Arduino Drone: How to build your very own! [2021]

Drones are fascinating and almost everyone wants one of these impressive machines. 

Did you know that you can build your very own drone instead of purchasing those readily available on the market? 

Building your own drone comes with a certain thrill that you wouldn’t get if you purchase a pre-built drone. 

If you consider yourself particularly handy and want to build your own drone from scratch, then this guide is for you.  

This guide will teach you the process of building your own Arduino drone. 

Building your own Arduino drone requires some time and a bit of extra work 

However, with patience and persistence it can be done in an hour or two so without further ado, let’s get right to it.  

Drone

Features

Price

Readytosky 220mm FPV Racing Drone Frame for Martian II...
  • Carbon fiber frames
  • Multiple motor mounting holes
  • Strong enough to carry HD camera
Crazepony 4pcs EMAX RS2205 2600KV Brushless Motor 3-4S 2CW...
  • Strong trust power
  • Rapid cooling
  • Easy to install
Crazepony 4pcs EMAX RS2205 2600KV Brushless Motor 3-4S 2CW...
  • Con. Current: 30A
  • Peak Current: 4*35A (30A)
  • Voltage: 2-6S
Master Airscrew Performance 1245 Black Multi-Rotor Drone...
  • glass fiber reinforced composite
  • Optimized performance
  • Includes 1CW and 1CCW propeller
Turnigy 5000mAh 5S 20C Lipo Pack w/XT-60
  • 5000mAh
  • Lithium Polymer cell composition
  • XT-60 connectors and JST-XH style balance connectors
Arduino Uno REV3 [A000066]
  • 14 digital input and output pins,
  • Six analog inputs,
  • 16 MHz quartz crystal,
  • USB connector,
  •  Power jack
  • An ICSP header
  • Reset button

Things you will need to build your Arduino quadcopter

arduino drone kits

To build your Arduino quadcopter there are a few things that you’ll need to grab. 

Below we have a list of the basic items you need.

  • Frame 
  • Brushless Motors
  • EScs
  • Propellers
  • Battery
  • Arduino board
  • IMU 
  • RC controller

Frame 

The frame of your quadrocopter Arduino is the backbone of the unit and it is what keeps all of the parts of your drone together.

However, you need to make sure that the frame is light enough so that the batteries and motors don’t struggle to keep it in the air. 

The frame of the unit needs to have the following parts: 

  • Center holding plate for mourning the electronics  
  • Four Arms 
  • Motor brackets to connect the motors on the end of each arm.

You can find aluminum, carbon fiber or wood frames but most times you’ll find that the arms are aluminum. 

This is because they are lightweight, rigid and cheap.

However, they aren’t the best for motor vibrations as the carbon fiber frames since they confuse the sensors. 

Carbon fiber works better at absorbing motor vibrations due to its rigid nature. However, carbon fiber frames are expensive and only choose those frames if your budget allows.

Wood frames also work great for motor absorption but are fragile and may break if you crash. 

If you are having a hard time choosing a frame type, you can choose to go with a pre-made frame that only requires assembly. 

Readytosky 220mm FPV Racing Drone Frame for Martian II…

Readytosky 220mm FPV Racing Drone Frame for Martian II...

  • Carbon fiber frames
  • Multiple motor mounting holes
  • Strong enough to carry HD camera

Readytosky 220mm FPV Racing Drone Frame for Martian II…
  • ★ Full 3K Carbon Fiber airframe featuring a solid 4mm removable fpv frame arms.
  • ★★★Upgrade the lower board to 2mm,much stronger than before.
  • ★Easy Lipo Access (suggested Lipo is a 1550mah&2300mah 3 or 4s).
  • ★ Suitable for competition and free style fly,can be easily assembled.
  • ★★★If you need replacement arms,ASIN: B07BVBL885.

Brushless Motors 

Brushless motors work in a similar fashion to DC motors but they do not have a brush on their shaft. 

When buying these motors pay attention to their technical data. 

Look for the “Kv-rating” that tells you the number of RPMs the motor can generate with a certain amount of electric power. 

You will need motors that rotate counter-clockwise to counteract the torque of the propellers.

The thrust of the brushless DC Motors allows the drone to get airborne. Each motor is separately controlled by an electronic speed controller(ESC).

Crazepony 4pcs EMAX RS2205 2600KV Brushless Motor

Crazepony 4pcs EMAX RS2205 2600KV Brushless Motor 3-4S 2CW...

  • Strong trust power
  • Rapid cooling
  • Easy to install

Crazepony 4pcs EMAX RS2205 2600KV Brushless Motor 3-4S 2CW…
  • High Quality Guarantee:The new standard of EMAX RS2205-S 2600KV Brushless Motor is upgraded with…
  • Update Version:Compared to the RS2205, maintain the RS2205 2600KV Brushless Motor’s advantage, and 2…
  • Size and Design:This have a weight Approx 30g with a normal size-0.87*0.2 inch. 2205-S 2600KV…
  • More Power:By utilizing N52SH curved magnets, the pulling force between the stator and magnet is…
  • Support Your Racing Drone:This 2205S 2600KV brushless motor is perfect for your 210 220 250 280 FPV…

ESCs 

Electronic Speed Controller delivers the movement information from the flight controller to the motors of the quadcopter. 

In other words, it regulates the amount of power the motors get this determines the speed and directional changes of say unit. 

You’ll need four of these motors.

Make sure there is an input for a battery and a motor output with three phases. 

You should also pay attention to the max level of the current that comes from the source so a controller 10A or higher is ideal.

Another thing you need to pay attention to is how programmable it is so that you can change the signal frequency range if you want.

AKK 30A 4 IN 1 2-6S Brushless ESC BLHeli_S Electronic Speed Controller

Crazepony 4pcs EMAX RS2205 2600KV Brushless Motor 3-4S 2CW...

  • Con. Current: 30A
  • Peak Current: 4*35A (30A)
  • Voltage: 2-6S

Crazepony 4pcs EMAX RS2205 2600KV Brushless Motor 3-4S 2CW…
  • High Quality Guarantee:The new standard of EMAX RS2205-S 2600KV Brushless Motor is upgraded with…
  • Update Version:Compared to the RS2205, maintain the RS2205 2600KV Brushless Motor’s advantage, and 2…
  • Size and Design:This have a weight Approx 30g with a normal size-0.87*0.2 inch. 2205-S 2600KV…
  • More Power:By utilizing N52SH curved magnets, the pulling force between the stator and magnet is…
  • Support Your Racing Drone:This 2205S 2600KV brushless motor is perfect for your 210 220 250 280 FPV…

Propellers 

The propeller you choose will depend on the type of quadcopter you’re building.

 For example, if you want stable aerial photography flights you can opt for a 9 to 10 or 11-inch propeller.  

On the other hand, you can go for 5-inch propellers for a racing drone which means less thrust but more speed. 

Propellers generate thrust and each motor needs one to make the drone fly. 

Choose propellers according to the size of your frame and only after that can you choose your motors. 

You can choose the propeller we mentioned below or check out our best drone propellers post.

Master Airscrew Performance 1245 Black Multi-Rotor Drone Propellers

Master Airscrew Performance 1245 Black Multi-Rotor Drone...

  • glass fiber reinforced composite
  • Optimized performance
  • Includes 1CW and 1CCW propeller

Master Airscrew Performance 1245 Black Multi-Rotor Drone…
  • Designed for VTOL drones.
  • Optimized for performance and outstanding efficiency in hover and forward flight.
  • Perfect choice for taking videos, having fun or upgrading your business drone.
  • Manufactured from glass fiber reinforced composite for strength and durability.
  • The set consists of 2 propellers – 1CW and 1CCW.

Battery 

When choosing the batteries, you need to decide what is the maximum voltage level of your setup.

Batteries are available in 2S 3S 4S and even 5S.

If you are going to be using your unit for filming or photography you will need an 11.4 Volt 3S battery.

A racing quad can work with a 22.8 Volt 4S battery if you want the motors to spin faster. 

One of the most recommended batteries is LiPo batteries. 

They are not heavy and the power levels are perfect for your quad. 

NiMH batteries are cheaper but they are also heavier. 

Turnigy 5000mAh 5S 20C Lipo Pack w/XT-60

Turnigy 5000mAh 5S 20C Lipo Pack w/XT-60

  • 5000mAh
  • Lithium Polymer cell composition
  • XT-60 connectors and JST-XH style balance connectors

Arduino board 

Before choosing the Arduino board, you will have to decide on the type of quadcopter you want to build whether it’s a unit for aerial photography, racing, freestyle or others.

If you are now getting started with electronics and coding the Arduino Uno is possibly the best board you can use 

The Arduino Uno is a reliable and robust platform that allows you to play with it any way you want. 

This means you can mess with it and not worry about destroying or damaging it and the worst thing you can possibly do is fry the chip which can be replaced for just a few bucks. 

This means that you can connect it to a computer battery or an AC/DC adapter to power it up using the USB cable. 

You can also program this board with the Arduino quadcopter code by using the Arduino software.

We have laid out the steps to do this in the next section of this article. 

Arduino Uno Rev3

Arduino Uno REV3 [A000066]

  • 14 digital input and output pins,
  • Six analog inputs,
  • 16 MHz quartz crystal,
  • USB connector,
  •  Power jack
  • An ICSP header
  • Reset button

Sale
Arduino Uno REV3 [A000066]
  • This board is your entry to the unique Arduino experience: great for learning the basics of how…
  • Arduino Uno is the most used and documented board in the world
  • “Uno” means one in Italian and was chosen to mark the release of Arduino Software (IDE) 1.0, now…
  • It has 14 digital input/output pins (of which 6 can be used as PWM outputs), 6 analog inputs, a 16…
  • Arduino is an open-source hardware, software, and content platform with a worldwide community of…

IMU 

IMU stands for Inertial Measurement Unit which is the charge used to measure your unit’s orientation, velocity and force of gravity. 

This is what allows the electronics to control the power to the motors to adjust motor speeds.

The unit comes with a 3-axis gyroscope and a 3-axis accelerometer and is known as 6DOF IMU.

The gyroscope reads the values of angular velocity while the accelerometer measures acceleration and force.

Flight Controller 

You can buy a controller board that can only control the drone or you can buy the Arduino UNO.

This drone allows you to build your own flight controller by purchasing several parts to assemble the controller on your own. 

RC Transmitter

An RC transmitter is the best way of programming and controlling a drone. 

The transmitter you choose will depend on the protocol you are going to use as well as the signal receiver on the unit. 

How to build an Arduino drone

Now that you’re familiar with all the parts that you need, let’s move on to putting the parts together to build your Arduino drone. 

To get started ensure you have all of these parts:

  • Arduino Uno
  • MPU-6050 Module
  • Prototype Board
  • Female and male headers
  • 330-ohm Resistor and an LED
  • Thin Gauge wires
  • HC-05 Bluetooth module.

Basic Schematics of your Arduino Uno drone

To connect the ESCs:

  • Signal Pin ESC 1 – D3
  • Signal Pin ESC 3 – D9
  • Signal Pin ESC 2 – D10
  • Signal Pin ESC 4 – D11

To connect the Bluetooth module:

  • Tx – Rx
  • Rx – Tx
  • To connect the MPU-6050:
  • SDA – A4
  • SCL – A5

To connect the LED indicator:

  • LED Anode Leg – D8

To connect the receiver:

  • Throttle – 2
  • Elerons – D4
  • Ailerons – D5
  • Rudder – D6
  • AUX 1 – D7

You can watch the video below or keep reading to get started. 

Soldering

Soldering is one of the most complicated processes when building your drone should be done with extra caution and precision. 

First off, take the female headers and solder them to the prototype board as this will house your Arduino board. 

Solder them right in the center so it leaves enough room for the rest of the headers for the MPU Bluetooth module receiver, the ESC’s and any other sensors you might add.

Next solder the Receiver and ESC Mail headers from the Arduino female headers. 

The number of male ESC header rows you have will depend on how many motors you plan on using. 

For example, if you’re building a quad that means there will be 4 rotors and an ESC for each one so there will be 4 rows with each having three male headers. 

In this instance, the first header in the first row will be used for the signal PID while the 2nd will be used for the 5 Volt if your ESC has a 5V pin and the third is for the GND. 

After successfully soldering the ESC’s you can now move on to soldering the receiver headers.  

In most cases, you will find that a quad has four channels including Throttle, Pitch, Yaw and Roll. 

The remaining free channel which is the fifth one can be used for flight mode changes and is known as the Auxiliary channel. 

What this means is that you will have to solder male fine headers in five rows and all but one will have a single header while one of those rows will need three headers in a row. 

Wiring

Moving on, we come to the part where you have to wire everything together. 

Once everything was successfully soldered into place, you can start wiring everything together. 

To make things easier, you can connect all the grounds with the Arduino grounds. 

That includes the ESC grounds, receiver ground, the Bluetooth module and MPU grounds. 

The next step requires you to follow the schematics and the connections mentioned above like the SDA to A4, and SCL to A5), and for Bluetooth (TX – TX and RX – RX) of Arduino. 

You will then need to follow the connections that we laid out above as well with the signal pins of ESC1 to D3 of the Arduino and receiver signal pins Pitch to D2, Roll to D4 and so on. 

The LED long lead which is the positive terminal needs to connect the 8 pins of the Arduino. 

You should also add the 330-ohm resistor between the Ground of the Arduino and the shorter lead which is the negative terminal of the LED.  

Moving on, you need to provide the 5V power source connection. 

Parallel connect the black wire which serves as the ground of the battery to the ground of all of the other components and the red wire to the Arduino, MPU and Bluetooth module 5V pins. 

Next, solder the MPU 6050 to the male headers and the ones you plan on using. 

Turn the board 180 degrees and connect all your components to their respective headers on the prototype board to eliminate any problems. 

When this is done, power it up and the Arduino should be ready for you to add Arduino source codes using a computer.

arduino quadcopter in flight

Programming

An Arduino flight controller will also require some computer programming before it works. 

The first thing you’ll need to do is download MultiWii 2.4 and run the program. 

Use the Arduino IDE to find the “Arduino file” or “MultiWii file” that’s has “.ino” 

Once you open the MultiWii.ino file, find the “config. H” option and scroll down until you find “the type of multicopter.” 

By deleting the “//”, you mark this as defined and running assuming that you are using the “X” rotor configuration on your Arduino drone. 

Moving on, scroll down and look for “Combined IMU Boards” and activate the type of Gyro+Acc board you are using. 

If you’ve added other sensors, you can activate them here as well. 

Now it’s time to activate the Flight Indicator options which can be down through the “Buzzer Pin” 

Flash the code to your Arduino, unplug the board from the flight controller and connect it to your computer via a USB connection. 

Once connected, search for TOOLs and select the type of Arduino board you have. 

Find “Serial Port” and from here you can activate the COM port that the Arduino is connected to. 

And the last thing to do is to click on the arrow and upload the code and wait for it to be transferred. 

When it’s done, unplug the Arduino from the USB and reconnect it to the FC board with a 5V battery so that the entire FC powers up.  

Wait for the LED on the Arduino to go red which means that it has finished booting up and you can connect it back to the computer again. 

Once again find the MultiWii 2.4 folder then MultiWiiConfig and find the folder that is compatible with your operating system e.g. “applications.windows64” 

Start the MultiWiiConfig application and after the user interface opens, choose your Arduino Com port and click on Start. 

You can change the PID values, fine-tune your drone preferences and assign flight modes to certain auxiliary switch positions in this very interface. 

What you need to do now is to find somewhere on the frame the place of  Ardunio FC and when that is done, your drone is ready for flight.

If you find that building a drone isn’t up your forte, then read our best drone for the money reviews.

Drone

Features

Price

Readytosky 220mm FPV Racing Drone Frame for Martian II...
  • Carbon fiber frames
  • Multiple motor mounting holes
  • Strong enough to carry HD camera
Crazepony 4pcs EMAX RS2205 2600KV Brushless Motor 3-4S 2CW...
  • Strong trust power
  • Rapid cooling
  • Easy to install
Crazepony 4pcs EMAX RS2205 2600KV Brushless Motor 3-4S 2CW...
  • Con. Current: 30A
  • Peak Current: 4*35A (30A)
  • Voltage: 2-6S
Master Airscrew Performance 1245 Black Multi-Rotor Drone...
  • glass fiber reinforced composite
  • Optimized performance
  • Includes 1CW and 1CCW propeller
Turnigy 5000mAh 5S 20C Lipo Pack w/XT-60
  • 5000mAh
  • Lithium Polymer cell composition
  • XT-60 connectors and JST-XH style balance connectors
Arduino Uno REV3 [A000066]
  • 14 digital input and output pins,
  • Six analog inputs,
  • 16 MHz quartz crystal,
  • USB connector,
  •  Power jack
  • An ICSP header
  • Reset button

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