A Work in Progress




It has been some time since my last blog post.  I have kept myself busy with work and projects.  For the last couple of years I have been working on trying to develop an airframe that combines aesthetics with functionality.  Some may remember some of my previous blog posts where I presented my attempts this.  

I have never been satisfied with most of the kits offered through other retailers.  They all seem to incorporate the same parts and means of construction; lots of brackets, screws, and wiring that just decrease overall efficiency.  Popular consensus is that carbon offers the best rigidity and overall structural integrity, but at a cost.  I knew that there had to be a way to bring the cost down of a high quality carbon airframe without sacrificing functionality.  At the same time I wanted to offer a higher degree of aesthetics than can currently be found without breaking the bank.  

After many prototypes this is what I have come to.  The construction is about as simple as it gets, and really light.   I have greatly minimized the amount of hardware needed to assemble a solid carbon frame that can handle some of the hardest of tumbles.  Many of my previous prototypes utilized a large number of machined parts, which greatly increased the total cost to produce.  This version uses less than half the amount of previous versions.  The bodies are thermoformed out of ABS or Kydex.  The version seen here is Kydex.  The bodies are easily trimmed and then fastened to the airframe using two small nylon thumb screws.  

I have been a long time supporter of the APM and DIY Drones.  You simply cannot get the robustness of an APM out of an off the shelf autopilot, especially at an APM price point.  Yes, it requires tinkering and there is a learning curve, but it is well worth it when all is said and done.  I remember a time not too long ago when the APM1280 was barely more than an expensive stabilization unit, and there were less than forty members in the Arducopter user group.  Boy has the project come a long way, and it just keeps getting better and better.  This is why all of my builds are designed around the APM.  Next will be the PX4.

I wish I had some good flight video of the unit to post a link to, but this was a custom order AP rig.  A few test flights, some tweaking and it was shipped off.  In the meantime I am working on refining some of my fabrication processes to get the production time and cost down.  The airframe pictured would cost less than half that of a comparable airframe If I didn't have to outsource some of the machining.  My hopes are that after selling a few more of these units I plan to buy my own desktop milling machine where I can cut the parts myself.  I already have the parts in Solidworks and Sketchup, just need a machine.  My goal is to offer a high quality and aesthetically pleasing airframe at a fraction of the going price.  Almost there.





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  • Indeed very clean and nice - and very inspiring for a newbie like myself.

    Thank you for posting

  • By the way, if more people would pay mind to their wiring and hardware setup they might not have such issue with their GPS modules and magnetometers.  

  • Actually Robert, the bulbs on this build were made from ping pong balls cut in half and sanded smooth, quite easy.  I have found ping pong balls to be perfect for bulbs; they are cheap, easy to shape and have a dull finish perfect for light diffusion.  I have smaller drape molds for thermoforming smaller bulbs out of Styrene.  Quite easy.  The lights can be turned on and off via TX switch and relay.  

    I wanted to try PPM on the FrSky TFR8 (as you did with the 4 channel RX) to decrease the wire even further, but opted not to because of purported problems with getting a clean signal on that particular RX.  Plus, this build was already spoken for.  I will try it soon on one of mine to see what I find.  

  • Do the bulbs come with the LEDs?

    I've got some that I've been meaning to give the same treatment.  The 12 LED clusters from LED.  They are too directional, and so they are difficult to see off-axis.  I have thought about getting some cheap circular measuring spoons.

    I'd love something similar for LED strips.

    Thing is, it's not just clean externally, but even under the hood the wiring is neat.  Really nice job.

  • Thanks for the comments.  @Robert, yes I made the bulbs myself using SMD Lilly Pad LEDs.  The bulbs diffuse the light very well.  Most of my customers don't like exposed hardware, they want more of a finished product look.  

  • Very nice Todd.  I'm also trying to build a clean design.  I don't like the science-fair-project-gone-wrong look of most quads.

    The bulbs on the motors are nice.  Did you make those?  

  • Very compact, well done!

  • Todd,

    I have an interest in the quads you are assembling.  If you could send me an email at CriterionIndustries@gmail.com, I think we may have some common ground with what we are both working on.


    Zak West

  • Damn, that's clean. 

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