Sunday, December 27, 2015

Building a 280mm Quadcopter out of spare parts (Frame)

This is a project that aims to build a 280mm quadcopter with racing/cruising characteristics completely from spare parts. The idea came to mind after Banggood sent me by accident a broken/used Flying3D instead of my paid order (they sent me later my brand new unit); the broken unit had burnt ESCs, the power distribution board was severely damaged, even the flight controller board was not responding. I can only assume that the previous owner (there was printed e-mail exchange between Banggood and the U.S customer inside the box) tried to mod the quadcopter unsuccessfully and then returned it to Banggood as defective. My God, what people are out there!

Banggood was kind enough to let me keep the broken one, to be used as spare parts: the canopy – although scratched and used – is fine, plus two extra legs and a working TX, so no complaints. Immediately, I started searching for information regarding the broken parts, in order to fix it but quickly came to the conclusion that it would be easier if I could use some of the working parts (the TX/RX and the motors were the only parts that were verified as working at that time) and buy some new parts to build a frame-based quadcopter. Of course, there is no point doing that if it is to build another 7.4V platform, so I opted to go 3S which means new ESCs as I knew the stock ones (which did not worked anyway) could not support 11.1V. So, at that time – in order to save on costs – I’ve decided to search for a frame that could support the stock motors I had available. But things would change.
A friend of mine that repairs PCBs by reflowing/reballing asked if he could try fixing the BigFlyShark flight controller from the broken FY-X6. To my surprise after some cleaning – he told me that it didn’t even “touch it” (i.e re-solder) – the flight controller came to life and after doing some bench-tests, the GPS circuit also worked! Miracles do happen sometimes and now I could use this excellent flight controller and GPS to build my quad but this meant extra weight, so this means also new motors and a frame that could accomodate all these parts into something that would fly.
5 days later and after many hours of online searching, reading and viewing YouTube videos, I finally decided on the frame I’d use: it would be the Tarot TL280H (half-carbon as full-carbon was over twice the price), together with EMAX Nighthawk Pro 2204/2300kV motors and EMAX BLHeli 12A ESCs. I chose this frame as is one of the best-looking frames and Tarot is known for building high-quality R/C accessories, plus it supports GPS either by directly mounting it on the “third floor” area or by using their GPS mount pole (I chose the pole option). Order placed – together with other spare parts that I will list on next posts – and about a month later, everything arrived at my door.
Assembling the frame as the main frame came pre-assembled and only the upper “third floor” part needed work (the cat’s “head”). Using the owners manual and the correct torx screwdrivers, after about an hour I had assembled everything including the GPS mount pole.
Unfortunately Banggood split the order in several smaller ones which meant that I had the frame but not the motors or ESCs and I was also waiting for the 3S batteries to arrive. This meant that I had to divert my attention to the other spare parts, particularily the flight controller and the RX board.
Stay tuned for the next post regarding setting-up the flight controller and the RX using a custom-made case.

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