How to Build a DIY Quadcopter Drone

I had purchased an all in one quadcopter X525 drone kit and being that this is a DIY quadcopter kit build, I’m going to try to document this build as close as possible.

One of the main reasons why I decided on the X525 drone  is because all the parts were readily available to me.  This means the frame, the propellers, the brushless motors, the speed controllers, and the flight controller were ready for assembly.  All I just need to do is apply some DIY elbow grease.

x525 build

X525 Quadcopter Drone Kit

I didn’t want to pick and choose ala carte via Hobby King just yet because I know that if I chose the wrong electronic speed controller and brushless motor pairing, that would just spell disaster.   Granted, when you consider purchasing off the shelf parts, you would want to select a ESC that has a higher amperage rating than the amperage rating on the brushless motor.  But for now, without fully understanding how it all works together, I don’t want to burn anything up just because I spec’ed something incorrectly.

The X525 quadcopter kit that I purchased didn’t come with any instructions, so I had to browse through various forums to get a better idea of how this was going to be assembled.  There’s a good write up over at RC Group, but it didn’t come with any pictures of the build, so it was a little hard to follow along.  So on my part, I’ve taken the liberty to photograph my build as I’m building it so hopefully that will be of some use for some of you guys who are following along.

So without further ado, here we go.

How to Build a DIY Quadcopter

What you’ll need to get started:

Other components you’ll need to assemble this kit:

Verify that you have the following in your quadcopter kit.

X525 Drone Components

BestQuadcopterKits - x525 parts

  • Frame:
  • (4) Aluminum tubing, 600 mm lengths;
  • (3) Carbon fiber frame boards;
  • (4) Carbon fiber motor mounts;
  • (8) Carbon fiber landing struts;

Motors:

(4) Brushless Motors

  • Electronic Speed Controllers
  • (4) 30A ESC

Control Board:

(1) KK main Control Flight Board;

(1) USB programmer

(1) ESC / Battery Power Distribution Board

Propellers:

(4) Two Blade Propellers with center bushings

  • Miscellaneous:
  • (1) Bag of Hex Screws, Allen Screws, Lock Nuts, Washers, and Springs.
  • (2) Heat Shrink Tubes, Red and Black
  • (1) Set of Power Distribution Cable with Connector, Red and Black

BestQuadcopterKits - X525 Parts Reveal

Different Hex Screws, Allen Screws, Lock Nuts, Washers, and Springs:

BestQuadcopterKits - Parts

Assemble the quadcopter arms

Assemble the carbon fiber motor mount to the aluminum frame tube

  • Align the two holes on the motor mount over the two holes on the aluminum tube.
  • Insert M4 allen screw and washer through the mount and aluminum tube.  Insert a hex nut on the opposite end and tighten the screw with an allen wrench, while holding the hex steady with a set of pliers.
  • Complete this step for the other three arms.

BestQuadcopterKits-x525 layout

BestQuadcopterKits - x525 overlay arm

BestQuadcopterKits-Arm Connect

  • Tip: Tight the screw firmly, but not so tight as to deform the aluminum bar.  A completed set of arms should look like the following picture.

BestQuadcopterKits - 4 arms

Assemble the carbon fiber landing gear

  • The opening of predrilled hole on the pointy tip of the carbon fiber landing gear was not wide enough to fit a M3 allen screw through.  I had to open up the hole just slightly with a larger allen wrench.  Do this for each of the landing gear pieces.
  • Using two landing gear pieces, insert a M3 allen screw, washer, and aluminum tube through the landing gears to hold the two pieces together.  Insert a hex nut on the opposite end and tighten firmly.
  • Insert a M3 allen screw and washer to the hole that is closest to the circular cutout.  Tighten the screw with a hex nut on the opposite end.

BestQuadcopterKits-DrillHole

BestQuadcopterKits - Drill

 

BestQuadcopterKits -LandingClaw

BestQuadcopterKits - landing Claw

Install the carbon fiber landing gear over the aluminum tube

  • Slide the landing gear right over the aluminum tube so that the holes on the side of the aluminum tube aligns.  Insert a M3 allen screw and washer and tighten with a hex nut on the opposite end.  Be sure to not over tighten as the landing gear is supposed to be moveable to absorb landing impacts.
  • Complete this for the three other arms.

BestQuadcopterKits-LandingClaw Extend

This is how the arms should look at this point.

BestQuadcopterKit - Arms
Install the spring to the carbon fiber landing gear

  • Connect the spring between the small hole on the aluminum tube to the M3 allen screw on the landing gear claw.  You can either install the spring on the aluminum tube or the M3 allen screw first, but I found that it was easier to first connect the spring to the M3 allen screw and then using a set of pliers, pull the spring to connect it to the tube.
  • Complete this for the three other arms.

BestQuadcopterKits - Spring Install

BestQuadcopterKits-Spring

BestQuadcopterKits-Spring Installed

BestQuadcopterKits - Spring Installed on Arm

Mount the distribution board to the carbon fiber center frame

  • Using the nylon hex, secure each corner of the distribution board to the carbon fiber frame.  Because of the standoff, this makes it easier to solder the power wires and the ESCs directly to the power distribution board.

Soldering the power wires to the distribution board

  • Using solder, tin the tips of the power wire (black and red).

BestQuacopterKits - Solder1

  • Using solder, tin the circular ‘+’ on the front and the back of the board.

BestQuadcopterKits-Solder2

BestQuadcopterKits-Solder3

  • Insert the red line through the circular ‘+’ opening and gently apply the solder iron to the opening.  Remove the solder iron and check the connection between the two is solid.
  • Using solder, tin the circular ‘-’ opening.   With the black wire inserted through the opening, solder the black wire to the opening.

BestQuadcopterKits-Solder4
BestQuadcopterKits-Solder5

BestQuadcopterKits-Solder6

Solder the fittings on the ESC

  • Using solder, tin the inside of the female bullet connectors (bullet connectors with a hole)
  • Using solder, tin the tips of each of the three blue ESC wires.
  • Insert each of the wires to each of female bullet connector.  Hold the connectors using a set of pliers and with the solder iron, heat up the connector to ensure a solid connection between the connector and the wire.

BestQuadcopterKits-ESC Connector

  • Do this for each of the wires and connectors
  • Cut a quarter inch of shrink tube and place it over the connectors.  Using the solder iron, place the iron within proximity of the shrink tube to shrink wrap the connectors.  It doesn’t matter which color shrink tube you use.  In this case, I just used red.

BestQuadcopterKits-ESC Connector 2

Solder the power wires of the ESC to the power distribution board.

  • For each ESC, solder the red and black power wires to one side of the power distribution board.  The red wire to the square ‘+’ opening and the black wire to the square ‘-’ opening.

BestQuadcopterKits-ESC Connector Power Dis

  • When soldering the ESC to each side of the power distribution board, make sure you skip every other set of +/- opening to ensure there is space between the ESCs.

BestQuadcopterKits-ESC Connector Power Dis2

Assembling the main plates together

  • Insert M4 allen screw and washer to the four outer section of the skeletal frame.
  • Place and align the skeletal frame over the two main carbon fiber central plates.

BestQuadcopterKits-Centre Frame

BestQuadcopterKits-Centre Frame2

  • Insert the aluminum tube arm in between the central frames and using the M4 allen screw, screw the frame through the aluminum tube.  Insert a hex nut on the opposite side and tighten.
  • Insert another M4 allen screw and washer through the opening of the curved slot of the central frame and connect the aluminum tube.  Make sure this connection is not over tightened.  This connection here is so that you can fold the arms of the quadcopter.

BestQuadcopterKits-Centre Frame3

BestQuadcopterKits-Centre Frame4

BestQuadcopterKits-Centre Frame5

  • Complete this for the other three arms.
  • Make sure the two red arms are next to each other.  This is an indicator for your forward direction.

BestQuadcopterKits-CentreFrameFull

Solder the fittings on the brushless motor

  • Using solder, tin the inside of the male bullet connectors
  • Using solder, tin the tips of each of the three motor wires.
  • Insert each of the wires to each of male bullet connector.  Hold the connectors using a set of pliers and with the solder iron, heat up the connector to ensure a solid connection between the connector and the wire.

BestQuadcopterKits-Motors

  • Do this for each of the wires and connectors
  • Cut a quarter inch of shrink tube and place it over the connectors.  Using the solder iron, place the iron within proximity of the shrink tube to shrink wrap the connectors.  It doesn’t matter which color shrink tube you use.  In this case, I just used red.

BestQuadcopterKits-Motors2

Mount the Motor mount assembly to the aluminum tube arm

  • Flip the quadcopter upside down and align the four holes of the brushless motor to the four holes on the motor mount.  Fix the motor mount by using the M3 allen screw.
  • Do this for the other three brushless motors.

BestQuadcopterKits-Motors3

Mount the flight controller over the power distribution board

  • There wasn’t another set of nylon standoffs in the kit, so I picked up some PC aluminum standoffs.  Insert these standoffs over the nylon standoff screws.

BestQuadcopterKits-ControlBoard

  • Make sure the ‘roll’ on the flight control board  is pointed forward between the two red aluminum arms.

BestQuadcopterKits-ControlBoard2

Connect the ESC wires to the brushless motors

  • For the time being, just connect any of the three blue wires to the wires on the motor.  We will discuss clockwise and counterwise rotation on the motor later.
  • Do this for the three ESC wires and brushless motors

BestQuadcopterKits-ControlBoard3

Connect the ESC data wire to the flight control board

  • Each ESC has a data wire with pin outs: White, Red, and Black.  The while wire is for signal, the red wire for power (VCC), and the black wire for ground (GND).
  • Connect the data wire from any ESC to the M1 pin out on the KK board layout.
  • Connect the data wire of the next ESC to M2 pin.  Do this for the remaining ESC for M3 and M4 pins.


BestQuadcopterKits-ControlBoardDetail

BestQuadcopterKits-ControlBoardInstall

Connect the receiver to the flight control board

  • I purchased a cheap Orange DRX R400 4 channel receiver to use for this X525 Drone
  • Using a data wire, connect the wire to the Receiver port labeled ‘Rudd’ to the signal port on the flight control board labeled ‘Rudder’
  • Connect the wire to the Receiver port labeled ‘Elev’ to the signal port on the flight control board labeled ‘Elevation’
  • Connect the wire to the Receiver port labeled ‘Aile’ to the signal port on the flight control board labeled ‘Aileron’
  • Connect the wire to the Receiver port labeled ‘Thro’ to the signal port on the flight control board labeled ‘Throttle’.  Connect the red and black wire from the Receiver to the VCC power and Gnd flight control board, respectively.

ORX Rx400

We’re almost there!  This is how the quadcopter should look thus far:

BestQuadcopterKits-AlmostDone

BestQuadcopterKits-AlmostDone2

Connect the Battery

  • The x525 kit didn’t come supplied with any velcro straps, so you’ll need to pick some up.
  • Flip the quadcopter upside down and loop through 5 – 6 inches of the velcro strap through the slot in the undercarriage.  The strap needs to be long enough to secure the battery in place.
  • For the battery, I used a Turnigy 2.2 2200mAh battery.
  • Strap the battery and connect the black and red leads of the battery to the black and red leads on the flight control board.

BestQuadcopterKits-Velcro

BestQuadcopterKits-Battery

Bind the Receiver to the Transmitter

  • Insert the bind plug on the receiver.
  • Switch the lever on the transmit control to bind.  In this case, I used a Spektrum DX6i, but you can use any four channel transmitter of your choosing.
  • Turn on your transmitter.  You should see the LED on the flight controller blink and hear a successive sequence of beeps.
  • Remove the bind plug.

Test the rotation of brushless motors

  • At this point, you may be tempted to install the propellers.   DO NOT INSTALL THE PROPELLERS AT THIS TIME.  For safety and precaution when testing the motors, you do not want to have the propellers rotating at full RPM.
  • With the two red arms as your forward direction indicator, identify motors 1, 2, 3, and 4 as your reference in the diagram below.  Motor 1 should rotate CW, Motor 2 should rotate counter clockwise, Motor 3 should rotate clockwise, and Motor 4 should rotate counter clockwise.
  • To test each motor, push the throttle control forward on the RC transmitter.  The throttle control in mode one is the right joystick and throttle control in mode two is the left joystick.
  • Pay careful attention to the direction in the way the motor is spinning.  If the direction is opposite to the way the motor should spin, disconnect and swap any two wires on the ESC that is connected to that particular motor.  This will correct the rotation direction.

BestQuadcopterKits-Rotation

Balance the Propellers

  • Although this step may be skipped, it’s advantageous to balance the propellers to ensure a smoother flight.   By balancing the propellers, this allows the propellers to rotate evenly with the advantage that the propellers will be less wobbly in flight.
  • With a propeller balancer, insert the propeller through the balancer.  Enclose securely with the provided tighteners.  At this point, if the propellers are unbalanced, it’ll be weighted more towards the one side.
  • To balance, apply a bit of scotch tape to the opposing side to counterbalance the weight differential.

Before:

BestQuadcopterKits-PropBalance

 

After:

BestQuadcopterKits-PropBalance2

Install the propellers

  • The kit came with four propellers – two counter clockwise propellers and two clockwise rotating propellers.  Also included are these inserts which fits inside the propeller.  Identify the insert that snugly fits over the flight shaft.  Place this insert inside the propeller.  This insert functions to keep the propellers from wobbling on the flight shaft.

BestQuadcopterKits-PropInstall

  • Identify the propeller rotation.  The clockwise propeller should be installed over the clockwise rotating motor and likewise for the counter clockwise propeller should be installed over the counter clock wise rotating motor.  For this particular set of propellers the direction of the propeller can be identified by looking at the label on leading edge of the propeller.  If the label is on the left side when looking directly at the propellers from above, the rotation is counter clockwise.

BestQuadcopterKits-PropInstall2

  • Place the top cap over the propellers and tighten the propellers by inserting a small allen wrench through a hole insert on the cap.  While holding the propellers in place with one hand, tighten the cap by the rotating the the wrench to the right.
  • Complete this for the other three propellers.

BestQuadcopterKits-PropInstall3

Tip:  To avoid having wires going in every direction, use zip ties to tidy up the wiring.  I placed a zip tie to secure the ESCs and a zip tie to secure the wirings between the ESC and the motors.

And voila, your final product.

BestQuadcopterKits-Finished

So there you have it, a DIY quadcopter build revealed.  For novices building up this quadcopter, this took me three hours in build time, but other than that, the majority of other time spent was waiting for support parts.  The most challenging part of the build was soldering the connections, but tinning first out helped tremendously.

The DIY X525 Drone Kit is quite solid.  The aluminum tube arms provide rigidity and sturdiness from the carbon fiber central frame.  My only minor qualm about this kit thus far is that spring tension on the landing gear were a bit tight, so I wonder what the impact will be like landing the unit.

Stay tuned for more updates on this quadcopter build.  The next step is demonstrating how to program and fly this bird!  I hope this has been helpful for those who are getting started in this hobby!

20 Responses

    • Tony August 25, 2014 / 12:28 am

      For the FlySky transmitter, I would recommend getting a Fly Sky Receiver for compatibility. http://amzn.to/1wqPQep You’ll just need to define the channels, ie. rudder, aileron, elevation, and throttle.

  1. Energydrink Dude August 28, 2014 / 8:12 pm

    Thanks for the in depth instruction. I’ve been looking into different build options and have considered this kit as well. It seems the Spektrum brand transmitters are top of the line. A DX9 cost about $450. More than some complete kits. The world of quad copters is exciting for sure though. Building one will certainly have benefits in understanding the technology and individual components purpose. The idea of FPV has got me hooked, cant wait to upgrade from my 1st starter quad.

    • Tony August 28, 2014 / 9:57 pm

      Awesome! Which starter quad did you end up building?

  2. john August 29, 2014 / 6:39 am

    will this lift a GO PRO camera ?

    thanks

    • Tony September 1, 2014 / 12:03 am

      It sure can. While I haven’t installed my GoPro to the X525 yet, other people have. Here’s a video of someone’s X525 filmed with a mounted GoPro. http://youtu.be/WggpbLfQRmI

  3. rick September 11, 2014 / 1:32 am

    Hi. Such a good and needed job – laying out the ‘how’ to put a kit together. I am yet to build and this confirms it is my next venture. I have played with a couple of mini quads x6 x6camera and now the syma x5camera, the latter larger and what I would recommend size to start with – the mini are excellent and stable but so much easier to see and have something of substance to manoeuvre. Being a bit older a very late x-gen to start in this hobby I am behind my finger skills on a controller where teens+ are dexterous from PS games and MOB texting. I struggle with two both hand maneuvers still a bit. Anyway to the point. CaN the x525 fit a return to home and holding position board and how does the x525 fly? thanks

    • Tony September 12, 2014 / 10:50 pm

      Hey Rick, this quadcopter kit is slightly harder to fly than your typical mini quad. I found that I had to make some adjustments on the KK board to really dial the flight in. Were you looking to install something like the Turnigy T1000FC? That only weighs about 150g, so it’s fine, you’ll just need to be creative with zip ties. ;)

  4. veronica alfano September 11, 2014 / 10:05 am

    can someone tell me where I can purchase one of these in the USA

  5. Andrew September 13, 2014 / 7:18 am

    what battery plug is needed on the battery to work with this kit

    • Tony September 14, 2014 / 12:03 am

      The connector that comes with the kit is a T-plug, so if you connect your battery with a XT60 connector, you just need an adapter between the two.

  6. Andrew September 14, 2014 / 7:12 am

    Sorry one more question i am going to be buying a FlySky FS-T6 but that recever does not have the channels listed like the one you are using would it be safe to just go with channels 1-4 on the transmitter?

  7. Joe September 17, 2014 / 6:49 pm

    Ok so i have purchased this kit and have noticed people online when building their own kits they are cutting the red data wire from the esc i was wondering if that is necessary to do and will it harm my quadcopter if it is not done

  8. Abram September 21, 2014 / 12:56 pm

    How long would the battery last in full flight?

    • Tony September 23, 2014 / 10:31 am

      The 2200mAh battery last about 8-10 minutes off a full charge. If you are looking for something that will last longer, you could consider a 5000mAh battery. That should give approximately about 20-25 minutes of flight time, but granted a battery like that is also twice as heavy.

  9. Andrew September 27, 2014 / 4:31 pm

    just got mine fully built and started flying but i have noticed that mine is leaning quite heavly to the right front arm which would be motor 2 any idea on how to stop that from happening my radio is a FlySky FS-T6 and i am running a kk 2.1.5

  10. Andrew Hrisak November 17, 2014 / 1:23 pm

    My dad and me are thinking about making the diy quadcopter but my dad still thinks that it is a little expensive could you guys give him some pros about the quadcopter to change his mind?

    • Tony December 15, 2014 / 6:59 pm

      Hi Andrew, the kit is actually not too expensive if you want to build your own quadcopter. The expensive parts are the motors, battery, esc, and the kk board. You’ll need those regardless of any DIY quadcopter you choose to build. Hope that helps.

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