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Cheap and Easy Tricopter Build

For a less expensive DIY project that is pretty easy to do, check out this video from YouTube user hallstudio. He has logged hundreds of hours of flying time on multicopters and other RCs, and believes in building inexpensive models with a keep it simple approach. He based this build on RCExplorer’s Tricopter design, which is pictured below. Hallstudio’s adaptation is even simpler.

One of the coolest features of this elegant design is portability. The two forward arms can fold backwards, which is extremely convenient.

Price

Below is a parts list for the project, including links and current prices for the most budget conscious build. There is a parts list with some alternative choices listed in the description of hallstudio’s video. The original RCExplorer’s web page is well-documented and also provides a list of parts. So check those out if you want to see more purchasing options or if some of the links below are no longer available. You will also need to purchase a 2.4GHz RC transmitter separately.

Based on the list below, the total cost is about $150.00, but you might find good deals and do better.

Tricopter Budget Build Parts List

Part

Unit Price

Qty

Subtotal

Motors – 2830-8 1300KV Outrunner Brushless Motor Free Mounts $11.20 3 $33.60
Speed controller – hobby king Hobbyking SS Series 18-20A ESC (card programmable) $7.80 3 $23.40
Controller at hobbyking HobbyKing Multi-Rotor Control Board V2.1 (Atmega168PA) $12.99 1 $12.99
Programmer at hobby king USBasp AVR Programming Device for ATMEL processors $4.95 1 $4.95
2.4 GHz receiver (You will need a compatible transmitter, not included in this parts list.) $5.99 1 $5.99
Metal Gear servo (You’ll also need a control rod/Clevis to connect the linkage.) $4.37 1 $4.37
10CM Male to Male Servo Lead (JR) 26AWG (10pcs/set) $4.75 1 $4.75
14 gauge red wire (1 meter) $1.39 1 $1.39
14 gauge black wire (1 meter) $1.39 1 $1.39
1/2 x 36 inch wood from home depot or Lowes found in the trim area $1.77 3 $5.31
1/8 inch ply from craft store or hobby shop $4.75 1 $4.75
4-40×1 screws (bag of 25) from Trimcraft Aviation $0.60 1 $0.60
#4 washers (bag of 25) from Trimcraft Aviation $0.13 1 $0.13
4-40 blind nuts (bag of 25) from Trimcraft Aviation $2.15 1 $2.15
Zip ties, Velco, paint (Linked some examples. Buy locally.) $20.00 1 $20.00
8×4 props (standard and counter-rotating – 6 pcs) from Hobby King $3.19 1 $3.19
4mm carbon fiber rod for tail (could use a screw instead) $7.40 1 $7.40
4mm collar for carbon fiber rod (not required if you use a screw) $4.85 1 $4.85
Turnigy 2200 mAh 3S 25C LiPo battery pack $8.99 1 $8.99
Low voltage battery alarm $1.92 1 $1.92

For your convenience, here is a link to the template for the body. You will have to enlarge it to build hallstudio’s version of the tricopter.

What it Does

Lifts into the air in a snap! It flies, rolls and flips. You may require some practice to achieve these maneuvers, of course.

Why it’s Cool

This may be the simplest, cheapest and easiest way to get into a DIY multicopter. The parts are easy to repair or replace.

Andrew Terranova

Andrew Terranova is an electrical engineer, writer and an electronics and robotics hobbyist. He is an active member of the Let’s Make Robots community, and handles public relations for the site.
Andrew has created and curated robotics exhibits for the Children’s Museum of Somerset County, NJ and taught robotics classes for the Kaleidoscope Learning Center in Blairstown, NJ and for a public primary school. Andrew is always looking for ways to engage makers and educators.


Comments

  1. The Parrot AR.Drone is a fantastically capable platform, but I wouldn’t call it a complete package. Until they include a remote control or make it compatible with standard RC controllers out of the box, it will remain an iPhone accessory to me.

    Kudos for ease of repair and spare part availability.

  2. Fair point! You do need to supply the smartphone or tablet to control the AR.Drone. Parrot has a compatibility tab on their support page, which tells you exactly which devices it will work with.
    http://ardrone2.parrot.com/support/

  3. I don’t see the HoverFly kit listed !!! Those are awesome kits !

    1. Yes, that’s a good one to add to the list. Thanks for mentioning it. Hoverfly makes some very nice flight systems, boards and accessories. I almost included the Parallax Elev-8 quadcopter (http://www.robotshop.com/parallax-elev-8-quadcopter-uav.html), which uses a Hoverfly control board.
      Interested readers can find out more at http://www.hoverflytech.com.

  4. Michael Margolis says:

    I really like that tricopter build. Although the component table needs a correction for the speed controller cost – 3 of those will be $23.40 (the table shows $9.40). its still a lot of tricopter for the money. This will go onto my list of new years projects, thanks for posting this.

    1. Whoops! Good catch, Michael. I’ll see if we can get the cost table updated. I’m hoping to make this one in the new year too. Let me know how yours goes!

  5. Bruce says:

    Walkera has a new model called the Infra X, which is slightly bigger than the ladybug. It has sensors that allow it to avoid walls and the ground. Around $100.00, hard to find, but the videos look awesome.

    1. Nice find. That does look really cool. Did I mention that the market for small quadcopters is evolving at an incredible pace? You should definitely shop around and see what is out there before you buy. Be sure to check for independent reviews so you can be reasonably sure you are getting a quality product.

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