Hi guys,

I'm a new member in the DIYDrones family, and this is my first blog post sharing some of the monocopters that I've built as a hobby project.

I started making my own monocopters back in 2011 after watching the inspiring work on monocopters from University of Maryland, Lockheed Martin and ERAU. I was fascinated with the way the monocopter flies without a fixed heading and yet controllable. So I started trying to make one out of some small and cheap parts I could find at that time, using the UMD design as a reference.

I was kind of surprised at that time that it managed to take off. Here's a video that I took:

Excited with the result, I immediately began to work on the control. With great help from the 2008 MIT paper "Fly-by-wire Control of a Monocopter" by James Houghton and Woody Hoburg, I tried to implement the equations presented in the paper into Arduino code.

The microcontroller chosen was Teensy 2.0 for its relatively small size. MicroMag 2 was used as the sensor for heading reference and a LPY5150AL was used for RPM sensing. Here are some photos of the board I made to house the electronics:

The motor used was Turnigy 1400 Brushless Indoor Motor 4500kv paired with a small 6 Amp ESC. Props used is GWS EP-3030 and battery is 2S 450mAH LiPo. Receiver used was FrSky D4R-II with PPM output and MKS DS480 was chosen for its speed. 

The construction of the frame was improved by utilizing Carbon Fibre sheets, built in a way very similar to the UMD prototype. Electronic components are mostly secured with heat shrink tubes and the motor is mounted on a square aluminium tube which is secured to the carbon fibre frame with screws. Some photos of the final build:

Here's a video of the first successful controlled flight indoor:

Here's another video of indoor flight:

The prototype weighs 90 grams and hovers for around 5-7 minutes.

After the first successful prototype I wanted to add more sensors but was limited by the lack of space for more electronics. So this time I tried to make another prototype with Lockheed Martin's design.

A 3D model of the wing and body of the new prototype was created with SolidWorks and subsequently printed using the SLS 3D Printer, Formiga P100 in the Fabrication Lab in SUTD. Here's a SolidWorks render and some photos of the assembled prototype:

A RGB LED Module that I got from a friend is included in this prototype for some POV coolness.

Here's a video of the second prototype:

As of now a monocopter, except for its cool factor, has not much of a use.

However I hope my post will be helpful for those looking to make one of this fascinating little fliers :)

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Comment by Gary Mortimer on April 14, 2014 at 11:07am

Jack Crossfire is your man, I am sure he will be along shortly. Great work well done.

Comment by Gary McCray on April 14, 2014 at 12:30pm

Great accomplishment, and as Gray says above, Jack Crossfire is our resident monocopter expert.

Seems to make a great POV display.

Comment by JR on April 14, 2014 at 1:38pm

Great work! I'm currently working on implementing a PID to do altitude hold and wall avoidance. I built the first powered monocopter at ERAU back in 2008 and I've loved then ever since. I would love to help with this project.  

Comment by mP1 on April 14, 2014 at 2:32pm

How does it work in theory to achieve directional change ? Is it all about timing the pitch of the flap etc ?

Comment by JR on April 14, 2014 at 2:57pm

In simple terms. The magnetometer gives you a reference location as you rotate ( ei where north is). Using that reference, you can calculate your rotational speed, which tells you how long it takes to complete a full revolution. Knowing this, you can time the flap so that you get a difference in lift throughout the revolution. This causes the vehicle to move in a certain direction.

That is the basics of it. The big problem is the orientation. Magnetometers stop working properly if you spin them to fast. 

Comment by Sgt Ric on April 14, 2014 at 7:07pm
Jack has been working on this for years.
Comment by Lee Jeary on April 14, 2014 at 8:49pm

that is amazing.. Great seeing from what you started with to a very well designed final design.

Comment by Euan Ramsay on April 15, 2014 at 1:21am

You look at it, and your mind says "There's no frikkin' way that will fly".

But it does.


Comment by Mustafa TULU on April 15, 2014 at 1:51am

Very cool. You should go for kickstarter with that LED included version.

Comment by mP1 on April 15, 2014 at 2:20am


I thought the prop would be spinning much faster than the servo moving the flap would be able to manage at the right moments.


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