Drones have grown in popularity over time. Flying a drone is one of the favorite pastime activities of people the world over. However, not every drone enthusiast is able to afford one. You can build your own drone from scratch. It is an intimidating task, but with the right materials and dedication, you can do it.
But first, is there any difference between a drone and a quadcopter? Most people have often found these two terms confusing.
The difference between drones and quadcopters
The only difference between a drone and a quadcopter is that a drone is a general term for any kind of unmanned aerial vehicle while a quadcopter is specifically a drone controlled by four rotors, each consisting of a propeller and a motor. Basically, a quadcopter is a type of remote-controlled drone.
Drones are generally used for military, civilian, and commercial purposes. They can be used for intelligence missions, delivering attacks, tracking the progress of wildfires, conducting aerial surveys, and filming among other uses. Quadcopters are mainly used for recreational purposes and as such, there is little regulation on their use. Technically, what we will be learning to make is a quadcopter.
Reasons to make your own drone
1. You can save money
Since you will be using materials from around the house and will only have to buy the technical items, you can save a few bucks by making your own drone. It might also be cheaper to buy different parts and assemble a drone in your own garage than buy a ready-to-fly drone. If you are working on a tight budget, then building your own drone might be the way to go. While it might not offer too much in the way of savings over buying a ready made drone, it could still save you a bit.
2. You can use high-quality parts
As long as manufacturers aim to make durable products, they want you going back to the shop so that they can continue making sales. Therefore, some parts are likely to be fragile and easily breakable. With your own drone, you can replace the fragile plastics parts with tougher materials that can endure rough landings.
3. You can always upgrade your drone
A ready-to-fly drone comes with pre-fitted features that you have to work with. Trying to upgrade it doesn’t always end well. You can upgrade your DIY drone as much as you want. For example, you can go for a micro 4k cinema camera instead of a 1080p camera that most drones come with. The parts are also easy to replace with the newest technology available.
4. Spare parts are readily available
In the event that a ready-to-fly drone crashes, you will have to get the parts recommended by the manufacturer. The spare parts may be expensive and difficult to get. But with your own drone, you won’t be stuck with the manufacturer in the event of an occasional crash.
5. It is fun and rewarding
You can learn a lot about robotics from building your own drone. There is also the satisfaction that comes with seeing your DIY drone flying around. It is double the fun than when using a ready-to-fly drone. Who doesn’t cherish the challenge of trying to rival the leading brands?
Now that you have a reason to make your own drone, what do you need for the task? Once we’ve got all the parts acquired, then we can focus on how to make a drone at home easily. Here’s a list of materials you’ll need:
- Electronic speed controls (ESCs)
- AWG silicone wires
- The power distribution board
- Servo lead wire cables
- Battery monitor
- Mounting pad
- Thread locking compounds
- RC receiver
- A gimbal (for the camera)
- USB key
- A battery charger
- 3M command strip
- Zip ties
You always have the option of accessorizing your drone. However, if you make the drone too heavy it will be difficult to fly and will consume more energy.
How to make a drone at home easily
Here are step-by-step instructions:
1. Make the frame
You should construct the frame using materials that are strong enough to support the drone’s shape and structure. Quadcopter frames are X-shaped in order for each propeller to be on each point of the X.
2. Assemble the motors
Drill holes in the frames and fix the motors to the frame. You will need 4 motors for a quadcopter, as each goes into one propellor. Some motors are fitted with mounts to make it easier to affix to the frame.
3. Mount the ESCs
It is advisable to attach the ESCs on the bottom of the frame so that the top can have more space for other components.
4. Add the landing gear
The landing gear should be strong and flexible. It acts as a shock absorber during rough landings. Quality landing gear helps you avoid constantly having to undertake repairs.
5. Install the flight controller
The flight controller will ensure stability. When installing the flight controller, put a piece of sponge beneath the controller. This helps absorb the vibrations from the drone.
6. Connect an open pilot software to the drone
Depending on the type of flight controller you installed, you will need to find the right tutorial on how to connect the open pilot. You’ll then connect the flight controller to the ESC after connecting the drone to its remote control. If you built your own flight controller, you can always use librepilot.
7. Do a test flight
Find some free space where you can test drive your drone. You can also make a case for storing your drone. Start at low altitudes and slowly throttle up your drone during the first few times. It will be easier to notice the flaws that need correction before you take the drone for a full flight.
Using a 3D printer to design the drone
Be aware that your homemade drone will likely crash a few times. For DIY drones, using a 3D printer can help you have a supply of spare parts to make repair a cinch. 3D printing takes time and requires 3D modeling skills. It is important to note that not all the parts can be 3D printed. In particular, electronic components cannot be 3D printed.The components that can be included:
- Landing gear
- Camera mounts
- Antenna holder
- Protective equipment
- Remote casing
- Battery pack casing
Making your own drone should be done just for the pleasure of it, and not for commercial reasons. Making an ordinary drone will cost you about $300. There isn’t much difference with buying an advanced ready-to-fly drone, but the satisfaction it brings is priceless.