You will also need some miscellaneous things like zipties, double sided tape and/or velcro, a small amount of heavy gauge wire, battery strap, and some female to female servo leads or jumper wires. As far as tools go, you will want to have access to a soldering iron, small screwdrivers, hex wrenches, needle-nose pliers, and a hot glue gun. Now we’ll go over each part in detail and provide a specific recommendation.
Things to consider here are weight, size, and materials. We recommend F450 or one of the many clones. These are great quadcopter frames. They’re strong, light, and have a sensible configuration including a built-in power distribution board (PDB) that allows for a clean and easy build.
The motors have an obvious purpose: to spin the propellers. Higher the kV rating, the faster the motor spins at a constant voltage.. We have found that a 1000kV /1200KV/1400KV motor is a good size to start with.
Electronic Speed Controls
The electronic speed control, or ESC, is what tells the motors how fast to spin at any given time. You need four ESCs for a quadcopter, one connected to each motor. The ESCs are then connected directly to the battery through either a wiring harness or power distribution board. Many ESCs come with a built in battery eliminator circuit (BEC), which allows you to power things like your flight control board and radio receiver without connecting them directly to the battery. Because the motors on a quadcopter must all spin at precise speeds to achieve accurate flight, the ESC is very important. .
The flight control board is the ‘brain’ of the quadcopter. It houses the sensors such as gyroscopes and accelerometers that determine how fast each of the quadcopter’s motors spin. Flight control boards range from simple to highly complex. A great flight control board for first time quadcopter builders is the HobbyKing KK2.1. It is affordable, easy to set up, and has strong functionality. It can handle just about any type of multirotor aircraft so if you later want to upgrade to a hexacopter or experiment with a tricopter, you won’t need to purchase another board.
Radio Transmitter and Receiver
The radio transmitter and receiver allow you to control the quadcopter. There are many suitable models available, but you will need at least four channels for a basic quadcopter with the KK2.0 control board. We recommend using a radio with 6 channels, so there is more flexibility for later projects that may require more channels.
A quadcopter has four propellers, two “normal” propellers that spin counter-clockwise, and two “pusher” propellers that spin clockwise. The pusher propellers will usually be labeled with an ‘R’ after the size. For the quadcopter configuration in this post, we’re using 10×4.5 props. This is a good size for the motors and ESCs we’re using.
Quadcopters typically use LiPo batteries which come in a variety of sizes and configurations. We typically use 3S1P batteries, which indicates 3 cells in parallel. Each cell is 3.7 volts, so this battery is rated at 11.1 volts. LiPo batteries also have a C rating and a power rating in mAh (which stands for milliamps per hour). The C rating describes the rate at which power can be drawn from the battery, and the power rating describes how much power the battery can supply. Larger batteries weigh more so there is always a tradeoff between flight duration and total weight. A general rule of thumb is that doubling the battery power will get you 50% more flight time, assuming your quadcopter can lift the additional weight. For this quadcopter, we suggest the Turnigy nano-tech 3000mAh 3S LiPo.
Charging LiPos is a complex process, because there are usually multiple cells within the battery that must be charged and discharged at the same rate. Therefore you must have a balance charger.
Those are the major components that you need to build a quadcopter. There are hundreds of possible configurations, which can make the process of choosing parts confusing for someone new to the hobby. Hopefully this list has provided some clarity.