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Project M.A.R.V: The Multi-Rotor Aerial Reconnaissance Vehicle, Part 1

Project M.A.R.V: The Multi-Rotor Aerial Reconnaissance Vehicle, Part 1
With multi-rotor helicopters getting a bad rap lately, Charles created his own multi-rotor to show that they can be used for more than controversy.
| Editorials in Maker & DIY | Posted: Apr 18, 2014 6:06 am

Project M.A.R.V - Part 1

 

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Remote-controlled helicopters, airplanes, cars, and trucks have always been something that I have been highly interested in, and while I have not been active in the RC hobby for several years now, recent events have piqued my interest once again. With the introduction of multi-rotor helicopters over the last couple years, I have been growing quite anxious, and now the technology has grown to be both cheap enough and good enough for me to easily reenter the hobby.

 

With very little knowledge on the subject of multi-rotor aircraft, I have spent the last few months researching the different types of DIY multi-motors. A close friend of mine just happened to mention a YouTube channel that features a wealth of videos on this very topic, and low and behold, the company that produces the video has an entire series on DIY multi-rotors. Below is a video that shows off some of the AnyCopter Quad Copter I am going to sort of build.

 

 

I decided to go with the AnyCopter (http://flitetest.com/articles/anycopter-hub-build) design for several reasons. The first being that the FlightTest guys release all of their design files and bill of materials list freely on the Internet, and the second being that it seemed to be powerful enough to allow me to do both First Person View (POV) flight, as well as being able to support the weight of a GoPro camera and GPS tracking module. Finally, I wanted something that was easily repairable as I know I will crash the quad-copter many times before I master its flight.

 

As I said, AnyCopter design is very appealing to me as it is quite configurable and easily upgradeable when you want to add more rotors to the setup. The hosts of FlightTest have actually laid out everything you need to build an AnyCopter, including a bill of materials, build instructions, and even the laser cut parts if you want to take the easy route. They even offer an entire chassis kit that includes the motor mounts, landing gear, arms, and chassis, but that is just too easy for me. While I could take this easy route out, I prefer the route less taken and want to DIY the chassis myself.

 

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While I do not have access to a laser cutter, I do have a few 3D printers just laying around that I wanted to utilize when building my quad-copter, and after a quick search on Thingiverse, I found someone who had taken the AnyCopter design and recreated it roughly in 3D form and exported the STL files for quick and easy printing. This left me with just a need to source the mounting hardware and 1/2-inch square wooden dowels to use as the arms. For this project, I am keeping a complete build list on GitHub, and there you can find a complete Bill of Materials, with links and prices to all the hardware, code, and files needed to build your own 3D printed AnyCopter.

 

Other than simply building a multi-rotor from scratch, I have several other projects that will tie into this as a way to give me a few more projects to play around with over the next few weeks. Obviously, the main goal is to build the quad-copter and get it up in the air. Secondly, I would like for it to be able to capture video while in flight. Additionally, I would like to be able to track the flight path of the quad-copter using a DIY GPS data logger that I will build. Finally, I really would like to be able to fly the quad in FPV mode and use it to capture some amazing aerial footage of some local buildings and natural features.

 

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To reach this goal, I have partnered up with Hobby King and PAPAGO to help fund the project. Hobby King is hooking me up with all of the electronics needed for this build, including motors, radios, speed controllers, batteries, and the flight control board. I am also going to be covering a few of their DIY multi-rotor kits over the next few months. PAPAGO has sent me one of their new GoLife Extreme action cameras to handle the in-flight video recording. This is an excellent camera to use because of its rugged and robust design that allows it to withstand a beating as well as survive a crash in the event I put the copter into the ground.

 

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For the GPS data logger, I will be utilizing the TinyDuino series from TinyCircuits. The company's founder has already built something similar to track his cat's position during his time spent outside. When you combine the TinyDuino's size with the readily available code for this project, it makes for the perfect solution for my GPS data logging needs. I will utilize my 3D printing capabilities to design and print a case for this project that is capable of mounting directly to the quad-copter's frame.

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