polymer battery. You can charge it at the power supply network. However, the maximum flight time is always relatively short and ranges from 15 to a maximum of 30 minutes of flight time.
Remote control and receiver:
To control the quadrocopter, you will need a remote control. To ensure that the control unit’s signals also reach the drone, you will need to mount a receiver in the drone.
Not every copter has a camera. But with a camera, the drone will be much more attractive. With a camera, you can take great aerial shots. Over the Alps or on the beach, you can create professional video clips from above.
Some copters also have a GPS and can fly a fixed route on their own. If the drone has a coming home function, it can automatically return to the starting point using a GPS module.
Other cool features:
Especially with self-built drones, you can let off steam. There are mini drones with built-in GoPro cameras and drones that follow their owner. With some drones, you can follow live over a tablet or VR glasses what your drone is recording.
Which multi-copter is better: Quadro, Hexa, or Octocopter?
With DIY copters, you can decide how many rotors your drone should have, how powerful the battery is, and how much payload the aircraft will ultimately carry. The more rotors and the larger the frame, the more load the multi-copter has.
For example, a hexacopter with six rotors or an octocopter with eight rotors allows you to attach a heavy, professional camera. Larger aircraft fly comparatively more stable than lighter drones, even in poor wind conditions. Due to the additional motors, these multicopters have more power and require a more powerful battery.
However, suppose the Multicopter weighs more than five kilograms. In that case, you need an ascent permit from the aviation authority of your federal state. A copter weighing between 250 grams and two kilos, on the other hand, only needs to be marked with your name and address. This marking must be weatherproof and fireproof and can be attached to the frame in the form of an aluminum badge, for example.
Suppose your self-built multi-copter weighs more than two kilograms but is still below the five-kilogram limit. In that case, you must have a flight customer certificate in addition to your name and address.
This is also known as a drone driving license. You will receive your drone driving license by passing a test at an office recognized by the FAA. It is proof that you have the necessary knowledge for handling your drone.
What does it cost to build a drone yourself?
The self-built drone is not a low-cost drone. Often it is only slightly cheaper than a purchased quadcopter. The advantage of the DIY drone is that you can build it according to your own ideas, such as the number of rotors, the performance, and the special features.
A drone with eight rotors then costs more than a quadrocopter with four rotors. You have the best cost overview if you buy a complete drone kit. This kit is suitable for beginners since the drone can be assembled according to a fixed construction manual. All components are guaranteed to fit together.
When assembling your own drone, there is a risk that the selected components will not fit together. Therefore, you should only select the components for your own drone yourself if you have a certain technical know-how or if your components’ compatibility has been tested in a specialist store.
Depending on how you imagine the drone, you can realize it already with a kit starting at $100 or quickly exceed the $1000 limit with your own creation. A drone’s construction is especially worthwhile if you want special technical features or a quadcopter with high performance.
How To Build Your Own Drone
Finished kits usually come with good building instruction. If you choose the components of the drone yourself, you will need a lot of technical knowledge. For your DIY drone to fly successfully, the frame, rotors, motors, flight controllers, and sensors must be compatible.
The following elements are required when building a quadcopter:
- Four rotors and motors
- Flight controllers and sensors
- One Electronic Speed Controller (ESC) per rotor
- Battery, usually a lithium-polymer battery
- Remote control and receiver
Additional elements such as a camera or a GPS function are optional, depending on your use of your drone.
Complete building instructions are only available for finished quadcopter kits. However, if you have assembled your components yourself, technical knowledge and the Internet will help you with the assembly.
You can find free building instructions for individual drones for reproduction on YouTube and in relevant Internet forums. Especially in a drone-forum, you can exchange information and get tips for the assembly of your drones. Technology enthusiasts will also find the necessary basic knowledge in books like “Arduino For Dummies“
Before you build your first quadrocopter or buy individual parts, you should have mastered the following technical basics:
- You know the structure of a quadcopter or a multi-copter. You know how to solve soldering.
- You know which components fit together. If you choose the parts yourself, the selected frame must match the planned load, and the ESCs must be compatible with the flight controller. If you lack this knowledge, you better start with a finished kit, including building instructions.
- You know how to assemble the quadrocopter. Quadcopter instructions and tips for correct assembly are available on the Internet.
- You know how to adjust the controls on the quadrocopter.
- You are familiar with the drone software and can optimize the parameters.
- You know approximately how a copter is controlled, and you know the legal guidelines.
In the end, all components and settings should fit together in such a way that a safe first flight is possible.
Since there are no uniform building instructions for individual projects, beginners should start with a drone kit. This has the advantage that it is cheaper than a purchased quadrocopter. However, there is still a guarantee for the functionality of all parts.
Also, you can slowly approach the model making of your own drone with a kit. While assembling, you will learn more about the individual components, how they are created and soldered, and how the quadcopter works. However, you do not need to have any technical know-how about the components’ compatibility and can follow the building instructions provided.
Build or buy a drone yourself – which is better?
Build your own drone or buy one? Both variants have advantages and disadvantages. But especially for hobbyists, the question does not arise. The planning, tinkering, and the first test flight are the grand attraction of building a quadcopter.
Building drones yourself is an exciting hobby for many. With every built drone, the technology becomes more sophisticated, and the model more complex. Especially if you want to have a drone with unique features, it is worthwhile to build it yourself. With this do-it-yourself construction, you can build special features, which are not available on finished models in the market.
For example, your DIY drone can have a particularly high load capacity, such as a professional, heavy camera, or a long-range. Models with these features are not commercially available or are considerably more expensive than a homemade drone.
An upgrade of your self-built quadrocopter is also possible at any time. Outdated or broken parts can be replaced without problems. In case of a crash landing, the aircraft can be repaired relatively cheaply. With purchased drones, however, it is not so easy to exchange spare parts.
However, there are situations in which the purchase of a drone or kit is more worthwhile. If, for example, you have little time and little technical interest, the purchase is the better alternative. Even with tiny quadcopters, the purchase is easier.
An advantage of a purchased quadcopter or drone kit is that there is a two-year warranty on the entire model, and you can have it repaired easily in case of damage. There is also a warranty for individual components.
For aspiring hobbyists, the kit is, therefore, the best alternative to buying a drone. With growing technical skills, this quadcopter can also be customized.