My Quadcopter Adventures - Lessons learned from my failures

quadcopter

Back in September I ordered a DIY drone kit from an online Chinese retailer. The particular one I ordered is this one. It took forever to come in and it was missing things when it came in. After a bunch of messaging back and forth with their customer service about a month later I had a mostly complete kit.

The kit included the following components:

  • F450 quadcopter frame
  • MWC 2.5 controller module
  • Anti-vibration landing gear
  • FlySky FS-T6 2.4ghz Remote and Receiver
  • 11.1V 2200mAh 25C Lipo battery
  • Neewer B3 Charger
  • Power distribution board
  • 4 x 30A ESCs
  • 4 x A2212 1000KV motor
  • 4 x Pairs of 1045 propeller

This is when all of the problems started. Not knowing much about building my own drone I made a bunch of mistakes and I wanted to document those so others might not repeat them.

Shorted flight controller

The first problem I ran into was that my flight controller that came with the kit shorted out on the frame. Not knowing that the frame was actually conductive I just zip tied the controller to the frame without any spacers. This had a couple leads short out across frame and led the ATMega 328P chip frying.

This led me to purchasing the Hobbypower KK2.1 control board which I have been pretty happy with so far. The problem of the board shorting I solve by just putting spacers between the board an the frame.

Tip: You can use the extra plastic pieces that came with the props as spacers.

ESCs caught on fire

The next problem I ran into was one of the ESCs catching on fire. This happened when I trying to reverse the spin of the motors. To reverse the spin of the motors you are suppose to swap two of the bullet connectors between the ESC and the motor. My ESC started smoking and caught fire when I was testing this. Two of the leads ended up shorting which made the motors go crazy and burn up the ESC.

Tip: To prevent this from happening again even between tests I make sure all of the bullet connectors have heat shrink tubing and then I put electrical tape over each of the connections as an additional precaution.

After this happened I replaced all of the ESCs with the following ones located here. Since I had soldered all of the ESCs directly to the power distribution board, I had to either unsolder the broken one and replace it or replace the whole distribution board. I chose the later one.

Tip: Make sure to make the all connections as modular as possible. I'd recommend creating your power distribution board as modular as possible to help with further maintenance on the drone.

Quadcopter would just flip over on take off

The problem I was having was that on take off the drone would simply flip over. This was cause mainly because the ESC weren't calibrated correctly. For the KK 2.1 controller you can calibrate the ESCs by following the below procedure.

  1. Turn on the remote with the throttle on max.
  2. Hold the Back + Enter buttons (left-most and right-most buttons) on the controller while plugging in the battery.
  3. This will have the controller enter into throttle passthrough mode. All of ESCs should beep once at this time.
  4. While still holding the two buttons pull the throttle back all the way on the remote. This will have all the ESCs beep again.
  5. Let go of both buttons and the ESCs should be calibrated now.

Frame broke

The next problem I ran into was one of the arms on the frame broke during flight. This was solved by zip tying the back arm together. This allowed me to fly it while I waited for the replacement parts to come in the mail.

Tip: Zip ties are your best friend.

Tip: Never fly in high winds.

Conclusion

I learned a whole bunch through the whole process and made plenty of mistakes along the way. Here is the complete parts list of what my drone is currently composed of along with links to purchase them.

Current parts list:

That should give you everything you need to build my current drone implementation. If I'm missing anything feel free to point it out to me so I can change it. If any of you need help, use the contact form and I can try helping you out.




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