Prototype Tiltrotor Development using APM 2.5


We are a two-man team that just completed the first major phase of our yearlong APM 2.5 tiltrotor project. We wanted to keep things in the dark until we knew it had potential. Here is a quick summary, but if you’re interested in VTOL aircraft, we’d really like you to read our detailed project summary (attached PDF) and give us some feedback.

Just some of many major accomplishments include:

Design and manufacturing of a tiltrotor on a relatively low budget.

  • Utilized many free software applications to make educated design compromises
  • Utilized 3D printing to create complex flight control components
  • Slow, methodical engineering to identify problems and solutions before first flight

Stable hover with conversion to 23 m/s full airplane flight

  • Light hover maneuvering completed in STABILIZE
  • Hovering tested in LOITER
  • Thrust vector can be set at any intermediate angle and flown carefree all the way to airplane mode

Merged several significant portions of Arducopter and Arduplane software on APM 2.5 hardware

  • Heading strategies for quad and plane merged with unique tiltrotor control
  • Seamless blend of servo actuated aerodynamic surfaces, and 2 brushless motors to achieve stable flight at any speed and intermediate thrust angle


Tiltrotor 1 Prototype Stats:

  • All-up Gross Weight = 2.4 KG
  • Motors= 2x G15 810kv with 14 inch CF props / single 3300 mah battery
  • OGE Hover Power Required - 40 amps
  • Conversion Power Required – Thrust vector at 30 degrees from vertical 10 m/s = 20 amps
  • Airplane Power Required - 23 m/s = 30 amps


We have lots left to do, but would love to get some feedback to help guide us.

Here is what we have planned next:

Autonomous Flight

  •  Merge Copter and Plane navigation strategies to suit a tiltrotor.


  • We’d love to incorporate the new capabilities of EKF, spline waypoints, terrain following ect someday. The APM 2.5 has not limited our development at all, and is still our bread and butter.

Tiltrotor 2?

  • We learned A LOT in a year. There are numerous things we can make better on this prototype, or improve upon with the “next generation” model. We’d like to build a bigger, better, more efficient tiltrotor with all the lessons learned. This is where we need some feedback from the community. Please read the detailed design summary (attached).


Of course we are not going to brag about designing a tiltrotor and NOT post a video.


This barley summarizes a year of work in 10 minutes.


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  • Larry - It is interesting to note that the young fellow in the UK employed a 'clear wing tip' like Team Tiltrotor used initially.

    If you pay attention to what he has done with the KK2 settings and his TX settings, he has distributed the 'control' of the transition between two devices (actually 3 but I will get to that at the end). His was definitely a 'try it and see' approach and is worthy of more consideration for a simple approach to the problem. With TX expo/rates and mods to the KK2 PIDs, he worked out a way to hover, forward fly, hover. It is a well done and interesting demonstration.

    'Meatware' does the rest and if the presence of his Trex Dominator 700 heli (seen in one video) is any indication, he has trained his eye-hand feedback loop well. That is the 3rd 'processor' in his control system.


  • Really cool stuff. There is a kid over in the UK that did something similar. I wish I had the time to work out one for mysel!

  • Rick- Thanks for checking out our tiltrotor. I don't know enough about your aircraft to tell you if your 2836 motors and 10x6 props will be a good choice for your v-22 tiltrotor. It will probably have sufficient the power to hover, but you may not be optimizing your efficiency.

    Unfortunately I don't think you will be able to fly your tiltrotor with just minor changes to arducopter quad PID's. As your rotors change angle they will no longer control a single axis. For example a "propeller driven" roll input at 45 degrees thrust angle will result in both roll and yaw outputs. This will reek havoc on your PID strategy and you will be sending roll error to on output that will result in an undesired a yaw correction. It only gets more complicated when you introduce the yaw PID because arducopter software will attempt to maintain a compass heading, so when you transition to airplane mode and input a roll command, arducopter software (as written for a quad) will try to achieve a roll angle and keep your nose pointed at a compass heading. I can assure you that this will end badly for an airplane/tiltrotor. I will let a developer talk to a BI-COPTER software availability ( I am not aware if any Bi-COPTER code availability) . But either way you will run into the same problems with BI-COPTER software, once you change your thrust vector. You may hover well with Bi-COPTER, but you will not be able to transition to airplane with the current quad PID architecture.

    You should not need to gear the throttle with thrust angle. We conveniently hovered at 50% throttle and also had very good airplane mode cruise at 50% throttle, so typically throttle was only used to adjust rate of climb. At a given thrust angle you will achieve some trim speed. Depending on your thrust angle, you will want to retain the ability to climb or descent when your rotors are providing the lift. As you transition and the wing provides the lift, the throttle will primarily control speed and pitch angle will control climb / descent. Tiltrotor flight control is not easy! Hopefully we can help get you an easier solution in the future.

  • Gentlemen :

     Forgive me for adding on another blog post , but I forgot to ask this question that is bugging me .

     I was quite surprised to see that there is not a lot of forward thrust vectoring needed by the Team Tiltrotor's model shown in the video clip . It seems to fly quite well with only a few degrees of nacelle tilt . Save using my minor in applied physics to do some vector diagramming for the thrust , is there a way to do a servo mixing with the tilt servo and throttle ? The idea being that the thrust vector is dependant upon the tilt angle of the nacelle for forward flight . Maybe some trig is required in the code for this linkage .  

    Just a thought ;   RickC_RCAV8R

  • Gentlemen :

     Thanx to my friend Doug Starwalt for forwarding my blog link on about the Osprey project . Since he has graciously submitted that on my behalf , I thought that I should chime in on this blog .

     Thanx to Team Tiltrotor for their work on this to date and to all who have an interest in my little project .

     The Osprey shown in the picture is of one that I shelved some years ago as there was not a viable flight uController available at the time . Now that these are available , I decided to resurrect the Osprey and complete the tilt mechanics that was also hanging me up . In favor of not wanting to smash up the larger model shown in the picture , I went for building a half scale version of it for flight testing . (32 inch wingspan)  Someone commented about me being an airframe kinda guy ; that's me !  I thought to build a more true version of the Osprey as I have the design and engineering done for this model . See my blog on rcgroups for the full story .

     Having watched the Team Tiltrotor video clip and reading this blog , there are some questions that have arisen as to what I had in mind for this bird . I would still like to use a pair of 2836 motors twisting something like 10 x 6 props on 4S power . I realize that there some CG issues for the nacelle rotation but have a plan for that problem . I can use an APM2.5 that I have on hand for a 450 Flamewheel as the controller but have been having some issues with its PID programming . The bird flies alright so far but is EXTREMELY twitchy and I am kinda scared to play around with it too much . I would like to "dummy it down" to the point where I can fly it with not too much fear . The set-up for this quad is also on my blog somewhere .  

     An immediate question regarding the code used comes to mind . Is there a proven BICOPTER firmware available ? My idea is to use the bicopter code as a base , skew the yaw by 90 degrees to align it to a V22 config , and further modify (tweak) the code as needed . I have extensive experience with the Atmega series of uC's and a decent grasp of modifying code to suit my needs .


     On another tact , Does anyone know of what camera types can be used with MISSION PLANNER ? Would the OV series boards work as with the ArduCam project ? Mission Planner recognizes my laptop camera but attaching a laptop to the quad to fly is a bit much to expect . (ha ha)

     Has anyone considered asking about making the altitude parameter flash RED in Mission Planner when the pilot is flying the model over 400 feet ? At least there would be a visual warning of this rule violation . If WE don't police ourselves on the height rule , the FEDS will , I fear .Perhaps outright bans would result .

     How does a guy change the code line in the APM firmware to make the MinimOSD work ? I have tried everything posted in the Wiki with no results . The DV-04 camera video shows up alright on my Walkera 7SFPV radio with the boot sequence and that's all .

     Thanx to everyone for the interest in my Osprey and keep up the great work !   RickC_RCAV8R 

  • The osprey build is a beautiful display of craftsmanship. I'd be devastated the first time it crashed. I may have missed it somewhere in his blog, but if he plans on fixing brushless motors in the nacelles and simply rotating both nacelles it probably won't work (well). He will need to install swashplates (like the Rotormast) or attempt what we did and "mock" longitudinal flapping. I did see a brief discussion he posted about using fluid and a printer pump to move the CG around, but that doesn't solve a lot of the problems that come with tiltrotors. Either way, it is an impressive build. We had no idea so many tilt rotors were being made!

  • Jake - yeah that might be an issue but, I think he is willing to let that part of it go. ;)

    On the other hand, how cool would a propane/LPG powered tilt rotor be?

    Best save that pondering for another thread.

    He is currently showing step-by-step build of another Osprey. Templates and hot-wire cut foam construction.


  • I don't think that Osprey is going to fly very well with such a large propane tank payload.

  • Moderator

    Amazing, lots of respect in achieving what you have so far. Up the VTOL!

  • Team Tiltrotor here's the link to Rick's build.  OSPREY

    That link is his member profile and blog listings. Slide down the page for more pics like below.


    He is more of a airframe type of guy and has been looking for help in the area you have made great progress in.

    He lives in British North America -- aka Canada.  ;) Thus the maple leaf on the Osprey.

    Now if Rob L. and this guy got together...


    RickC_RCAV8R's blog - RC Groups
    RC Groups - the most active Radio Control model community: electric and fuel rc airplanes,rc helis,rc boats and rc cars. Features discussion forums,…
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