Expect drone spottings to increase as the DIY drone makes its way to the home workbench, albeit the tech-savvy one. One group of makers has designed what they call a “quadcopter,” a four-motored remote-controlled drone which uses either a GPS or an FM transmitter, with a frame that is completely 3D printed. Nearly as often as you read a story about a drone spotting, you read one about a drone mishap or crash but this group of collaborators has gone to considerable length to ensure that their drone is the closest thing to crash proof they can manage.
One member of the group who goes by the Instructables user name of “Nolan5454,” shared detailed maker instructions, a lengthy list of materials and their sources, and files for producing the quadcopter. Before getting to design specifics, the collaborators agreed to base their drone on an ArduPilot 2.6. That decided, shape, size and placement of components could be agreed upon, thus getting the group beyond the drawing board.
The frame of the craft was designed using Autodesk Inventor. Files were converted from .IPT to .X3G so that the individual parts could be printed on a Makerbot 2x Replicator. Genuinely a group project, each member worked on the external wiring for the quadcopter, designing, checking, and reviewing.
The quadcopter features a single power distribution board, four motors and four speed controllers (hence the “quad”) and all parts are contained within the frame to protect them in the event of crashes. The top of the craft’s frame was designed to include compartments where components fit snugly, making them even more crash-resistant. The exceptions to this internally-oriented design are the GPS and FM controller due to signal requirements, but they do fit snugly into compartments outside of the central core of the quadcopter.
The team found the Makerbot 2x Replicator ideal for printing the quadcopter’s frame which took place on a bed heated to 100 degrees Celsius (212 degrees Fahrenheit), with the extrusion head at 240 degrees (464 degrees Fahrenheit). Rather than ABS, the quadcopter’s frame is printed using PLA, which the group agreed was the more durable material.
Additional hardware and materials were settled on with the overall weight and balance of the craft as an obvious consideration. All materials are easily accessed via the internet, so the most costly part of the project is the Makerbot 2x Replicator, which retails for a little less than $2,500 but can be purchased used for around $1,300. The Instructables page provides a wealth of information and photographs, plus Nolan5454 seems more than pleased to engage with potential quadcopter makers!
Have you tried making this drone? Let us know how it went. Discuss in the 3D Printed Drone forum thread on 3DPB.com.