Making Your Own Custom Quadcopter Frames

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There’s a certain pride in being able to turn common, every day materials into something that is able to fly. At least that is the impression I get when random people approaches and asks me whether I made my quad myself. While my results are usually far from pretty, there’s a lot to learn from building your own frames.

My bench, with a couple iterations

In the photo above, you can catch a glimpse of two prototypes I was working on at some point.

The wooden frame in the center is perhaps the cheapest frame I’ve made. I just bought a few pieces of poplar wood, added a few glue, screws and bolts and had a very flyable model frame. The result was surprisingly lightweight and maneuverable.

Unfortunately, after clocking around 5 hours of flight time the wooden plank split open. Fearing an airborne automatic dissassembly, I decommissioned this model. Seeing the nice results that some folks are reporting using wood, perhaps I should revisit this material in the future.

Another material I experimented with was Schedule 40 PVC pipe. This would be the most common type of PVC pipe you’ll find in your favorite hardware store.

PVC pipe is dirt cheap and if you get the special scissors for it, very easy to work with. I’ll write another piece about PVC frames at some point See my post about building your own PVC frames.

Nowadays, my favorite material for DIY drone frames is aluminum because it’s cheap, easy to work with and with lots of good properties. However it requires more tools and skill. I’ve posted some notes about this in case you’re so inclined.

In fairness, medium sized frames in the 400 to 500 mm size range don’t need sub-millimeter accuracy. If you’re able to semi-competently drill a hole, use a saw, read directions and use swearing, you should be fine. I don’t use too fancy tools to make my frames and also, I don’t consider myself particularly skilled at using tools any way.

As with everything, practice will help you improve. As you experiment with more options, your results will get better – and you’ll gain more understanding about how this drone thing works.