Let's Make Robots!

The Ugly Quad

Flys around taking video

UPDATE: got (some of) the videos up :)

Not a robot yet, but kinda cool, so I thought I would share it. The Ugly Quad is a completly homemade quadcopter, built with payload capcity, parts avalibility and most importantly cheapness in mind. All of the electronic parts were purchased at hobbyking.com, which I have found to be the cheapest place to buy hobby/robot making parts along with dealextreme.com the shipping takes forever and is not so cheap, but boy are their prices.

That ugly PVC frame you see is what comes after destroying this flimsy wooden frame that I bought with the original order of parts.


the different coloured arms are to orient myself when I am flying this thing 200-300 feet off the ground, red for right, black for back, and purple for phront. I tryed with just the purple front arm, but flying that high, your mind starts flipping the orientation and it is hard to get back on the ground.  And there are lots of benefits, easy to work with and repair, parts right close by at the hardware store if I break anything, and it is sturdy, I have killed the motors and had it drop from 15 feet; it just soaked it up and didnt complain, try that with a plywood or glass fiber frame. :)

So anyway, after I totaled the wood frame learning how to fly, I built this one. I already explained the benefits of PVC, and the tupperware container that houses the electronics is close to indestructable.


After making the frame, I experimented with some attachments, first being a 200mw laser aimed airsoft gun mounted on one of the arms. This was kinda fun, but unfortunately I accedentally glued some moving parts while reinforcing the gun mount, and recked the gun :(

in order to fire this gun using the 5th channal I built this little circut using a 08M

closeup of the board

I programed this to look for a change in the state of the pwm signal coming from the reciver and activate the gun and laser.

after the gun failed, I built a two servo claw that I also did not get any pics of, when in use, I had to replace the short legs with somewhat longer ones so the claw had room to actuate. I kept the laser on the robot pointed down to aim where to land, and where to drop the objects I picked up. I also added the other 3 pin header to the boardso that I could tell first the laser to activate, and then the claw.

after that, I got bored of the claw, removed it and put a mount for a GOPRO camera to take videos with

I have some video files from the quad, but they are on a thumb drive at my friend's house, as soon as I get them back, I will post them.

top view

closup of the motor mounts, they use zip ties, first they are cheap, light and easy to fasten, and if I botch a landing, rather than breaking the motor ($$) they simply strech and snap and are replaced.

my super high quality battery mount, a cupple rubber bands and more zip ties :)

have a look at the video, not the best quality, but it was filmed in a bit of a rush this afternoon.

UPDATE 11/18/12====================================================================

As requested by ignoblegnome here is the parts list

control board (comes with software preloaded)


motors: I bought 5 just in case one broke


propellers: deffenatly buy like 10 packs, every time you crash, 1-4 of these are going to break, and you really run out fast when you are learning, also, they are quite poorly ballanced, I use a needle thru the hole, and when one side goes down, I snip a bit off the end using a pair of side cutters, and repeat until the prop stays ballanced.


speed controlers: I also bought 5 in case one dies


power distrobution board




to connect the RX to the board


I already had a 5ch tx/rx that I used, hobbyking stocks a number, just look around for one with at least 4ch

batterys, I bought 4


and chargers, I bought three, and I use a old power brick from a laptop to power them.


I also got a pack of 4 mm nuts for mounting the props to the motors and all my pipe and fittings at the local hardware store.

I think that is everything, plus I think $50 for shipping.

UPDATE 11/22/12=================================================================================

I was asked for some dimentions, here they are:

hight 7.5" from floor to top of motor shafts

width/legnth outside of bell on the motor to outside of bell on the other arm 20"

width/legnth tip of prop to tip of prop (the longest distance, and the one you would have to use if you were say, flying thru doorways with it :)  28.5"

I also lied about the weight in the inital posting, it is actually 1.2Kg, sorry about that.

effective load capicity, the motors each produce ~900-1000g of thrust, and you want to have a little wiggle room to let the control board do it's thing to keep the quad stable, and for asending really fast, so I would say you could lift at least 2Kg no problem.

also, here are all (most?) of the other parts I used to build the basic quad, not bought from hobbyking. all the pipe is 1/2" PVC

1 + cross piece, 4 T tee pieces, a legnth of pipe, 8 wood screws for locking the pipe joints without gluing. tuppeware container big enuf to hold all your electronics, 4mm nuts for motor shafts, rubber bands for holding the battery, and lots of little zip ties

If anyone is considering building one using partially my plans, comment, and I will share some tricks and things I learned along the way.

UPDATE 11/26/12=================================================================================

I just looked at my page, and realized that I hadnt put up the link to the video while the site is down. here it is


still waiting to get the other videos back from my friend, sorry. you guys will be the first to see them once I get them back :)

UPDATE 12/3/12======================================================================

Ok, here they are, the long awaited and underwhelming videos shot with my quadcopter at various places around where I live. more will be posted when I get a little more time. These videos are made from a few of the shots pasted together so I didnt have to upload a milion videos. I tried to paste related clips together, One of these videos has a good crash at the end involving flying too close to a telephone wire. On that note,reinforcing the claim that my quad frame is nice and sturdy, the only thing that broke in that crash was one of the props :) also in some of these vids, you can see another homemade quad that looks remarkably similer to mine flying around. one of my friends built a quad with the same basic parts as mine and a little different frame. as you can see, when you cannot see what you are filming, sometimes the results are less than dazzling.





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i really like your ideas on making it more "less breakable" :)

More vids of it in action and some autonomous control .

About automous control, I am a little inexperenced for that just yet, I think I will see if I have any sucess with a UGV where I don't have to ballance the thing, and worry about flying about, then maybe think about it ;)

It's a great low cost quadcopter !

Did you write the software that makes it flies ? I would be interested in having some more details about it :)

Waiting for the next vids !

What an awesome, simple, and cheap approach to building. Nice work!

Can you tell me a few things? 

Are the PVC pipes glued together with PVC cement or just pressed into place?

How are the PVC pipes attached at the bottom? I can't make out what sort of joint you used, since it is covered by the battery in your picture of the bottom.

Would you include a list of the electronics and software you used in your post?

Oh, and lastly, about how much did it cost to put together, not counting the HobbyKing frame you discarded?

LordGG, I wish I had the programing skill to write the  software, but no, it is all pre-installed on the hobbyking quadcopter control board I used.

ignoblengnome, except for the leg pieces, I just rammed the pipes together, match drilled them in one place, and screwed in a screw, so they wouldnt rotate or pull out. I didn't glue the pipes together, because if one breaks I would have to replace the whole frame rather than just unscrewing and replacing the broken part. Also, the piece in the in the centre is just a standard + piece like a tee with another end sticking out, you can get them at any hardware store. I will see if I can find all the parts I used and post links to them on the main page, along with a price estimate.


chickenparmi, I have thought of making it a FPV rig of sorts, with the $15 control board, it is not the most stable thing on the planet, so I think it would be a little hard to fly first person, but I am going to eventually put a pan/tilt mount for the gopro along with a extra tx/rx and a video transmitter hacked from a video sender so that while I am flying, I can have someone else waching a screen and controling the pan/tilt setup for a bit more intersting video, right now it is a little hit and miss, because I cannot see where I am filming, nor really control it besides flying back and forth over an object and hoping for a good shot. As for flight time, I get about 8-10 minuets on a charge, but I have 4 batterys that i swap out, or if I really wanted to I could probably put all four on at one time, it has lots more load handling capcity than I am currently using. Usally my brain gives out trying to find and orient a little + in the sky and I have to land to give it a break before my battery runs out of juce. :)

I notice you like building with PVC (this and GPS). I think it makes the robots look really nice. I might have to steal some of your ideas :)

Keep up the good work, and thanks for sharing!

Thanks for the parts list!!

I have been looking for a low cost parts list for a quad for AGES. I might make one when I get some money (never) and some experience. I hope that I could make some features like automated landing and taking off, altitude hold, heading hold, position hold and whatever else I can hold. Although I do think that I am underestimating the difficulty of a project like this a little bit.

Anyway, geat quad. Will watch the video when I get home.

Thanks for all the positive comments :)

to airuno2l, I do enjoy using pipe in my robots, it is cheap, tough, plentiful, ubiquitous, and easy to work with. altho, because I am a bit of a stickler, I used PVC in THQ, and ABS in GPS (enough acronyms yet?) :)

Riddellikins, you can buy (or make, check out the arducopter) control boards that will hold position, hight, heading, and everything else you can think of, but they tend to be twice (or more) the price of my entire quad. If you ever make a quad, and are able to make it do any of those things, you are a better robot builder than me. :)

The only two custom built robots I have made are PICAXE POV thingy and the "start here" robot so I suppose I would be pretty naive in thinking that I could build a quadrucopter with sofware programmed by myself. I think I am at a pretty similar skill level to you; my robotics all started from LEGO too. :P

I shall have to see how my first Arduino robot goes and then I will have a better understanding of what I would be able to do at my current skill level.

I will be watching for more videos.