Update: April 18, 2018

PLEASE READ: We have just updated this course! We have published a new section in which we show how to upgrade the drone so that it uses the Pixhawk flight controller in place of the Crius AIO V2. During the upgrade, we retain most of the existing drone components. Find more information about the course and the upgrade in the first section (free to watch).


Welcome to “Make an Open Source Drone”, a course that will teach you how to build a quadcopter from scratch!

Playing with drones, and especially quadcopters, is fast becoming a very popular hobby. As a hobby, it combines state of the art open technology with large open spaces. It even gives me a great excuse to get out of my lab and get some sun!

While you can just go to a shop and purchase a drone that is ready to fly, by doing so you miss out on all the fun and knowledge that comes with building your own flying machine. I admit I have done that myself. Getting my ready-to-fly drone out of its box and flying it was fun, but only for a short period.

Soon after the first excitement settled, I realised that I didn’t know much more than before I opened the box. I was also unable to do anything more than what the drone was programmed to do, to begin with.

That is why making your own open source drone is such a great way to have fun while learning.

In this course, my co-instructor Aristofanis and I will help you understand drones and how to build them. You will learn about their mechanical and electronic components and how they interact. You will learn about the software that provides semi-autonomous flight capabilities to drones.

Motors, flight controllers, Electronic Speed Controllers, batteries and chargers, receivers and transmitters, and so much more, will all make sense as you progress through this course and go through the process of assembling your drone.

By the end of the course, apart from being able to assemble your drone, you will have the confidence to perform repairs and to extend its capabilities.

Along the way, you will learn about the principles of drones and many design and performance details for each of the components and software. With this knowledge, you will be able to go on and construct your own drones, configure and program them, all while having a great time doing so.

The course starts by explaining the basic principles of drones.

You will learn about the types of multi-rotor drones, flight terminology, principles of drone flight, and we will introduce the basic drone components like propellers, motors, the flight controller and more.

Then, you will get into the actual construction of the drone. You will solder the Electronic Speed Controllers to the motors and assemble the drone arms.

You will then solder the ESCs and battery to the power distribution board, and start the assembly of the drone frame.

After that is the radio control subsystem. You will learn about the different types of signalling, connect the radio receiver to the flight controller, and connect the GPS module.

Next, you will learn about LiPo batteries and battery chargers, safety and maintenance.

With a fully charged battery, you will continue with the firmware and software. You will learn about the MegaPirateNG firmware and how to upload it to your drone.

You will learn how to bind your radio transmitter and receiver, and then how to calibrate your new quadcopter using the open source Mission Planner software.

As always, we save the best for last! At the end of the course, you will learn how to calibrate the Electronic Speed Controllers and attach the propellers.

And in the end, you will be able to take your drone to a field and launch it, starting to build-up your pilot skills!

As with all Tech Explorations courses, we are here to help you in this exciting learning journey. As a student of this course, you will have access to the Questions and Answers board and interact with the instructors. You can ask questions, and make comments or suggestions.

Please continue by having a look at the list of parts that you will need in this course. You can find it as a document download in the next lecture

What is this course aboutSTART
Parts and Tools
Crius or Pixhawk? Read this before you continue

Multi-copter drone basics
Types of multi-rotor drones
Roll, pitch, yaw
Controlling the motorsProcuring the right parts
Battery and charger, Part 1
Battery and charger, Part 2
Flight controller and peripherals
Other tools and things

ESC and motors
Preparation for soldering
Attach the connectors to the ESC wires
Attach the connectors to the motor wires

Power distribution board and assembly
About the power distribution board
Solder the ESCs to the power distribution board
Attach the battery wires and connector to the power distribution board

Main body assembly
Attach motors to arms
Attach the arms to the power distribution board, Part 1
Attach the arms to the power distribution board, Part 2

Flight controller and peripherals
Signalling options, Part 1
Signalling options, Part 1
Setup radio receiver and flight controller to use PWM
Connect flight controller and GPS module, Part 1
Connect flight controller and GPS module, Part 2
Connect flight controller and GPS module, Part 3
Connect flight controller and GPS module, Part 4
Attach flight controller and peripherals to chassis
Connect flight controller to ESCs

Battery and charger
How to charge the battery
Fasten the battery to the drone

The firmware
Clear the EEPROM
Download and install firmware

The transmitter
Binding receiver and transmitter
Understanding your transmitter

Mission Planner
Download and install Mission Planner Part 1
Mission Planner setup Part 2
Mission Planner setup Part 3
Test the GPS module

Getting ready to Fly
ESC calibration
Attach the propellers
Safety and legal issues

Test flight
Lets fly Part 1
Lets fly Part 2

An upgrade using the Pixhawk flight controller
800 – Section introduction
810 – Why upgrade- The Pixhawk flight controller
820 – Disassembly
830 – A review of the upgrade components
840a – Assembly Part 1 – Propellers
840b – Assembly Part 2 – ESC red wire insulation
840c – Assembly Part 3 – Pixhawk base
840d – Assembly Part 4 – GPS antenna
840e – Assembly Part 5 – Pixhawk assembly
840f – Assembly Part 6 – Buzzer, safety button, power module
840g – Assembly Part 7 – Wirings
840h – Verify wiring in Mission Planner
840i – Battery and power connections
850 – Attach the propellers
860 – Calibration and test flight


Make an Open Source Drone

Enrol to this course

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Enrol for US$50