Xcompact project. Portable and flexible DIY frame.


Hello everyone,

I would like to share with you my latest project. Currently I am at the crossroads and would appreciate any feedback.

The main goal was to design a truly portable drone that fits into a backpack. I was unhappy with the foldable frames on the market, as they were all too large. The ones which fold in horizontal plane still have a problem with landing gear, and in umbrella-type frames you need to sacrifice the space for electronics. I ended up with such requirements:

  • Compactly folding core

  • Arms fixed with a screw (no plastic clips)

  • Detachable legs  

I've decided to use two 16 mm tubes as a frame core in order to make it strong and flexible. I've made two modules for front and rear arms. PMMA plastic is used to reduce the prototype costs (however, 3mm plates are surprisingly strong), later I am planning to switch to carbon fiber. The most compact folding is achieved when arms are above each other.


Firstly I was attaching legs to the core tubes (PVC plastic). But then I realized that they can be fixed with the same screw as arms.  And this shortens the assembly time. Legs can have different length, mine are short just because I ran out of tubes.


Following the modern trend I added a vibration isolated plate. The number of damping balls can vary depending on the load. Some balls have flexible position in order to fit to different core sizes.


My current frame size is 710mm and it folds into ~ 370x170x120 mm, which is less than 8L volume.


While the weather was not good for flying I decided to collect my thoughts. The frame is portable and also turned out to be quite flexible. Several holes can be drilled for the arm-fixing screw -> several square frames can be build from the same parts.

I started to dream about "Lego" for drones. The main point about "Lego" is that from the same parts one can build various things. There are some plastic analogues like RotorBits, however I was considering only carbon fiber and aluminum parts. Currently with my friends we are working on such set of universal parts for multirotors. Here are the characteristics we implemented in the kit:

  • Frame size D: 400 - 800 mm (8 - 18 inch props)
  • Folded size: L x 160 x 120 mm (L ~ D/2 + 60)
  • Variable arm angle, > 10 different square frames
  • Detachable legs
  • Arms and legs are fixed with an M4/M5 screw 
  • Quad or X8 configurations
  • Vibration isolated center plate
  • Different camera layouts
  • Optional: Retractable landing gear, vibration damping motor mounts, prop guards, integrated PCB

Personally I am really happy with the result.

Even my large 710 mm drone fits into a backpack. The frame is easily customizable: in order to change the size one simply slides the arm-modules, also variable parts can be attached to core tubes or to the center plate.

At this point I would like to hear your opinion. Did you also think about a truly portable DIY drone? Which characteristics would be the most important?


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  • Jamie, the main goal is to fit a 600-800 mm copter into a backpack.

    My prototype shows that it is possible.

    The NEED is to make it reliable. It seems that the best solution is to order custom CNC parts. So currently I am working on this option.

  • Vince, yes I saw your video. What props do you have? 15 inch?

    I don't think that 3D printed parts can replace CF/GF plates well enough. May be it will work for some aluminium clamps. But still 3D printed parts have low mechanical strength, so you have to make them quite massive.

    What is your folded size?

    Also, 3D printing is more expensive.

    P.S. I hope to have some videos soon as well

  • Hi Vince Hogg,   Very good solution.  Can I see your video where drones fly? Regards, 

  • Denis Krylov please shoot me a message when you get a group together. I log into diydrones almost daily so i can reply pretty quickly. I want to be one of the 50.

    Looks great
  • Muscate, I find the frame solid enough. I can compare only with Predator 650 frame that I had before, and it's the same. Probably because I fix arms only with screws (no clips). With CF or GF plates instead of PMMA it should become only better. 

  • Okay While I am new to this site, I solve problems for a living...

    The main Mission you have is PORTABLE..

    All drones are portable...Define your parameters of Portability... 

    1>  Purpose of Portability.

    2> Carrying system.

    3> .Limiting factors.

    To carry on I will make some assumptions!

    1> I am guessing that you don't want to have to carry around a large hard case when using your UAV. Being mobile on foot and carrying your UAV on your back is a desirable benefit.

    2> A back pack is used across the world for carrying many fragile loads. Using a commercially available bag is the easiest and cheapest option. Maybe consider designing a semi rigid case to keep the UAV in so that it can be stored in your backpack  along with other items without damage. ( while this will increase the overall size of the unit. You will increase the portability options available. Ie holdall, carry on, 

    3> Is the easiest and hardest part.. Make two lists..NEED and WANT..

    Now look really hard at the NEED one and how many of those can you move over to the WANT list.

    Try and keep on mission, look really hard and try to identify the shadow missions that are hijacking your time, resources and energy...

    Apart from that..........COOL Project..look forward to seeing it progress

  • First of all you should really get a 3D printer. Everything becomes so much easier.

    Have you seen my folding Quad video?

  • Armen, it appears that production of one or two frames will be quite expensive. However, if we are taking about approximately 50 frames, the price can become affordable. Roughly 200-300$. I am looking for options now, hope to have the exact numbers soon.
  • What about the flex in the frame? arms seem to have very little support.

  • I like it. have you thought about a price point?

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