Have you ever dreamed of flying your own drone and capturing amazing aerial shots? Do you want to learn how to build a drone from scratch and customize it to your liking? If you answered yes to any of these questions, then this blog post is for you!
In this post, I will show you how to build a DIY drone from scratch using common parts and tools. I will also explain the basic principles and components of a drone, and how to choose the right ones for your project. Whether you want to build a small FPV quadcopter, a larger octocopter, or anything in between, this guide will help you get started.
Before we begin, let me clarify what I mean by a DIY drone. A DIY drone is a drone that you build yourself from individual parts, rather than buying a ready-to-fly (RTF) or bind-and-fly (BNF) model. Building a DIY drone has many advantages, such as:
- You can customize your drone to suit your needs and preferences
- You can save money by choosing the parts that fit your budget
- You can learn valuable skills and knowledge about electronics, engineering, and programming
- You can have fun and satisfaction from creating something with your own hands
Of course, building a DIY drone also has some challenges, such as:
- You need to source the parts yourself and make sure they are compatible
- You need to assemble the parts correctly and safely
- You need to configure the software and calibrate the sensors
- You need to troubleshoot any problems that may arise
But don’t worry, I will guide you through each step of the process and provide you with helpful tips and resources along the way. By the end of this post, you will have a fully functional DIY drone that you can fly and enjoy.
So let’s get started!
Step 1: Choose Your Drone Type
The first step in building a DIY drone is to decide what type of drone you want to build. There are many types of drones, but the most common ones are:
- Quadcopters: These are drones that have four propellers arranged in a square or rectangular shape. They are the most popular type of drones because they are easy to control, stable, and agile. They are ideal for beginners and hobbyists who want to fly for fun or take photos and videos.
- Hexacopters: These are drones that have six propellers arranged in a hexagonal shape. They are more powerful and stable than quadcopters, but also more expensive and complex. They are suitable for advanced users who want to carry heavier payloads or fly in harsher conditions.
- Octocopters: These are drones that have eight propellers arranged in an octagonal shape. They are the most powerful and stable type of drones, but also the most expensive and complex. They are used for professional applications that require high performance and reliability, such as filmmaking or surveying.
There are also other types of drones, such as tricopters, pentacopters, or fixed-wing drones, but they are less common and more difficult to build. For this guide, I will focus on quadcopters, as they are the easiest and most versatile type of drones.
Step 2: Choose Your Drone Parts
The next step in building a DIY drone is to choose the parts that you will need. The basic parts of a drone are:
- Frame: This is the structure that holds all the other parts together. It can be made of different materials, such as carbon fiber, aluminum, or plastic. It can also have different shapes and sizes, depending on the type of drone you want to build.
- Motors: These are the devices that spin the propellers and provide thrust for the drone. They can be either brushed or brushless. Brushed motors are cheaper and simpler, but also less efficient and durable. Brushless motors are more expensive and complex, but also more powerful and reliable.
- Propellers: These are the blades that attach to the motors and create lift for the drone. They can have different sizes, shapes, and pitches, depending on the type of drone you want to build.
- Electronic Speed Controllers (ESCs): These are the devices that control the speed of the motors by varying the voltage supplied to them. They can be either integrated with the flight controller or separate modules.
- Flight Controller: This is the brain of the drone that processes the signals from the sensors and the transmitter and sends commands to the ESCs and motors. It can be either an open-source or proprietary board with different features and firmware.
- Power Distribution Board (PDB): This is the device that distributes power from the battery to the ESCs and other components. It can be either integrated with the flight controller or a separate module.
- Battery: This is the device that stores energy for the drone. It can have different capacities, voltages, discharge rates, and connectors, depending on the type of drone you want to build.
- Transmitter and Receiver: These are the devices that allow you to communicate with the drone and control it. The transmitter is the device that you hold in your hands and send commands to the drone. The receiver is the device that receives the commands from the transmitter and sends them to the flight controller. They can have different frequencies, protocols, and channels, depending on the type of drone you want to build.
- FPV System: This is the system that allows you to see what the drone sees in real time. It consists of a camera, a video transmitter (VTX), a video receiver (VRX), and a display device, such as goggles or a monitor. It can have different resolutions, frequencies, and ranges, depending on the type of drone you want to build.
These are the essential parts of a drone, but you can also add other optional parts, such as:
- GPS Module: This is the device that allows the drone to know its location and altitude using satellite signals. It can enable features such as return-to-home, waypoint navigation, or geofencing.
- Gimbal: This is the device that stabilizes the camera and allows you to adjust its angle and direction. It can be either mechanical or electronic, and have different degrees of freedom and modes.
- HD Camera: This is the device that records high-quality videos and photos for later viewing or editing. It can be either integrated with the FPV camera or a separate module, such as a GoPro or a DJI Osmo.
- Sensors: These are the devices that measure various physical parameters, such as temperature, pressure, humidity, or distance. They can provide useful information for the flight controller or the user.
Choosing the right parts for your DIY drone can be challenging, as there are many factors to consider, such as:
- Compatibility: You need to make sure that all the parts work well together and have the same specifications and connectors.
- Performance: You need to make sure that all the parts meet your expectations and requirements for your drone’s speed, agility, stability, and endurance.
- Budget: You need to make sure that all the parts fit your budget and offer good value for money.
To help you choose the best parts for your DIY drone, I recommend using online tools and resources, such as:
- Drone Nodes: This is a website that provides detailed guides and reviews on various drone parts and components. It also offers helpful tips and tricks on how to build a drone from scratch.
- eCalc: This is a website that provides online calculators for various drone parameters, such as thrust, power, flight time, or efficiency. It also allows you to compare different parts and configurations.
- RC Groups: This is a website that hosts online forums for various RC hobbies, including drones. It is a great place to ask questions, get feedback, and learn from other drone enthusiasts.
Step 3: Assemble Your Drone Parts
The third step in building a DIY drone is to assemble the parts that you have chosen. This is the most fun and rewarding part of the process, but also the most challenging and risky. You need to follow some basic rules and precautions, such as:
- Work in a clean and spacious area with good lighting and ventilation
- Use proper tools and equipment, such as a soldering iron, a multimeter, a screwdriver, and a hex wrench
- Wear protective gear, such as gloves, goggles, and a mask
- Follow the instructions and diagrams provided by the manufacturers or online guides
- Test each component before connecting it to others
- Double-check each connection before powering up
- Secure each component with zip ties or tape
The general steps for assembling your DIY drone are:
- Assemble the frame by attaching the arms to the base plate using screws
- Mount the motors to the arms using screws
- Attach the propellers to the motors using nuts
- Mount the ESCs to the arms using zip ties or tape
- Mount the PDB to the base plate using screws or spacers
- Solder the ESCs’ power wires to the PDB’s pads
- Solder the battery’s connector to the PDB’s pads
- Mount the flight controller to the PDB using screws or spacers
- Solder or plug the ESCs’ signal wires to the flight controller’s pins
- Mount the receiver to the frame using zip ties or tape
- Solder or plug the receiver’s wires to the flight controller’s pins
- Mount the FPV camera to the frame using screws or spacers
- Mount the VTX to the frame using zip ties or tape
- Solder or plug the VTX’s power wires to the PDB’s pads
- Solder or plug
- the VTX’s video wire to the FPV camera’s video wire