I’ll admit that multi-rotors haven’t really been my thing. I’m not heavily into aerial photography, and helicopters are just more interesting to me. I do get a kick out of the remarkable work some of the AP wizards have produced, particularly Gary Graf’s amazing flight videos (see Gary’s YouTube channel, FPVFlightSchool, for some examples of his remarkable work). All that said, recently my wife’s family came to visit, and my brother-in-law Paul is a fellow electric heli enthusiast. So, we spent a good bit of the week flying and tinkering in my workshop. Paul brought along his home-brewed quad-rotor, and I must admit I was intrigued by it. Paul’s quadcopter is particularly interesting because he built it with off-the-shelf hardware. The basic framework is a spare airframe for a commercial quad. He added four inexpensive motor/controller combos from HobbyKing, a Spektrum 6-channel receiver, and at the heart of it all, a CC3D stabilization module from OpenPilot.org. Power is provided by an inexpensive 5000–3S LiPo pack, and flight duration is about 15 minutes. Finally, he dressed the project up by adding multicolor LED strips from Turnigy. Total cost for the entire project was around $200.
With the quad freshly bound to his JR X9503 transmitter, Paul did a demo flight in my backyard, and I have to admit, it looked pretty darn fun. He asked me if I’d like to try, therefore saving me the trouble of knocking him down and grabbing the transmitter. Well, it is a lot of fun. This quadcopter is remarkably stable and yet agile enough to skim around the neighborhood flying circuits, figure-8s, etc. The CC3D unit provides a high degree of stability, allowing nearly hands-off hovering. As presently set up, the piro rate is docile, but the quad can do about anything you like while flying upright.
Like many OpenPilot members, Paul is champing at the bit for the full release of OpenPilot’s new Revolution autopilot, currently available in a Kickstarter version for developers and testers. With full autopilot capability, Paul’s home-brewed quad will add capabilities like waypoint navigation to its bag of tricks. I’ll be looking forward to his next visit.