by Doug Millen
The most advanced RC Helicopter I have built to date
Building helicopters is fast becoming my main addiction (like I need another). It has been one of the hardest and most challenging things I have done in my life. Building and flying helicopters in the mountains is no easy task. Every trip we have failures, but we learn from our mistakes. I have made a lot of mistakes since we started but the helicopters just keep getting better and so do my flying skills.
This is the fifth helicopter I have built. This one is made completely from scratch and of my own design. I have incorporated the best features I have seen and I am using the ARDU auto pilot system APM 2.0. APM is the world’s leading open source UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle) autopilot. It’s basically a robot that flies!
ARDU will know where he is, how to get home and able to run a mission with many way points, all on his own. Plus he will be sending back live video and filming with a GoPro Hero 3.
This rig will have all I am looking for (I hope) and teeth for the mountain winds. Here is a video of me fighting the wind in Huntington Ravine with the “Pocket Kong”. Clearly more power is needed for control.
It all starts with an idea and a drawing. I had been thinking for awhile what my next build would be. I would incorporate all I have learned over the winter. The plan was to make a Quad copter for stability and with enough power to battle the mountain winds and be able to survive a crash with minimal damage. The helicopter must be easy to repair and parts readily available because, “you’re gonna crash” and break some parts. That’s a given. It must also be easy to transport and backpack to where we want to be. UP high!
Below is my latest effort to get even closer to that perfect helicopter I have envisioned in my mind.
Planing for the main controller (MC), GPS and radio Receivers.
Planing how the engine speed controllers (ESC’s) will fit into the frame, a very tight space.
The layout of the MC, Receivers and Telemetry for ARDU on the top deck.
The main frame cut out and ready for sanding. I used 1/4″ marine plywood. It’s what I had around and should work great.
Cutting out the poplar motor arms to receive the motor mounts. Wood is a good material for helicopters. It is light, strong, cheep and vibration resistant.
The motor mounts ready to be glued to the arms.
Gluing the plywood motor mounts to the arms.
Gluing the side rails to the main frame.
The Frame is ready for some paint and final assembly. Notice that the arms will fold back and hit the wood stops during a crash. This helps absorb energy. I got this trick from building my Tri copter “Woody”. It works great!
All the components ready to put together, I hope everything fits!
A coat of paint to protect the wood and make it look cool.
The main power distribution board with ESC’s attached. A big power system (30A ESC’s) to battle the winds.
The bullet ends of the ESC’s need to be soldered on and then shrink wrapped.
The motors mounted and ready to go. The motors are held in place with zip ties, the weak link in a crash. The motors just break the ties and eject instead of letting the force damage the motors. I used the Avroto M 2814-11 Short Shaft 770KV Brushless Motors for this build. A good, strong and reliable motor.
A tight squeeze for the ESC’s and Power Supplies. It’s going to be hot in there in the summer, so I need to figure out how to vent it. I have installed a temperature sensor to keep an eye on the heat. It could be a problem, but not in the weather we like to fly in.
ARDU ready for the final test assembly
ARDU 1.0 ready for programming, testing and tuning. A sweet looking unit. I can’t wait to fly it!
I hope it doesn’t smoke when I plug it in!
Stay tuned for part two – The Programming and Testing of “ARDU”