Quad Build FastTrack Guide for ArduPiratesNG


My Very First Test Flight was a Sucsess!! 



  This was at about 4am when i solved the last bug and it wanted to hover. 

Like my painters tape Battery Straps... I found some velcro later.  





    This is a fasttrack guide for building an ArduPilot Mega QuadCopter.  If you have already started or are about to start building a QuadCopter this guide is ment to be used as a reference to help fill in the blanks with your build and first setup. 

1.)  Remember SAFETY First, Always Remove Propellers when working with the quadcopter powered on the bench.  Proppellers can cause serious injury to You, others, small childern, and animals.     Remember not to forget to read up on Lipo Safety, Don't burn your house down!!!  LiPo Batteries are great batteries if used correctly.

Lipo battery info:  

2.) Hardware:

  1. QuadCopter Frame:

     1.) Build your own.  If you build it yourself remember to keep it Light and Strong. 

     2.)  Already pre-built here:

        ArduCopter Frame Only              $170.00

        ArduCopter Frame + Motors        $320.00

 Motors: x 4   

        1.) AC2836-358 880Kv   with 10x4.5 prop      $24 

        2.) AC2830-358 850Kv  with 10x4.5 prop       $18      

        3.) TURNIGY 28-22 1400kv with 9x5 prop      $13

Propellers: x 4

     1.) 12x4.5             $6

     2.) 10x4.5             $6 

     3.) 9x5                  $3


3.) Electronics:

     1.) ArduPilot Mega & IMU with GPS /  header pins not assembled                                     $250


*Optional* Compass (needed for GPS hold)         $45

*Optional* Rangfinder                                      $54

*Optional* Telemetry                                        $150


          2.) Radio Control "RC"  Transmitter and Reciever  Tx/Rx 6 or more ch. 

                         1.) Turnigy 9X 9Ch                   $54

                         2.) Spektrum DX8 8Ch             $429

          3.) ESC  Electronic Speed Controller

               1.) DIY-Drones 25 amp ESC                              $18

               2.) HobbyKing Turnigy 25 amp ESC                  $12


         4.) Batteries  

 A basic quadcopter using the above listed motors and ESC needs at least a 2200mha 11.1v 3s 20C Lipo battery pack

                                                 Flight Times

              11.1v  2200mha  = 6-8 min +/- 1

                 http://www.hobbyking.com/hobbyking/store/uh_viewItem.asp?idProduct=...                   $13

              11.1v  4400mha = 12-15 min +/- 2


   11.1v 2650mha  http://www.hobbyking.com/hobbyking/store/uh_viewItem.asp?idProduct=...           $17

   11.1v 5000mha  http://www.hobbyking.com/hobbyking/store/uh_viewItem.asp?idProduct=...         $25


After building your QaudCopter bench testing is a great way to determine the QuadCopters true power consumption needs. An Amp Meter can be used to verify that the battery(s) are opperating with in a safe "C" range.  Before you start flying around with your QuadCopter you should test your battery time on the bench to get an average idea of how long your batteries will last.  Setting the transmitter count down timer will help remind you when to land. Only if you remember to start it. :)  My rule of thumb is land before the battery(s) get to low.  Low voltage battery alarms are a great way to help protect your batteries and your aircaft form power failure.


                 Low Voltage Alarms:

    Multi      http://www.horizonhobby.com/Products/Default.aspx?ProdID=INTC23212                                     $12

            3s  http://www.hobbyking.com/hobbyking/store/uh_viewItem.asp?idProduct=...                              $4

            4s  http://www.hobbyking.com/hobbyking/store/uh_viewItem.asp?idProduct=...                              $4

The APM also has a 4s voltage alarm buit in that can be used as well




    Software Downloads:



                       This program is used to load your choice of QuadCopter "code" to the APM.

Windows download

MAC download

Linux download


 Reference guide for using the Arduino software http://arduino.cc/en/


MediaTek utility and firmware 1.6 upgrade for GPS .

                            This program is used to update GPS firmware.


                Heplful reference                                     __________________________________________________________________________________________

Xbee module setup software:

      Latest version of XCTU: Contains features from previous versions, plus adds support for over-the air configuration of select XBee modules. 

This software will update it self once installed and yes it will work on 64-bit vista and win7







ArduCopter Configurator (requires LabVIEW runtime and drivers, too)

This Software Configures your RC Tx Transmitter and lets you test adjust the flight characteristics 

of your QuadCopter. 

Reference guide for using the Configurator http://code.google.com/p/ardupirates/wiki/Configurator


                                                 QuadCopter Code:  

Both files are needed. 

   PiratesNG Sketches rev.527  Place these files in your Arduino Sketch folder.

   PiratesNG Libraries rev.527  Place these files in your Arduino Libraries folder.


!!!!Must READ!!!!

ArduPiratesNG Reference page

Reference Guide for loading the code

Reference guide for using CLI



This is the code I'm currently using with my QuadCopter... :))



 Building The QuadCopter 


Build a light weight ridged frame.


               Square Aluminun tubing  1/16"' thick x 3/4'' x 3/4'' 

                1/16" x 1/2" Flat Stock

                 1/16" x 4"x4" Plate

      Secured together with 5/32" Rivets and Silicone in between.

                 24'' between motors

                 Frame only Weight:  350g       

This Frame is more on the tough side, i added Lightening holes to help lower the weight.  The Lightening holes only subtracted about 30g of weight... My next frame I pan on using carbon fiber arrow shafts and curcuit prefboard in hopes of creating a strong and even lighter frame.  Less weight = Longer flight times.












         This Prop Has Been Balanced using sandpaper

The difference in CW & CCW rotating propellers


!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!REMOVE PROPS until you are ready to fly!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


This video will help you Balance your Props 



 Installing Motors:

Warning!!!!!!!!!! Do Not Install Props!!!!!!!


       Model: TR28-22B-1400
                                          Max Eff: 5A
                                       Max Load: 8A
                                               Kv: 1400
                                           Weight: 36g
                                       Pull: 100~450g
                                     Prop: 8x4 or 9x5
                                         Voltage: 6~9v
                                        Length: 23mm
                                         Power: 70W+

                                       9 x 5 Propeller

        QuadCopter ready to fly weight 990g

        These motors are great!!  During bench testing each motor measured 5 amp's with a total of 20 amp's constant with all 4 motors @ a hover and climbing to 26 amp's with sudden throttle burst. After a 7 min hover around the motors stayed very cool. The only down side to these motors is that you need to buy 6 to make sure you get 4 really good ones.  One of my motors has loose bearings and vibrates really bad sometimes.  I also recommend getting at least one extra motor just in case you crash.  Don't for get props too... :)

 Watch and listen to this motor vibrate on takoff.!!!!!!!!



   Connecting Motors to ESC             


Electronic Speed Controller             



Turnigy 25amp Plush 

              Cont Current: 25A
             Burst Current: 35A
             BEC Mode: Linear
             BEC : 5v / 2A
             Lipo Cells: 2-4
             NiMH : 5-12
             Weight: 22g
            Size: 24x45x11mm

 I like these ESC because they come ready to go out of the box, although you should always make sure each one is programed the same first.  During my bench testing they barely even got warm.


Helpful reference guide for connecting ESC's



 How to correctly connect motors the first time with this setup is easy.  Use the identifiers to help u connect each motor.  Each motor has 3 wires Black, Red, Yellow, Each ESC has 3 wires all red but labled at the ESC "A,B,C".




  Start with the Front & Rear motors    3 Front & 4 Back

   "A" wire from esc connects to RED wire on motor 

     "B" wire from ESC connects to BLACK wire on motor

       "C" wirre from ESC connects to YELLOW wire on motor



When connected correctly front and rear motors should spin

in the same direction Clockwise "CW"






                           Left & Right motors   1 LT & 2 RT

   "A" wire from esc connects to BLACK wire on motor 

     "B" wire from ESC connects to RED wire on motor

       "C" wirre from ESC connects to YELLOW wire on motor


  The left and right motor should also spin in the same direction as eachother but in counter clockwise "CCW"



Connecting ESC's to Main Power connecter


 I recommend soldering these connection for many reasons.

  • Cheap than buying connectors
  • Connectors can fail
  • Connectors are heavy
  • more dependable

Connecting the ESC's together is pretty straight forward



  • Use a battery pack to verifiy you have connected the wires to the battery connector the correct way afterwards. 
  • Use heatshrik and electrical tape to protect the connections from contacting. 


 Configuring ESC connectors for APM

  • Lable each ESC with motor #

           Front 3    Supply Power from ESC

           Rear  4

           Left   2

           Right 1

  • Remove Red Power wire from ESC's 1,2,4
  • Heatshrink non-use power wires from ESC's



Helpful reference guide for connecting ESC's



Now The QuadCopter should look like this


Mounting Electronics 

  •   Curcuit PrefBoad
  •   Nylon screws & nuts
  •   Light weight setup
  • Mount APM Telemetry Port pointing forward @ motor # 3 for   ( + )
  • Mount APM Telemetry Port pointing Between motor # 3  &  1  for   ( X )

All this was cut with a razor knife.  Score and Break


The preboard's hole line up with the pins on the bottom of the APM witch helps to lock it in place without glue.






I used packing foam that came with the SparkFun Xbee radios on top of the APM and tightend down the nylon nuts to compress the foam and lock in the APM.



I did this with the RC Rx as well  >>>>>>>>>>








Connecting to the APM


  • Compass
  • GPS
  • Telemetry





At this end of the Compass I used a small dab of silicone to help protect the compass from being damaged.


      I used 2 Plastic Headers to keep the Compass from being to close to the APM









Connecting to the compass is straight forward

  • compass connects to APM not IMU
  • Check Compass firmware with utility provided in software section of this blog.









          Use Double sided foam tape to attach GPS.>>>>>




  • Telemerty Port is a good way to identify front of APM











Connecting RC Rx to APM

  • Indentify in/out ch on APM
  • Modify female to female connector
  • connect Rx outputs to APM inputs

Remove all but 1 RED wire

ch1 to in 1

ch2 to in 2

ch3 to in 3

ch4 to in 4

ch5 to in 5 

ch6 to in 6





The one jumper with the RED wire will supply the RC Rx with Power from the APM.


Good Reference Guide




















Connecting it all together in the QuadCopter


Right motor ESC 1 >> APM out  1

Left motor   ESC 2 >> APM out  2

Front motor ESC 3 >> APM out  3

Rear motor  ESC 4 >> APM out  4













Before Plugging a battery in you should always double check to make sure everthing is connected correctly, otherwise you run the risk of Desrtoying any chance of fun. 


It's a good idea to hook everything up and get it all programed and talking before it's installed in to the Quad.  This will help get you comfortable working with the APM. 


Almost ready for take off....  

!!!!!REMOVE PROPS!!!!!!!


  • Check all wiring is correct
  • Load Code with ArduinoID
  • Run CLI Setup
  • Run Configurator Setup
  • Test RC connection & range










  Reference guide for loading the code         http://code.google.com/p/ardupirates/wiki/Code_Loading

  Reference guide for using the Configurator http://code.google.com/p/ardupirates/wiki/Configurator

  Reference guide for using CLI                   http://code.google.com/p/ardupirates/wiki/CLI

  Reference guide for PreFlight                    http://code.google.com/p/ardupirates/wiki/Flying

If all Goes well then it's time to Fly.  This is video of my First test flight.


2nd Test Flight


3rd Test Flight



4th Test flight





Views: 3988

Comment by Gary Mortimer on April 27, 2011 at 10:24pm
Don't run your batteries down to flat, lipos don't like it. Fit a battery alarm they are super cheap.
Comment by Bernard Michaud on April 28, 2011 at 9:39am

Very efficient document.

Clarity, step by step, to the point imagery.

I will put it to use right away.


Comment by Mark Colwell on April 28, 2011 at 10:06am
You tuned the vibrations out for the 4th test flight,  Nice video and great build log. Congrats on successful flights!
Comment by I.S. on April 28, 2011 at 1:24pm

VERY nice list, thanks.

Happy flights

Comment by Russell B. Sutton on April 28, 2011 at 2:26pm

@ Mark  I balanced the props before the 4th test flight.  You can hear and see the difference,  although this motors is still bad it will last a lot longer with a palanced prop.

Comment by SilverFox on April 28, 2011 at 5:20pm
Nice job, very useful!
Comment by Leroy Duel Hyde on December 5, 2012 at 2:46am

FYI. When I attempt to follow the Telemetry link in 3) above, I'm greeted with a 'You do not have access to this page' message.

I can't follow the link even after logging in.



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