So a few people have been asking me about my tri-copter and "how did you make that?" or "where can I get one". So I am going to put this little post together to talk about that. For those unfamiliar with the Tri-copter project, here are a few YouTube videos I uploaded of my successes and failures...
Now, generally there are 2 types of people, there are those that want to seriously pursue the hobby and are looking for an entry point. This post is intended for that person. It is a challenging and sometimes frustrating hobby, but it is also very rewarding as well (just like any hobby).
If you just want a toy on the cheap to casually fly around, walmart & other stores sells cheap little helicopters that will basically fly themselves and have everything you need in the box that range in price from $50-$100. These are typically of the counter-rotating coaxial kind. The self stability these machines offer sacrifices mobility, however there are many that recommend even those that are serious out trying the hobby first start with one of these out just to see if it's something they like. Here is a link to an example of one of these.
Now on to the serious stuff. Unfortunately when I built my tricopter it I did not document a proper build log, maybe I will at some future point. My tri-copter is based heavily on the FPV Manuals Delrin Tricopter kit and David Windestål of rcexplorer.se Tricopter designs. I highly recommend checking out both of those sites as they are the core of my design. The tri-copter itself can be built pretty cheap depending on how much of a Do-It-yourselfer you are. If you are a beginner and don't have access to a machine shop or CNC machine (or a jigsaw and an afternoon) I recommend getting the Delrin kit. This adds $100 to your build costs, but the quality of the kit is top notch.
Here is a photo of my tricopter...
So assuming you have decided on what you are going to do for a frame, the parts I used are as follows. Each item will be a hotlink and I will list the prices. Another thing to consider, if you are new to the hobby, you are going to need a transmitter and a lipo battery charger. I will post a few recommendations below as well.
Motors (3 Needed): Hextronik DT-750 $11.60 ea, $34.80 for 3
Speed Controllers (3 Needed): Turnigy Plush 18amp $11.90 ea, $35.70 for 3
Batteries (as many as you want!): Turnigy 2200mah 3S $8.99 ea
Yaw Servo (1 Needed): BMS-385DMAX Digital Servo $20.48 ea
Propellers (3 Needed, good idea to get extras): GWS EP 10x4.7 6-pack $4.82 ea
Brains (1 Needed): Hobbyking Multirotor Control Board $14.99 ea (need to be reprogrammed for tri-copter mode)
Boom Arms, These are just home depot 3/8" Square Wooden Dowel: $ .98 for 36" length
------------Parts Needed to Wire everything up------------
Turnigy 25mm heat shrink (for escs) $ .75 ea
4mm heat shrink 1 needed: $ .35 ea
16AWG Wire RED (3 Meters Needed): $1.29 ea, $3.87 for 3meters
16AWG Wire BLACK (1 Meter Needed): $1.29 ea
XT60 Connector 5 pack (1 needed): $3.19 ea
Battery Strap 3 Pack (1 needed): $4.90 ea
420mm Servo Extension 5 Pack (1 needed): $2.88 ea
Optional: Turnigy BESC Programming Card: $6.95 This is not required, but it will make programming the ESCS a LOT easier, without it you will likely mess it up (I know I did!).
Ok, so that is everything I can think (excluding tools such as soldering iron, etc) of you will need to build a tri-copter. If you are new to the hobby, then this means you probably don't have a transmitter or battery charger. You will need both of these. The good thing about these is, a you progress in the hobby to flying other things these will still be useful.
I present these to give you an idea the range of products on the market...
Low End Spektrum DX5e Radio + 1 Receiver: $99.99 (Decent radio, but I don't recommend because it is missing some key stuff you will want as you grow in to the hobby (such as Expos)
High End Spektrum DX7e + 1 Receiver: $299.99 (Decent starter radio, has room to grow into advanced features)
Even Higher End: Spektrum DX8 (No Receiver included): $349.99
Best (In My Opinion): Futaba 10CHG (Includes 14channel Receiver) : $619.99 (has a lot of features, probably the last radio you will ever practically need/want to buy)
Insane (The last radio you will ever need to buy) Futaba 18MZHL: $2999.99 (And Yea, I do not have one of these, lol)
The odd thing with battery chargers is that most are designed not to be plugged in to the wall, but to be hooked up to a 12v car battery. This is due to the origins of this hobby being gas planes that you had to take out to a flying field. Out in the field there is usually no where to plug in. So if you want to charge these at home then you need not only a battery charger, but also a 12v power supply for the charger. Here are a few ideas...
Hobby King 10A 6 Cell Charger: $32.96
Hobby king 4x6 Charger: $69.99 (Charges 4 batteries at once)
20A twin 12V Power Supply: 29.99
What I am using is about 10+ years old, and has been working great. There are better options on the market, but I will link my setup for those who are curious. Certainly do your own research. As with anything read the reviews..
------------My Battery Charging Setup------------
Power Supply: Power Force 13.8V Power Supply (No longer sold as far as I can tell). Here is a picture..
Charger: Poly Charge 4 $87.99
LiPo Balancer Interface (Required for charger that I have): $34.99 4x $139.96
So that is basically the rundown of my setup and all my thoughts on what is required to go from nothing to being started in the hobby. It is impossible for me to cover every question or topic in this one post, if you still have questions or need help, feel free to reach out to me via the contact page or comments below. Thanks for reading.
For more reading, here are some of my favorite sites.