* Disclaimer – This Article contains Amazon Associate Product Links*
A Few years ago I got into the hobby. I bought my first Drone for under $100; It was the UDI U818A Quadcopter. I learnt myself how to fly, and put the UDI Quadcopter through living hell in the process of learning to fly.
After many months of crashing, I finally got the hang of it and was pulling off bank turns to perfection. However, after a while, I was wanting more, and like many of you, i was looking to build my own Drone, but was scared to just jump in feet first.
None of the videos and tutorials on how to Build Your Own Drone was clear and confusing at that time. Eventually after a couple of months of research I made the jump and purchased all the parts through Amazon.
Before purchasing the parts to Build Your Own Drone, you have to know what type of drone you want to build… Will your drone be used specifically for aerial photography? Autonomous Drone Fun, or do you want to build a Low and Fast FPV Quadcopter for racing?
Knowing what you’re want to build will help you get together a list of parts that you need, and help you keep from wasting money on parts you do not need.
Before putting together your buy list, you need to rank your skill level. Ranking your skill level will help you determine the amount of money you should invest in your drone.
Trust me when I say this, if you’re not very good at flying a drone you don’t need to throwing a lot of money into it. NEVER spend more money than you can afford to lose just in case the worst case scenario happens. Accidents will occur no matter what your skill level is whether is hardware failure or pilot error.
Be honest with yourself and rank yourself accordingly…
Buy a pre-made drone like the UDI U818A Quadcopter and learn yourself to fly before moving on. If you’re hell bent on building your own Drone, I recommend that you spend less than $150 (Excluding Required Items).
You have some experience and still getting used to. Accidents are happening less frequently. I recommend that you spend less than $310 (Excluding Required Items).
You are getting there. Accidents are few and far in between, but still occur more than they should. You are good at Bank turns, Hovering and Figure 8 flying. I recommend spending less than $500 (Excluding Required Items).
You are a master of the drone. You have mastered Line of Sight Flying. You have mastered Bank turns, Hovering and Figure 8 flying. You can fly either high and fast, or low and fast. Accidents only happens when there is hardware/software failure. You haven’t broken a prop in months! You have total control over the drone! I recommend whatever your budget allows.
For the sake of sanity, in this tutorial I will show you a part list and items list that I put together for Novice Pilots wanting to build an Autonomous Drone. Whether you chose to buy the parts and items listed is up to you.
Tools you will need.
- Soldering Iron Kit.
- Helping Hands with Magnifying Glass
- SAE/Metric Hex Key Set
- Liquid Tape
- Thread Locker
- Heat Shrink Tubing Kit (various sizes)
- Wire Stripper
- Silver, White
- Exacto knife (or razor blade)
- Tape (Scotch or Electrical)
- Zip Ties
- Nylon Standoffs
- Wire cutters (or scissors)
Autonomous F450 Drone Build Part List
- Eztronics Corp F450 Multicopter Frame
- Emax Mt2213 935kv 2212 Brushless Motors
- Spider 18A OPTO ESC (if using Emax Blheli ESCs, see Emax Blheli Brushless ESC Programming)
- Jrelecs 2 1045 props (Buy multiple packs if you can)
- ArduPilot/Copter 2.6 Flight Controller Kit (APM Clone Version for now)
- Kit Includes
- 433mhz Radio Telemetry
- APM Power module
- GPS Module
- GPS Holder
- Kit Includes
- Anti-vibration Damping Plate
- Turnigy 2650mAh 3S 20C Lipo Pack
- XT60 Male w/ 12AWG Silicon Wire
- Hobbypower 20cm Male to Male Jr Plug Servo Extension Lead Wire
Optional (not required).
- Integy RC Hobby C23212 LiPo Voltage Checker + Warning Buzzer
- RioRand® DJI Phantom Gopro 2 3 CNC Metal Brushless Camera Gimbal
- Foxnovo Universal Tall Landing Gear Skid
- WHLZD Sports Action Camera, 4K WiFi Ultra HD Waterproof Camera (GoPro Clone. Excellent Quality!)
Required Items (if you dont already own them)
After you have everything ordered, it’s time to Build Your Own Drone.
Step 1: Take out the Eztronics PCB board and begin pre-soldering all the pads. Make sure to put a generous amount of solder on the main power connection pads.
Step 2: Cut the bullet connectors off the motors (if yours came with them) using wire cutters, the exacto knife or some scissors.
Step 3: Take an ESC, and where the 3 wires are coming out, carefully using the exacto knife cut the heat shrink on both side edges; Than pull the top flap of the heat shrink away exposing the 3 solder points. Fix the flap using the scotch tape to the ESC.
Step 4: Strip and Tin the end of the motor wires.
Step 5: Take a piece of heat shrink tubing that can fit over the end of the ESC to hold the flap down and slide it over the 3 motor wires. Take the 3 wires on the ESC and de-solder them from the ESC itself.
Step 6: Solder on the motor wires to the solder joints that is directly across from the ESC wires that you just un-soldered from the ESC. Repeat steps 5 and step 6 until you have completed all motors and ESC’s. DO NOT HEAT UP THE HEAT SHRINK TUBING IN THESE STEPS.
Step 7: Once you have all the motor wires soldered to the ESC’s, take the motors and mount them on the Eztronics arms using the supplied hex screws. Take the Thread locker and put a dab of it on the end of the hex screws to keep them from vibrating out.
Step 8: Take the ESC’s and lay them on the backside of the Eztronics arms and fix them to the Eztronics arms using a zip tie or two. Repeat Step 7 and Step 8 until all the motors and ESC’s have been mounted to the Eztronics arms.
Step 9: Take the Bottom PCB plate that you pre-soldered in step one and mount the Eztronics arms to the PCB plate with the supplied hex screws like in the above Picture and loosely put the hex screws in finger tight. Make sure you mount the PCB plate with the solder points up.
Step 10: Once you have all the Eztronics arms mounted to the PCB plate, lets begin soldering the ESC’s to the appropriate pads…
Take the Hot (red wire) and Ground (black wire) from the ESC and solder them to the ESC pads. You may, or may not have to shorten and strip the ends of those wire. Once you have all the ESC soldered to the PCB board, move onto step 11.
Step 11: Take one of the XT60 Male w/ 12AWG Silicon Wires and solder it on to the Main Power pads.
Step 12: In this step, i want you to inspect all your soldering and make sure none of the solder is touching any of the other pads. If you hook the power up, they will short out your ESC’s and ruin everything else. If you find something, take your Desoldering Pump and break the connection. When everything looks good move on to Step 13.
Step 13: Take the Top Plate and use the supplied the hex screws. Also Use a dab of thread locker on the end of the screws to keep them from backing out with vibrations overtime. Don’t put any thread locker on the side of the the arms (say 1, 9, 10 and 2 hex screws), because you will be removing them once you get ready to mount your GPS. Once you have all the hex screws finger tight. Start tightening down the hex screws with the hex key tool in this order…
Step 14: Turn the frame over and take out one hex screw (one at a time) and put a dab of thread locker on the hex screw and finger tighten it back down. Do this to all the bottom hex screws and tighten down them all in this order….
Mounting the APM, GPS, Receiver Battery, Radio Telemetry
There is many different ways to mount your APM, GPS, Receiver, Battery, Radio Telemetry and any other hardware you may have. You can choose about anywhere, but these are the ways i choose to mount them.
Step 15: Before assembling your Anti-vibration Damping Plate, Take the bottom plate and place it on the top plate of the Eztronics frame and try to center it the best way you can. Take a White Sharpie, or a Silver Metallic Sharpie and mark the hole onto the top plate of the Eztronics frame like in the picture below.
Then take the appropriate sized drill bit and drill out the holes you just marked on the top plate of the Eztronics frame.
Step 16: Take 4 Nylon standoff and screw them into the hole, then assemble your Anti-vibration Damping Plate.
Step 17: This is the hard part. Take 4 Nylon screws and screw down the assembled Anti-vibration Damping Plate to the Nylon Standoffs. The screw just need to be finger tight, so you dont need a tool for this. For some people it is easier to screw down the bottom of the Anti-vibration Damping Plate first, then assemble it. Whatever works best for you.
Step 18: Download the Mission Planer Software and install it (don’t run it after install). Take and mount the APM, GPS and Receiver to a piece of cardboard. If you haven’t already bound you Receiver to your transmitter, do it now. If you don’t now how, refer to your receive/transmitter owners manual. If you bought the Turnigy TGY-i6, please watch this video.
After you have bound your receiver, lets move on to how to set up your APM. Plug in your APM via USB cable to your computer and let it install the drivers. When that’s finished start Mission Planner and watch this video..
Step 19: Once you have setup your APM, remove all the components from the cardboard. Take the Double Sided sticky tape that came with the Anti-vibration Damping Plate, and stick it on the Anti-vibration Damping Plate.
Step 20: Take your APM and mount it to the Anti-vibration Damping Plate. Make sure that the FORWARD → is pointing in the direction that you want to be the front of the drone.
Step 21: Take you receiver and take some Velcro and cut it to shape and stick it to the back of the receiver. Take your Male to Male JR Plug Servo Extension Lead wire and plug them in to channel 1,2,3 and 4.
Step 22: Take your silver or white sharpie and the Channel 1 Servo Extension Lead wire, and on the end that is not connected to anything write 1 on the black connector. Now take Channel 2 Servo Extension Lead wire and write 2 on that black connector. Do this for the other two but write 3 and 4 on those..
Step 23: Take the receiver and mount it somewhere under the the top plate of the Eztronics Frame. I Like to mount it near the back so i can run my antenna wires up through the slits of the top plate.
Step 24: Take the Servo Extension Lead wires and run them up through the top plate either through the openings of the top plate or drill a hole large enough so the wires can fit through.
Step 25: Take all the servo wires and connect them to the INPUT side of the APM board; and make sure that the white wire of the servo wire is the closest wire to the channel number on the APM.
If your servo wires isn’t long enough, you can take another servo wire and cut one end off the first servo wire and the one end off the second servo wire, than strip the ends. Slide over a piece of Heat shrink over each individual strain of wire, twist the ends together, solder.
If you have too much slack, take all the servo wires in your hand and twist them. You can place a piece of heat shrink tubing over the twisted bunch of wires to keep them from un-twisting
Step 26: Take your ESC wire and with your silver or white sharpie, mark on the black connector what number that motor is.. Mark 1 for motor 1, mark 2 for motor 2, mark 3 for motor 3 and mark 4 for motor 4.
Image from the Ardupilot Wiki
Step 27: Take the first ESC Wire and plug it into the Channel 1 side of the OUTPUT side of the APM board. Make sure the signal wire is facing up (nearest to the number 1 on the apm)
Step 28: Take your number 2, 3 and 4 ESC wire and remove two wires. Remove the center positive wire (red) and remove the negitive wire (black/brown). The only wire that should be left in the black connector is the Signal wire (Yellow).
Step 29: Take several pieces of heat shrink tubing and begin putting them over each individual exposed silver/gold pins. Once you have them all done, plug the esc wires into the OUTPUT side of the APM board (Yellow wire up).
Step 30: Remove Jumper 1 (JP1) from the APM board.
Step 31: Assemble your GPS Mount.
Step 32: Take out the 1, 9, 10 and 2 hex screws (or which ever ones you didn’t put thread lock on). Fold your GPS mount and put the end of the GPS mount over the holes. Your Eztronics Frame kit should have came with a little hex screws. Takes those if you have them and replace the screws that you just removed with the longer ones. Don’t forget to put a dab of thread lock on the screws before replacing them.
Step 33: Raise your GPS mount (if you haven’t already) and place the supplied double side tape on the top, than place the GPS on the double sided tape. Make sure the GPS is pointed to the front of your Drone. There should be an arrow. If not the wires should be facing towards back of the drone.
Step 34: Take your GPS wires and connect them to the GPS port, and the I2C port.
Step 35: Take your APM Power module cable and connect it to the power connector that you soldered onto the bottom plate of the Eztronics frame, and connect the other wire with the small white connector on it to the PM port on the APM board.
Step 36: Take the Radio Telemetry module and put a piece of Velcro on the back of the module. Place it on the end of the top plate or bottom plate of the Eztronics frame and route the wire to the Telcom port.
Step 37: Take the USB part of the Radio Telemetry transmitter(?) and plug it into your pc or laptop and allow it to install the drivers. Watch video to learn how to set it up.
Step 38: Take the battery and the supplied Velcro straps that came with the Eztronics frame and fix it to the bottom plate of the Eztronics frame.
Step 39: Take the assembled drone outside without the props on and plug the battery into the APM Power module cable. Lights on the APM should light up and you sound hear a series of beeps coming from the ESCs.
You will see a blue flashing light. When that blue flashing light becomes solid (stops flashing), arm the drone by using your controller by holding the throttle stick down and over to the right until the red light stops flashing. Throttle up and the motors should spin.
Step 40: Put your props on your drone. Make sure you put CCW props on the CCW motors and CW props on the CW motor and go flying!
If your Drone flips over, slowly throttle up and make sure the CCW motors are turning CCW and the props are on correctly. If not note the Directions of the CCW motors and switch around two wires (any two wires) on those motors that are spinning in the wrong direction and try again and your flying!
Now heat shrink the tubing on the ESC’s, and put liquid tape over all the exposed soldering and pads, and that’s it, you have built your own drone. Now just tune your drone in mission planner via MAVLink until you get it just perfect!