So You Want to Build a Drone?

The Ugly Duckling Too

The Ugly Duckling Too

One thing that surprised me is that the actual cost to build a rather large, capable drone is not as great as I thought it was.  There is a wealth of information out there to tell you the actual how of the process.  But, very few places actually list builds.  So, here you go.  This is the build of the Ugly Duckling Series.

One note you should know:  Some of these parts are at least two years old.  There are better options now, but you'll have to find them.

Ugly Duckling Drone ($162)

  • Flight Controller:  KK Mini 2.1.5:  $20
  • Air Frame:  F450 Quad Frame:  $20
  • Electronic Speed Controls (x4):  SimonK 30A ESC:  $24
  • Battery:  2200 maH 3-S (or 3 cell) LiPo 20C battery:  $25
  • Motors (x4):  Angel A2212-9:  $52
  • Power Distribution Board:  XT60 20A board:  $11
  • Props:  8x4.5:  $10

Controller and Receiver ($160)

Spektrum DX6i + AR610 Receiver:  $160

So, to build what I've built here, you'd need an initial investment of $322.  Now, there are a few things missing, such as solder, wire bullets, heat shrink wrapper, etc.  I've also left off things like zip ties, sticky tape and nylon spacers, some of which you may need.  But, you may have that laying around.

Which really brings us to a very important point:  Knowing how to solder makes a lot of this much, much easier.  I've soldered a few things, but my friend had done most of the soldering (before I took over).  That greatly sped up the project.

That is not to say that I could not have done it myself, but that is definitely my weakest area in this whole process.

A few tips.  First, order more than one set of arms for the frame and more than one set of props.  You're going to break both.  Maybe a lot.

This is also a starter build.  A lot of it can transition to your next build, but the frame, and perhaps the power distro board, will go away with your next, hopefully more sturdy, frame.  But, I'd debug your system with cheap frames before you invest in a $150 carbon fiber frame (minimum).

Lastly, there's one sticking point that I'm not sure is really an issue.  All of the main power components (the battery, the power distro board and the motors) are all 20A.  But the ESCs can draw 30A.  I'm honestly not sure if this is really an issue or not.  Time will tell, but I don't think that I'm going to burn anything out.