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Old Jan 08, 2014, 09:29 PM
riskable is offline
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ONE INCH PVC Quadcopter build

My very first quadcopter was complete all but a few days ago... A brand new DJI F450 clone from On its second voyage it broke an arm (but not a prop, what?) after falling from the suicidal altitude of... four feet. It also broke an arm on the first flight so that meant I was out of spare arms! What to do what to do?

Rather than order some more arms and wait for them to arrive on a slow boat from China I decided to peruse RCGroups multirotor threads and immediately got inspired by the "Show us your scratch build PVC multirotor" thread! "Wow" I thought, "I should try that!"

And so I did:

I haven't named him yet but I am very satisfied so far. Who knew what you could do with $5 worth of PVC from Lowes? Wow!

Below is a build log of sorts...

How much is this thing going to weigh?

I read about many 1/2in and 3/4in PVC frames in the aforementioned thread but that sounded like it would be a bit wobbly and/or heavy depending on how much material was used. So I had a thought: Why not use that 1.5in stuff that goes under your sink? It's really hard and super light weight.

After perusing the Plumbing section of Lowes for about half an hour I determined that there just isn't a suitable fitting in existence for that 1.5in stuff to make a cross (aka an "X") and I just don't want an H-copter (not sure why, actually). So after some flex tests in the nether regions of Plumbing I decided I'd give 1in SDR-21 (200psi) PVC a try. It seemed reasonably light-weight and man was it stiff! It was just over $2 for 10 feet of it.

I came up with a completely arbitrary arm length of 200mm and cut four. Here's how much that weighs when combined with a schedule 40 cross fitting (anyone know where I can find an SDR-21 cross fitting? =):

Wait a minute: I thought PVC frames were heavy?!? That's just 2g more than an actual F450 frame! But wait, there's more:

That's how much it weighed after bending some motor mounts (was much easier than I thought it would be BTW) and sanding the top and bottom of the cross a bit. Just ~277g! That's less than a DJI F450!

How was this possible? Will the final result weigh less than my old F450 clone? Yes, yes it will!

Caveat: That weight doesn't include my Bluetooth/GPS modules or the wacky noodle landing skids but I seriously doubt they add up to more than ~100g because that's about how much lighter this PVC frame is than my F450 clone.


The ESCs are inside the frame. I am told that because my 30A ESCs are overpowered for my 2800 3C battery and 1000kV motors heat shouldn't be a problem but I'll be carefully monitoring that.

It is precisely 410mm from motor-to-motor. Did I intend that size from the beginning? No, I did not. I merely made some creative measurements when tracing the templates for the motor mounts.

For power distribution I made some custom harnesses:

Step 1: Solder some bullet connectors by dividing a single silicon-insulated wire into four individual strands...

Step 2: Heat shrink it for insulation and so it looks nice...

Also inside the frame: A 5V UBEC and four extra JST connectors (for wiring up some LED lighting later). It's pretty tight in there but I bet I could fit even more!

Parts list
  • Crius All-In-One-Pro 2.0 (running a customized MultiWii--testing my reverse-engineering of the FrSky Smart Port protocol to send telemetry data)
  • RC Timer 1000kV motors
  • RC Timer 30A simonk ESCs
  • Zippy 2800mAh battery
  • FrSky X8R Rx
  • FrSky Taranis Tx
  • Lots of wires, bullet connectors, and custom wiring harnesses (I love my new JST and Dupont-capable crimpers!).

I will be flying it tomorrow (I just finished putting it together and it's late). Tests indoors went very well though!

I suspect this beast will be just a bit more robust than my F450 clone. What do you guys think?

UPDATE 2014-01-12: For the first time in days and days it wasn't raining outside so I had my wife take a video of it's first flight:
One inch PVC quadcopter maiden flight (0 min 27 sec)

Flies great! Obviously the pilot has some learning to do, haha.
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Last edited by riskable; Jan 12, 2014 at 11:58 AM. Reason: Adding link to a video
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Old Jan 08, 2014, 09:36 PM
NoRcExperience is offline
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I love these builds more than the boring kits, thanks!
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Old Jan 08, 2014, 11:20 PM
dogz85 is online now
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i like the idea for the bullet connectors, i think i might give it a go in the next build.

great build log, thank you
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Old May 05, 2014, 10:09 AM
asulwer is offline
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how did you squeeze the arms flat where you are mounting the motors? i assume you heated it with something?
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Old May 05, 2014, 02:08 PM
Breezer1 is offline
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Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?
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Joined Aug 2005
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ALL of the building tricks and tips on construction of PVC multirotors are available to everyone who cares to spend a bit of time reading and looking at pictures on the, "Show us your scratch built PVC multirotor" thread.
You will be both amazed at what can be created, but also by how well these creations fly!!!
Be warned though!! Once you enter the PVC Zone, you may never leave!

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Old May 05, 2014, 02:16 PM
RotorMania is offline
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This is Brilliant!

It gives me a lot of ideas.
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