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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.


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