JGS Craft

AeroQuad Quadcopter

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This is my implementation of the AeroQuad (AQ) Open Source Quadcopter.

Jump down to flight pictures.

Major Vehicle Components

Resources

Assembly

You can click on the pictures to see larger 2000 pixel wide images so you can zoom in on the details.

picture Here are all the basic parts for the quadcopter. Not shown are the various screws, spacers, electrical connectors and some wires.

This picture represents a little over $900 of parts. By the time I head out to the field I will spend another $500 on miscellaneous parts, field supplies, dues, subscriptions, and, most importantly, a simulator so I can practice crashing, ahem, flying, without actually breaking anything.
picture The frame consists of two routed phenolic plates that will hold 12" aluminum towel bars. These were routed and drilled on my Zenbot CNC router. I routed channels for the aluminum tubes for stability and to make it easier to assemble. During some assembly testing I found that it didn't take much pressure to hold the bars quite firmly.
The plates are 5.5" square and 0.135" thick. The channels for the arms are 0.04" deep.
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This shows the extension from the ESC to the motor. There is one for each motor and the wires will be run through the arms. The DEANS power connector will connect to the power distribution harness, shown on the right.
 
picture The motor is attached with the AQ motor mount. Labeling the arms and ESC control cables allows you to keep track of the connections. The disk comes from an errector set. It is marked with arrows to keep track of the desired direction of rotation when I start making connections and configuring the software.
picture Taping the screws makes it a easy to assemble the frame. picture
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A single arm is positioned with power cables running through the arm. To the right, the positioning of the four arms and ESCs is shown.
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picture The quad starts to take shape.
The electronics are housed in a plastic food container. It is light, flexible and allows me to see the LEDs. There are separate mounting posts for the holding the plastic base and for mounting the Mega 2560, which will (hopefully) serve to isolate the sensors from any vibration and crash impact.
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The motor rotation has been tested and cables have been snugged toward the center. The ESCs are held in their spaces with zip-ties. The main battery has dual-lock pads that will keep it from sliding around once the large zip-tie (shown in picture on the right) holds it. There are mounting holes to attach a third deck which may become the battery compartment and camera mount, but I want to check on the lift capacity I have before I get any fancier.
 
picture The fully assembled AQ, ready to fly. I'm using wiffle balls as landing gear for several reasons: they are light, cheap, and they won't catch on anything and tip the vehicle while I'm learning to fly. I plan to paint the forward ones with yellow day-glo paint and the rear ones in green so it will be easy to see the orientation while I'm flying.
picture A side view toward starboard, showing more details of the "brain". You will notice the AR6210 main receiver and satellite attached inside opposite sides of the cover.
picture Another view.

Motor-to-motor distance: 26.5 inches (67.3 cm)
Weight: 3lbs 4oz (1482 gm)

Other stuff you will need...

If you are new to R/C flying, like I am, then you need to build up your support system, which is all that stuff that usually doesn't come with the ready-to-fly kits, and may not be listed on the parts list.

Flight Pictures

The first official public flight of my quadcopter was on November 20, 2011 at the Alamo Radio Control Society (ARCS) Fun Fly day. These pictures were taken by Jim Witthauer, the ARCS Photographer. "Thanks, Jim."

I had a few earlier flights which crashed after less than a minute of flight time. I updated my pre-flight checklist, practiced a bit more on the simulator and hoped the really big ARCS field would give me plenty of room to practice.

I'm using 2.4.2 version of the software in stable/attitude mode with the default settings. I set the transmitter DR&EXPO settings for AILE and ELEV to +50% to reduce the sensitivity of the roll/pitch controls.

Click on the pictures to see larger versions.

Take-off... picture
I painted the wiffle-ball landing gear with day-glo paint to better keep up with the orientation. The two green balls are the front. The wiffle balls are in good shape in this picture. After a few bumpy landings they absorb a bit of punishment and start coming apart as you can see in the next picture. I'd rather sacrifice the wiffle balls than some other part of the 'copter. picture
Up, up and away...

I did get in a few minutes of good flight time and then... a prop came off at 20-30 feet up. The resulting crash broke a prop and knocked loose some of the electronics that I had attached with nylon screws. I couldn't repair it in the field so I was done for the day. The repairs will include some upgrades, mainly a lower deck to protect the battery and provide a camera mounting.
And... The checklist will be updated to include tightening the props.
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This shows the camera mount I made for my transmitter. The black putton near my right middle finger is the shutter control. When the camera is in video mode it starts and stops the reording. In picture mode it's the shutter release. Usually, I just turn on the video recording and leave it on. I still need to work on keeping the transmitter steady, level and pointed toward the caft. picture