Designing and building a UAV is not easy

G'day everyone!

Ever thought you started something great but then realise you’re in over your head? Well that’s kinda what we are beginning to feel.

After our first prototype we spent heaps of time refining and developing the design. It was a great starting point but we can definitely do a lot better. Now that we have measured everything out our design has taken a little diet and slimmed down saving a lot of weight so it can fly for longer. We have also solved a few other small problems we ran into, but the big announcement is the design for our new Prototype 2! (Yeah I know already…)

We have a few pictures below and we’ve even taken to computer aided design (CAD). We hope this will take all the grunting effort from the hours of drawing to some more methodological clicking. We’ve quickly found out using a whiteboard and pieces of paper so far is….not so good for something quite as complex as this. So we hope to have some really awesome computer drawings out and even some photos of the real thing soon!

Finally thanks to all of our new subscribers!

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Views: 2180

Comment by Nigel Cartwright on August 13, 2014 at 7:33am

Why not go buy a cheap clone airframe?? Save yourself a bunch of trouble...

Comment by Nigel Cartwright on August 13, 2014 at 7:34am

Comment by Crashpilot1000 on August 13, 2014 at 7:46am

Hmm, don't know. I've never been a friend of these oversized arms for protection because copters obey murphy's law. If they can faceplant and break the rotors - they will on the first crash. These arms will be just extraweight and an aerodynamic obstacle for most of the time. I've never used 3 bladed props because my copters are big enough. From what I've read 3bladed props just have an advantage if your copter is very small (because 2 bladed wouldn't produce enough lift then). I think wood is a very good material for copters (has many upsides compared to carbon IMHO). Just my 2cents, hopefully I am not completely wrong..

Comment by koen.hufkens on August 13, 2014 at 8:38am

I've been playing around with altering the centre plates of a cheap frame as posted above. In short, I use the arms but my own centre layout to accommodate for all my gear. In general the flame wheel setup is nice for just flying, but if you tag on some other sensors, or you just want it neat (not all zip tied together), then you will need to redesign. For this approach you need some plywood, a band saw and a drill at a minimum. I've been lucky to have access to a laser cutter which makes things a bit easier. Still, it's an approach worth considering as it is very fast in terms of prototyping.

Comment by Hans H. on August 13, 2014 at 5:18pm

Ahh ... the wonderful design issue. What should be prioritized?

IMHO you should go "all in" on either transportation (foldable) or crash resistance (not crash proof)


Comment by Hans H. on August 13, 2014 at 5:32pm

Regarding crash resistance:

It is sometimes better for things to "let go" than to be destroyed. For example: hot glue, cable ties and BBQ sticks are easy to replace ... and cheap. Engine mounts and bent motor shafts are not.

It is better that a "bumper" (sacrifice) takes first contact with the ground than the propeller, engine, FC or camera does.

Comment by Jonathan Parrott on August 13, 2014 at 6:32pm

Hi Nigel we quite a bit of research on available airframe types from a number of places and even tried a few however because we wanted a foldable system we inevitably had to go with a indigenous design which met all our requirements.

Hi CrashPilot, indeed we looking at possibly removing those extended arms as there will be problems with aerodynamics and they are dead weight until something does come into contact with them. Still a lot of design work to do. You are quite correct with the three bladed props! They are currently 9" but it would be a great idea to move towards a larger 2 bladed prop for more efficiency. We will work towards it!

Hi Koen, we wish we had a laser cutter here too! Would make prototyping A LOT easier, but nonetheless getting wood cut out from Ponoko and from our own local hardware store is how we will continue prototyping for now. Might even look for a 3D printer soon!

Hi Hans, we're looking at a good compromise between both, we want shrouds on our design for safety but the problem with those is that they take up a huge space which makes it difficult in transportation so therefore we are also looking at having the entire design fold up (thereby making it transportable again!). We'll keep you all inform on how we go! :D

Comment by Christoph Albiez on August 13, 2014 at 11:09pm

@UASys / Jonathan: Hi, one problem that in all types of H-Frames needs to be addressed is the twisting on the centerplate between the front- and the back-arm. if the centre is not stiff enough your system can end up in destructive resonance (or just plain uncontrollability).

Maybee have a look at

for inspiration,cheers Chris

Comment by Jonathan Parrott on August 13, 2014 at 11:56pm

Hi Chris,

Thanks for the link! It is definitely a source of great inspiration, very cool :D Unfortunately we're not the richest guys out there so we can't afford lots of fancy things and exotic materials. We're just keeping it simple and low cost.

As you said we are experiencing the issues with twisting on the H Frame and don't worry, James being a structural engineer is all over it. We are currently discussing how to minimise the twisting and have a few ideas on the whiteboard, so we just have to try out the most promising ones and hope they solve the issue.


Comment by Joshua Johnson on August 13, 2014 at 11:56pm

This is exactly why we are building CAD Drones, LLC and!  We understand the potential in making the design of UAVs and Drones in general easier to design, 3D Print, and Prototype using our software and services.


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