Technology content trusted in North America and globally since 1999
8,096 Reviews & Articles | 60,990 News Posts

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

By: Charles Gantt | Editorials in Maker & DIY | Posted: Apr 18, 2014 6:06 am

BoM and Design Plans




I will not list out the exact parts I will be using as this may change throughout the build, but I will list basic descriptions and quantities of everything needed to build this project. For a more detailed, up-to-date list, head over to my GitHub Repository for this project. Additionally, I would advise checking the FlightTest website before beginning your build to make sure that the frame design that you are using is the most current design. I will be hosting the 3D Printing files on my personal Thingiverse page as well to ensure they do not get deleted.


3D Printed Parts Needed

  • 1x AnyCopter Hub Top
  • 1x AnyCopter Hub Bottom
  • 1x AnyCopter Drill Guide
  • 4x AnyCopter Motor Mounts
  • 4x AnyCopter Landing Feet
  • 1x Case for GPS Data Logger



  • 28x M3 Screws With Nuts
  • 1x Spool of Coated Steel Cable
  • 1x 2-Inch by 6-Inch Strip of Balsa Wood
  • 4x 1/2-Inch Square by 10-inch long Wooden Dowels (Would be smart to have 8-16 extra on hand to replace when others break.
  • 4x Velcro Computer Cable Ties
  • Foam Mounting Tape

    Power System

  • 4x 1380kv Brushless Outrunner Motors
  • 4x 15-20-amp Brushless ESCs
  • 4x 8045 Pized Propellers (2x right-hand rotation and 2x left-hand rotation
  • 4x Nose Cone Propeller Mounts
  • 1x Multi-Rotor Controller Board
  • 1x 4-6 Channel Radio Receiver
  • 1x 2200mAh 3-Cell Lithium-Polymer Battery
  • 1x Wiring Harness (Used to wire battery to ESCs, can be custom built or bought pre-assembled)

    Radio Transmitter, Video, GPS Tracking

  • 1x 6 or 9 Channel Radio Transmitter (Should match the receiver used)
  • 1x Transmitter Battery Pack (I prefer Li-Po based)
  • 1x Action Camera (Such as GoPro, GoLife Extreme, or Mobius)
  • 1x TinyCircuits TinyDuino
  • 1x TinyCircuits TinyShield GPS
  • 1x TinyCircuits TInyShield microSD
  • 1x TinyCircuits TinyShield USB & ISP
  • 1x CR2023 or 18650-based USB phone charger with micro-USB cable

    Optional Accessories, and Items Needed By Those New to the Hobby

    • 1x Lithium-Polymer-Capable Balance Battery Charger
    • 1x ESC Programming Card or Hardware
    • 1x Controller Board Programming Module
    • Lithium Battery Safe Charging Bag or Box (Never charge without one of these.)
    • Low Battery Power Alarm (Not needed if your controller board features this already)


    Tools Needed

    • Hand Saw Miter Box (If you need to cut the square dowels yourself)
    • Pliers
    • Screw Drivers
    • Soldering Iron and Solder
    • Heat Shrink Tubing that fits your ESC Wires
    • 4-inch Zip Ties
    • Hot Glue Gun and Glue Sticks
    • PC (For Flashing and Programming your Controller Board, and GPS Data Logger)
    • Hot Air Gun or Cigarette Lighter (For Heat Shrink Tubing)


    The list above is quite large, but when you consider that you will be building a machine from scratch that it capable of flying hundreds of feet in the air, and will capture video while doing so, it's not that big at all. You will notice that I have left off all mention of FPV gear, and there is a very good reason for that. FPV hardware is a very vast subject, and there are dozens of setups, hardware combos, and different ways to do things. I am still researching this part of the project, and will dedicate an entire segment of this project series just to FPV setup and flight.




    I won't try to cover up the fact that building your first multi-rotor is a major undertaking both skill wise as well as finically. This is something that should only be attempted by the seasoned maker, or someone who is not afraid to risk sinking several hundred dollars in a project they know they can finish. When priced out at retail prices, just building the quad-copter and getting everything needed to make it fly runs the cost up to about $400. When you add in the $120 for the GPS Data Logger, $250-400 for a decent action camera, and an additional $150 or so for extra batteries, charger, and safety gear, this project can end up closer to the $1000 mark quite fast.


    So what have I accomplished so far on the project? I have spent the last few weeks organizing all of the information, planning the project out, and getting all of the files and code needed to get the project started. I have printed some preliminary test pieces of the AnyCopter frame, and I have acquired some 1/2-inch square dowels and cut them down to size. I am going to attempt to build my AnyCopter with 12-inch arms, giving me an overall width of roughly 27 inches total. I am hoping that this will widen the propellers out enough that they are not visible in the GoLife Extreme's field of view.




    I have also almost completely built the GPS data logger that will mount directly to the quad-copter's frame. In fact, the guide on how to do this will be the next installment of this project, along with some information and video of me printing the final printed parts for this project. Furthermore, I have decided to give this project a code name similar to what I did with Andy, the Autonomous Arduino Powered Robot. I am officially designating this quad-copter project as Project: M.A.R.V, the Multi-rotor Arial Reconnaissance Vehicle.


    Project M.A.R.V. is one of the biggest projects I have attempted to build in the past 3 years, and is going to be a fun challenge for myself as well as a means of educating me in multi-rotor flight. At the end of the project, I hope everyone reading this will have enough information on how multi-rotors function, and understand that not all of them are used for spying, flying over crowded areas, or for other controversial uses. I hope to be finished with the project by the end of May and have all of the segments of this series live on TweakTown by the middle of June. I do want to extend my thanks to HobbyKing and PAPAGO for their generous donations that enabled this project to come together.


    Until next time, remember to #HacktheWorld and #MakeAwesome!

      PRICING: You can find products similar to this one for sale below.

      United States: Find other tech and computer products like this over at Amazon's website.

      United Kingdom: Find other tech and computer products like this over at Amazon UK's website.

      Canada: Find other tech and computer products like this over at Amazon Canada's website.

      We at TweakTown openly invite the companies who provide us with review samples / who are mentioned or discussed to express their opinion of our content. If any company representative wishes to respond, we will publish the response here.

    Related Tags

    Got an opinion on this content? Post a comment below!