F450 my first DIY Quadcopter

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F450 my first DIY Quadcopter

F450 quadcopter with ArduCopter flight controller

My son is always willing to help me in building or disassembling of any kind of stuff, so he was very enthusiast when I told him about the plan to build a quadcotper from scratch (OK, almost from scratch). His only complain was why we didn’t build an octa-copter or at least a hexacopter. I promised him that if this F450 will really fly then we will get to build a more complex one, the Tarot 650PRO.

I was always interested in “Do It Yourself” types of projects. I previously built some Arduino based devices therefore building an Arducopter will not be something totally new for me. Just to brag, I also built my own audio system from amplifier to the loudspeakers.

Building something from scratch takes a lot of research and patience. Especially for newbies is more convenient and safe to start with a quadcopter kit. But I have to say, that my next DIY quad will be probably from scratch. It’s also fun to choose the right parts, design the circuits and build your own concept.

There are many quadcopter kits on the market, from affordable ones to more expensive professional ones. It is very difficult to choose the right one. Having some Arduino knowledge I was glad to receive a quadcopter kit built around the APM 2.8 flight controller.

F450 flame wheel with APM 2.8

Initially I contacted XT-Xinte regarding a new main-board for my X380 Quad but finally I ended up with an ARF F450 kit. BTW, ARF means “Almost Ready to Fly”. They offered this quadcopter kit for free in order to make a step-by-step guide about how to assemble it.

At the beginning I was very optimistic, I was absolutely sure that the F450 with APM 2.8 is a well documented DIY quadcopter. Unfortunately, after several hours of internet research I found only fractions of the building process. Like this would not be enough, the package doesn’t include any instruction about how to assemble the airframe or how to interconnect the flight controller with the RX module, ESCs and motors. For those who are newbies on the DIY filed this issue can be very scary :).F450 quadcopter kit

I received the package in 10 days, which is unusually fast for orders from China. All the parts bellow where precisely stuffed in a small cardboard box (25 x 25 x 25cm).

F450 DIY quadcopter kit – Parts list

  • HJ450 nylon fiber frame kit aka F450 flamewheel airframe;
  • 1 set of 140 mm high landing skids;
  • APM2.8 flight controller with case;
  • 6M GPS with Compass L5883;
  • Flysky FS-i6 6 channel transmitter (TX);
  • Flysky FS-i6A 6CH receiver (RX);
  • 2 pieces of CW brushless motors, D2212 920KV – JMT F15844;
  • 2 pieces of CCW brushless motors, D2212 920KV – JMT F15843;
  • 1 set of 30A electronic speed controllers (ESC);
  • 1 set of 9443 propellers (2CW and 2CCW);
  • 5 pieces of 10cm F-F servo extension wires;
  • DJI GPS foldable antenna mount;
  • Carbon fiber GoPro camera mount with damping balls;
  • Hook & loop fastener;
  • IMAX RC B3 Pro compact 2s and 3s balance battery charger;
  • 11.1V 2200MAH 30C Li-Po battery;
  • 3 bags of screws.

Be aware that the package does not include any tools. For assembling you will probably need: a 2 mm hex wrench, small and medium phillips screwdrivers and a basic soldering iron.

Arducopter APM 2.8 flight controller

Over the time, the APM flight controller received many hardware updates and the current version is 2.8.F450 Flight controleler

The APM 2.8 FC is based on the ATmega2560 CPU, which is a low power consumption 8-Bit microcontroller. A secondary ATMEGA32U2 AVR RISC-based microcontroller is used as PPM encoder. The flight controller also incorporates a 3 axis gyro\accelerometer sensor (MPU 6000) and a pressure sensor (MS5611).

Having 8 outputs, the Arducopter FC is suitable not just for quad-copters but also for hexa and octa-copters.

One of the biggest advantage of this platform is the great software support through the MissionPlanner app.

By default, the flight controller is configured with 6 different flight modes (Stabilize, Loiter, AltHold, RTL, Circle and Auto) which can all be flagged with “super simple” and “simple mode”. You can find a detailed description of all the possible flight modes here.

The Ardcopter can be paired with many optional hardware like:

  • Telemetry module for real-time monitoring of the flight parameters;
  • Minim OSD for FPV flights;
  • 3DR power module in order to monitor the battery voltage and current consumption;
  • Optical flow sensor;
  • Brushless and servo camera gimbals;
  • Received Signal Strength Indication (RSSI);
  • External status LEDs and Buzzer;
  • Parachute;
  • Retractable landing skids.

Flysky FS-i6A transmitter

The kit includes an entry level 6 channel remote controller from FlySky, which in fact seems to be a copy of the Turnigy TGY-i6 transmitter. Frankly I would have preferred a more complex one with more channels. The FC requires at least 5 channels (CH1-4: Roll, Pitch, Throttle and Yaw; CH5: flight mode switch). Unfortunately, there is some interference between CH5 and CH6 so be careful during the flight modes assignment on the “SWC” switch. In order to control the tilt angle of my MiNi3D Pro brushless gimbal I assigned the CH6 to the “VRA” knob.F450 transmitter

Assembling the F450 flame wheel airframe – Step 1

Before you start to assemble the frame, check and inspect again all the included parts. For example, the arms had some plastic residues from the production process which can prevent the correct installation of the motors. I recommend to remove those residues from the motor base with a piece of sandpaper.

Basically, the F450 air-frame is formed out of 4 arms (2 red and 2 white) linked together by two boards (top – 450FBT and bottom 450 FBB). The bottom board also serves to electronically interconnect the battery with the ESCs.

In the first phase attach and secure each arm with two screws to the bottom board (red arm in the front part). Next, you can install the top board. For this you will need 4 screws for each arm.

After you are done, I recommend to label the arms from 1 to 4 exactly like in the image bellow (X shape quadcopter).Arducopter-Motor-Wiring-order

Installing and wiring the motors and ESCs – Step 2

As mine came with battery connector and ESCs soldered to the power board, I had an easy job. Practically I had to install all the motors following correct order (listed below) and interconnect them with the 30A ESCs (through the bullet connectors). The rotation direction of the motors can be simply reversed by switching two wire connections from the existing three (between the ESCs and motors).

Motor/Propeller order and direction of rotation:

  • Arm 1  (red) – CounterClockWise;
  • Arm 2 (white) – CCW;
  • Arm 3 (red)  – ClockWise;
  • Arm 4 (white)  – CW;

Organize all the cables and make sure that the cables can not be cut accidentally by the propellers.F450 - Motors

Mounting and wiring the Ardupilot APM 2.8 FC – Step 3

There are two different approaches regarding the location of the FC. It can be installed on the bottom board as well as on the top one. I opted for installing it on the top board for two reasons: I think this way the battery weight can be more easily distributed and I will have better access to the connection wires with the FC (in case I have to change something).

On top of the APM2.8 ArduPilot there is an arrow showing the direction of its installation. Don’t miss this detail! In order to get the best results, I recommend the FC to be positioned so that the internal Gyro sensor (MPU6000) to be exactly in the center of the F450 airframe.

Each ESC servo cable should be connected to one of the output ports of the flight controller. If you listened my previous instructions, you will find the correct order already labeled on the arms.

Next step is to interconnect the flight controller with the radio receiver using 5 servo cables.F450 Receiver (RX)

Last step is to install and connect the GPS antenna to the Arducopter FC. That’s it! You’re done with the basic wiring.

Before the first tests, I do not recommend to connect other devices (like telemetry or camera gimbal) to the flight controller.

Once again, make sure that there are no wires or other parts in the way of the propellers.

First time setup with Mission Planner – Step 4

Prior to interconnect the FC with your computer using a micro-USB cable, you must install the MissionPlanner app. After you are connected you can select from the “Initial setup” menu the “Mandatory Hardware Configuration” option or you can run the “MP setup Wizard”. You should consider to check in MP the followings before your first flight:

  • Frame type;
  • Compass calibration;
  • Transmitter calibration;
  • Accelerometer calibration;
  • RC Transmitter Mode Setup;
  • ESC calibration;
  • Default flight modes.

As safety measurement is mandatory to remove the propellers during any calibration process.

Mission Planner APM 2.8

Testing the F450 quadcopter – Final step

Maybe I went a bit too deep into details and many of you could be bored by this tutorial so I will leave the testing part and my first flight experience with this DIY F450 quadcopter for a future article.

My first DIY Quadcopter – Final words

The final result probably doesn’t look as good as a branded quadcopter, but you will have similar flight performances like Cheerson CX20 Open Source has for only about $130.

The fact that the package doesn’t include any instruction regarding assembling should not bother you. It can be easily assembled in about 3-4 hours. Trust me, nothing can be compared with the feeling that you built something that really flies :). Those who are interested to build their own quadcopter, this ARF kit can be ordered from here. After acquiring a little experience in this field I can say that I will definitely build a second one, probably a hexa-quadcopter 🙂F450 DIY quadcopter vs XK X380

What I liked

  • Building my own quadcopter can double the FUN!
  • Extremely affordable GPS quadcopter;
  • Highly upgradable quadcopter kit;
  • Scalable platform (by replacing the air-frame and adding two extra motors and ESCs you can have a hexa-copter).

What I didn’t like

  • There is no documentation included with the quadcopter kit;
  • Not perfectly aligned screw holes;
  • Shaky landing skids;

F450 Quadcopter build steps

Images with the content of the F450 quad-copter kit

Images with the Ardupilot APM 2.8 flight controller

Screens from the Mission Planner app

24 COMMENTS

  1. HI,
    I was making the same project but was using fly sky 6 channel transmitter FSCT6B it has a toggle switch in channel 5 but it is of single button not like ur transmitter that yours have 3 layer toggle switch….can I switch flight mode with it if i want to use RTL OR altitude hold only one of these… PLZ REPLY AS SOON AS POSSIBLE

  2. I have the same kit but i can not calibrate the ESC´s.
    XT-Xinte ESC´s…
    Not with all together, not with one on channel 3.
    Any Information, how i do this?

  3. Hi,
    I’m trying to figure out how to wire the receiver (FS-iA6) with the APM2.8… Can somebody help me out with a scheme or a pic?

  4. I would like to know, how did this kit fly? Did all the components work well?
    It seems very inexpensive for a kit with an APM controller and GPS.
    I want to order one but am on the fence until I get some feedback or flight test rviews for this kit.
    Very nice write up! Thank you.

  5. Hi guys,

    I am new to this multi-rotor domain. We are struggling with our first F450 quad. Below are the specs of the DIY quad kit:

    1. F450 quadcopter airframe
    2. KK2.1 Flight controller.
    3. FLYSKY CT6B (6 CH 2.4G radio transmitter)
    4. 1400 KV Brushless motors
    5. 30 amps ESCs
    6. Li-po battery

    Firstly the quad was not taking off properly. More over, after activating self level mode also, the quad is not at all stable. If we max up the throttle, then it flips in one side and crashes. Otherwise, it takes off from the ground up-to 1-2 feet if we slowly increase the throttle and then oscillates and to avoid crash, we then decrease the throttle.

    Please see the video ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B_sNdiE7jt0) for more reference.
    Please guys, really need your help in this matter. We are not able to understand exactly what is wrong with our quad.

    We have already calibrated our ESC’s and the accelerometer but no luck.
    Please help guys.

  6. Hi,

    did you have some problem with the power for your receiver from APM?
    I have about the same configuration but my receiver seems to get not enough power.

  7. I am buying a nicer high-end drone for my fiancee for Xmas, and I was curious if you could give me some advice as I know nothing about these. I am looking for something that he can assemble (DIY drone) and be creative with himself; so, not out of the box.
    He will be a first timer, but is an engineer, inventor, and an enthusiast of all things hands on and build-able.
    I have a budget of up to $2000. Any ideas or suggestions would be very welcome.
    Thanks,
    Lisa

    • Hi Lisa

      In this budget you can buy good quality drone like Phantom 3 or 4, as phantom 4 starts from 2200
      Or you can buy Parrot series of drone. There are other good drones in the market you can google but these what I mention are best.

      Thanks

      • You have right, but Lisa asked about DIY quadcopters not RTF (ready to fly).
        If he is truly a engineer and inventor, I recommend him the DJI Matrix 100. Which is a fully programmable quadcopter for developers.

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