Author Archive for Spackletoe

Here's spackletoe's biographical information for your reading pleasure. I like copters. Told you it wasn't very long. Oh.. wait, no I didn't. Sorry about that. I'm sure you didn't see the end coming like that. It was untimely, even. Ahh geez, now I feel the need to say more. I haven't mentioned monkeys yet. They're fun. Cya later!

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Up, Up in the Air in my Rudimentary Looking Quadcopter

February 21, 20111 Comment

The air up there in the clouds is very pure and fine, bracing and delicious.  And why shouldn’t it be? – it is the same the angels breathe.  ~Mark Twain

Okay that may be a bit heavy, but I gotta say… it was quite a thrill to push forward on that throttle stick and have the quad lift off for the first time. Don’t confuse that with the quad being successful on its first attempt. But it was close. A couple of settings tweaks later and it was flying pretty well, even with my lack of experience at the controls. We got some late afternoon flying in and Monique, Brenna, Vork and Michael were there for moral support, successful flight ro not. Actually Vork might have been there to mock me if it didn’t work. Not sure.

So no pictures today, as the whole build was really completed yesterday. But what I do have for you today is a incredibly quickly thrown together video of some of the highlights. **Spoiler Alert** there’s a big crash at the end!

The crash was from about 35-ish feet and it snapped off two of the “landing gear” which were temporarily attached with servo tape and a couple of tie-wraps. OR you can say that they were engineered to break away in the case of a rough landing. Yeah, let’s say that. At any rate, damage was cosmetic and had we heeded the incessant beeping of the “low battery warning alarm” (whatever) that had been going off for around 30 seconds, then we probably could have avoided this. I was just getting started though! Somehow batteries seemed optional when I was lost in flight. Wrong.

The quad has been dubbed the “VorkMike Mark 1” after the three guys that donated most, in money, time, and interest. Also, much thanks to Monique for putting up with me taking on a new hobby somewhat out of the blue and putting in some nights of work in the garage. I’m leaving for Florida tomorrow morning and I’ll be back Sunday, so no flying my quad until I get back, I guess. Glad we got it off the ground today!


February 21, 20110 Comments

Today I understand how Dr. Frankenstein felt as his creation awoke for the first time — Tomorrow I get to find out if it breaks loose and destroys the town.  You see, I was able to get to a point in this whole building thing where I have control over the sucker.  Haven’t actually flown yet as the sun had gone down by the time I had the chance for a maiden flight. I didn’t want to chance taking this 35″ beast inside with my meager flight skills and untrimmed settings as that could make for some broken stuff.

So let me explain… first of all, Friday night I completed the real-life version of my wiring diagram.  I stopped short of adding AUX ports as that’s for future expansion anyway, so I pushed them off too.. well… the future.

Quad wiring in real life

Quad Wiring in Real Life

The next step was attaching this to the quad’s frame. My brother Michael came over and helped me out with the setup and we got a lot done.  It started with making sure the motors were all rotating the right way.  You see, two of them have to rotate one way, and the other two have to rotate the other way, and there are two types of propellers too, one for each direction (but you knew all that, right?).


This One Goes Counter-Clockwise

So we hooked one motor up, tested it out.  It came to life. What an awesome moment! It was the first time the thing took instructions from the radio transmitter.  We might have screamed like girls when it started spinning.  Then again, maybe we didn’t.  You weren’t there, you don’t know!  From there it was a matter of routing all of the wires and mounting the controller and receiver, programming the ESCs and making sure the controller was getting as little vibration as possible.

Mounting the Controller
The brains of the operation

Whew!  Now it was starting look like something that might actually fly. Once we had it all plugged in it was time to see if all of the motors were synced and spinning like they should.  Success!  I know we screamed like girls that time.

Now, at that point it was really tempting to take it outside in the dark and try to see if it’d fly.  But we stopped short of that and instead Michael held it above his head while I gave it some throttle and we played with the controls a bit.

Flight Test!

Flight Test! Look at Those Props spin!

Everything seems to be in working order so far.  Although I know once I try  to take to the skies I’ll have to do some trimming and tweaking to help with stabilization.  Oh, and there’s a bit more frame to make as the landing gear isn’t attached yet, and the bottom battery carrier isn’t made. But all of that is for another day.  For now, my monster is ALIVE!!!

Getting Electric

February 18, 20110 Comments

Tonight I put the motor mounts on the arms, then mounted the motors. I used more of the G10 to make little platforms to give the motors a better base. I’ve made straighter cuts before in my life, but they don’t need to be perfectly square, so they’ll do the job. I’m trying to skip great detail to get to the whole “let’s see if this thing flies” part so that if it doesn’t I won’t look back and wonder why I spend 3 hours on something that didn’t matter.

Motor Platform

Once that was done I turned my focus to the wiring. I had been sketching out the wire routing and I finally landed on a plan.

Quad Wiring Diagram

Quad Wiring Diagram

It actually makes sense to me now. Getting it on paper helps. So with that plan and all of the parts in front of me, I started soldering wire connectors and stuff. I did all of the ESCs, one battery, and the battery switch (which I got to work!).  After that I felt a sense of accomplishment, so that was enough.  More tomorrow night!

Wired Switch (it even lights up!)

Motors and ESCs are here!

February 17, 20110 Comments

The last of the parts has arrived. That means it’s time to do all the work and assemble this sucker. It’s supposed to rain all the way until Sunday, so I’m hoping to make some serious progress on this thing. I don’t have every detail planned out so I have to adjust in the fly. Tonight I cut out the motor mounts and did some soldering of wires until I got tired of ruining deans plugs, so I took a break and TV sucked me in til bedtime. Time to call it a night!



New Body with an Upper Deck

February 13, 20110 Comments

Throughout the weekend I found pockets of time to work on the quad.  The bulk of that time was spent getting the arms on the new body made of G10.  I screwed up and miscalculated the arms causing them not to be square, so I had to correct that which took some time. This project is really bringing geometry back to my head.  I tried to use the towel bars I had already drilled with the wood and that kinda screwed me a little since those holes weren’t as precise as they should have been. For the G10 body, I planned a bit beforehand with Omnigraffle.  I don’t want to brag, but Eddie Vedder is a fan of the new body design.

This weekend I bought a receiver to go with the transmitter I picked up on Friday.  It was more trouble than I thought it would be to find a receiver for the radio I got.  But hopefully the one I have will do the trick. I got the Walkera RX2806 for $48 at

The last thing I did tonight was add a 2nd level where the controller and maybe the receiver too will be housed. Since this is the part that contains the gyros and accelerometers that keep the quad level during flight, I’ve tried to take some of the shock and vibration out of it by adding rubber grommets at the top of each support leg.  I’m assuming I’ll be creating a lower level too where the battery will live and the camera will attach.  I still have to figure out what my plan is for the legs.  I’m expecting my motors/ESCs (Electronic Speed Controllers) to arrive early this week, so that’s when things will really get interesting.

Using the Electronics shelf

Body Swap, and More Parts!

February 12, 20110 Comments

Today some new components came that I ordered, it was like Christmas… if you bought everything for yourself.  Batteries, a terminal block, a switch, servo wire extensions, and some new material called G-10 for the body.  I didn’t really want to depend on the wood for the body integrity and exactness (wood could get a little play going after time).  I also picked up my transmitter.  It’s a Walkera WK-2603 6-channel Tx which isn’t the best radio I could buy, but for the $20 I got it for (craigslist), it will be more than adequate.  More on most of these parts later, when I need to install them.

Transmitter acquired!

The plan for tonight was to cut into a little G-10 and maybe getting the arms on it instead of the wood.  G-10 is a glass-epoxy laminate that is incredibly strong.  It’s like fiberglass on steroids.  I chose 1/8″ in thickness and when I ordered it I thought it might be too thin as my plywood was much thicker, but my fears were soon disproven.  I was in for a surprise when I tried to use my hole saw with my cordless drill.  It didn’t have enough power to get through the stuff!  So I called my dad and borrowed his ancient corded drill that has a lot more power (Thanks Dad!).  That did the trick and I cut the two circles within a few minutes.  Maybe tomorrow I’ll make more progress assembling the body.

G-10 is tough stuff!

So I’m Building a Quadcopter

February 11, 20110 Comments

A what?  A quadcopter.  Don’t make me say it again.  A quadcopter.  Okay, now you’ve gone too far.  I supposed you want me to explain it to you now, huh?  Fine.

A quadcopter is a helicopter with 4 propellers on it, all spinning parallel to the ground (if it flies correctly, that is).  I’m of course, speaking of the  remote controlled variety–what did you think I was crazy?  I’m acquiring the pieces and parts to make one on my own, rather than buying a kit, which I seriously considered doing before impatience and curiosity got the better of me.  You see, I started saving for a RTF (Ready To Fly) kit, but saving wasn’t going as fast as I wanted it to, so I took what I had saved so far and went to home depot and got some frame fixins.  That night I build this:

Completed all 6 arms
Looks like I'm going for a sixer!

That was the situation a week ago.  Since then as I’m ordering parts, I’ve changed the plan to a quadcopter since the off-the-shelf FY-90Q controller (The one I’m buying so I don’t have to become a circuit board solder maniac) only works with 4-rotor aircraft, so I’ve pruned two arms.

What Had 6 Now Hath 4!

Nice CD Spindle, huh?

So that’s where I sit right now on the build.  I have a parts list going that changes a lot, but once it gets closer to stable I’ll post it here.  The total cost of this endeavor is going to be around $430.  The only thing I have that I didn’t have to buy is a LiPo battery charger that I used for my RC cars.  I’ve read a lot on and found it to be a really helpful resource for this kinda thing, and even recruited two friends to dive into the RC Quadcopter world too.  Ironically, they’ll probably be up in the air before I will!

One of the goals of this little project (aside from seeing if I can get the thing to fly and having some fun while learning a few things) is to experiment with a little aerial photography.

I’ll update you all on my progress.  Wish me luck!