This article will provide basic instructions, advice, links and other information for those who wish to embark on DIY Quadcopter or Drone building. We will discuss the parts needed for a quadcopter and provide recommendations for various quadcopter (DIY Drones) parts lists. Most of our links are to Amazon because it is easy for many people to order – however, if you live somewhere else in the world you can get the same or similar parts from Banggood (Chinese site with warehouses all over the world).
Note: many other online articles on this subject are very old (possibly dated). Much has changed in the world of drones and this mid-2017 article will reflect those upgrades and changes.
Question #1 – Should you Build your own Drone?
Back in 2012-2013, the answer for those who wanted a reasonably priced quadcopter would probably be YES. However, the market has changed and now you can purchase a fully assembled and working drone for the same or less money than building one. Let me lay out some of the reasons why you should – or should not – consider DIY for your Quadcopter.
- I am a researcher and interested in learning how to build and program drones and controllers so that I can use that knowledge to either enter or enhance a career. YES, you should consider a DIY Machine.
- Drones look really cool and I want to see if flying them and/or taking pictures or videos is something worthwhile. My wish it to eventually make money (or just appreciate landscapes, etc.) from Aerial Video and Photography. NO, you should probably follow the traditional method of learning about drones and buy RTF models (see our guides, comparisons, etc.).
- I am very mechanically minded and have some knowledge of electronics – and know one end of a soldering iron from the other – I know how to use a multimeter and, frankly, enjoy learning and building things. YES, you should consider DIY.
- I am “all thumbs” when it comes to detailed work, troubleshooting and lack patience. I just want things to work…or to be able to contact a dealer or manufacturer if they don’t. NO, you should follow the traditional route. See links at the bottom of this page.
- I caught the FPV/Racing bug (racing through hoops, obstacles, etc.) and want to create a custom machine that can fit my needs better than what is on the market. MAYBE you should DIY, but you also have the option of a middle ground…buying a machine which is assembled and works and then modifying it. “Mods” are considered a big part of the DIY part of the Drone Hobby and you can find forums, articles and instructions on just about any aspect of them.
Ok, So what Type/Size of Machine should I DIY Build?
I assume you are reading this article because you haven’t already had vast experience in the hobby. This being the case, there are two main types (classes/sizes) of Drones which you might consider for your first DIY Quadcopter build. These are:
- The “350-450” class of machine, which are about the size of the popular DJI Phantom or a bit larger. These machines are large enough to easily carry a camera, see (visually) at great distances and often include a GPS module…meaning they can be controlled easier than machines without any positioning equipment.
- The FPV/Racing type of machine – usually in the “250” or less size range. These are for “park flying” where the idea is to actively pilot the craft closer to the ground and faster. Most of them lack GPS, but there is an almost endless variety of frames, motors and other parts to build them.