Quadcopter Parts List

I started by making a spreadsheet of everything I would need to purchase, cost and links to the product pages. I also separated the list out into Brain, Body and Tools.

The brain is where I’m more comfortable, being a programmer. I’ve done a little embedded programming before (Motorola 68k), but I’m excited to try out this new Arduino project. They’re relatively cheap, easy to use, and have lots of support on the internet. This seems like the perfect opportunity to try it out.

I purchased a kit, which included not only the microcontroller but a whole bunch of little doodads, whats-its and wiring. Yeah, I probably won’t use everything in the kit but I’ve got to start somewhere and I don’t have much in the way of this stuff lying around. I added a few accouterments as well. (I spent quite a lot of time clicking around MakerShed and Sparkfun. So many things!)

Though not directly related, the other thing I purchased was an e-book on Arduino programming and projects. It didn’t include anything revolutionary, but it did help me navigate the libraries and setup of the hardware. And they were fun projects.

The body is a little more complicated. It involves a lot of things I am entirely unfamiliar with, namely hobby helicopter parts. I used an online calculator to figure out roughly what size of rotors and motors and such that I’d need to get the thing off the ground. I ended up with 8′ rotors, with motors and electronic speed controllers (ESC’s) to match. Most of this is right off of Aeroquad’s site.

I also needed a battery, a charger for the battery and a power supply for the charger. (The last two are sold separately. I’m sure there is a reason, but I do not know why. On the other hand, the charger is pretty fancy looking.)

I decided to use XBees for the wireless transmission. I spent a long time deliberating between Series 1 and 2. I ended up getting Series 1 because my needs are simple and I can move up for my next project. Series 2 is a drop-in replacement anyway, so I can upgrade if needed. I’d like to eventually work with the Series 2 for the networking capabilities (multiple bots working together), but that’s still in the future.

In addition to the XBees, I got a couple of XBee breakout boards. I can solder these into the project and pull out/replace/upgrade the XBees themselves as needed.

I already had a couple of prototyping boards, which I intend to use for soldering all the electronics together, in addition to the wiring and soldering. I did get some thicker wires and heat-shrink tubing for connecting to the ESC’s and motors.

Last, I purchased a Wii Motion Plus for the gyroscope and two Wii Nunchucks for the accelerometers. One of the Nunchucks is intended to be the controller. (Amazing things. When I did my thesis, over a decade ago now, acquiring an accelerometer was one of the more difficult tasks.)

I didn’t need too many things for tools. I’ve had a soldering iron and helping hands for years (waiting to be used for far too long). I also have small screwdrivers and a solder-less breadboard (in addition to the two that came in the microcontroller kit). I picked up a nice static bracelet, since the one I had was paper and cheap. I rather like the new one. I got an XBee USB programmer.

I picked up a WiiChuck Adapter connector. I thought this was a pretty nice way of testing out/prototyping the Wii accessories before ripping them apart. This turned out to be more useful than I originally anticipated as Nintendo uses special screws to hold their hardware together, a Y-Wing screw (unrelated to any space ships). They’re cheap on Amazon, though I still haven’t purchased one.

That leads me into the other thing I hadn’t quite grokked: I didn’t get everything in the first round. There turned out to be little things I needed but didn’t anticipate in addition to the things I knew I was putting off for later. The y screwdriver is an example of one of those things.

I intentionally waited on getting the main body of the quadcopter, the pieces that would fit everything together. I’m also intending to get a smaller Arduino board or a clone to actually put into the quadcopter. The prototype board is great for testing everything out, but I want to be able to use it for other things as well.

I’m also pretty sure I’m going to need a voltage regulator or two, possibly some resistors and diodes for such things as de-bouncing and other such real-world technical issues. But for now: experimentation and building!

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