Saturday, December 22, 2012

Tricopter: What does it cost?

The most frequently asked questions I get when I'm flying:
- How high does it go?
- Did you build it yourself?
- How much does it cost?
- Do you let your kids fly it?

I'll touch on the "How much did it cost" question. This is clearly an "it depends" answer. If you're already flying RC planes, you may be able to build a tricopter for under $100. If you have absolutely nothing, you'll need ~$700-1,000. I'm sure it could be done for less, but you'll want multiple batteries ($15-20 each), you'll go through a lot of props ($1-2 each), and I picked up some spares and other things I thought I might need.

Costs are in four or five categories:
1. Structure ($50)
This is the wood, nuts/bolts, G10, foam, servo mounting, and something to contain/protect the electronics. I sourced most of this from my local hardware store and more exotic things from McMaster Carr.

2. Electronics ($250-450)
Controller, ESC, motor, Transmitter and Reciever, servo. Optional: lights, camera, simulator

3. Power ($120)
Batteries, charger, charger cables and power supply.

4. Tools ($100-400)
Soldering iron, drill/bits, heat gun, multimeter, misc hand tools.

5. Supplies ($100)
Wire, solder, propellers, connectors, shrink tubing, zip ties, glue, rubber bands.

6. Shipping: If you buy from you'll end up spending at least $100 in shipping.

I started from almost-scratch. (Had the tools, but had been out of RC for a while, so needed new transmitter, batteries, etc.)

Here's the list of everything I bought from Hobby King and McMaster. Add some wood for arms and some connectors and you're more than ready to go. Again, thanks to David at RCExplorer for a great build log and parts list. This is really just his list expanded for newbies.

Order #1. Messed up and only got one ESC! (Need 3)
Turnigy Accucel-6 50W 6A Balancer/Charger w/ accessories1Best one. You need some way to power it though.
Turnigy 2200mAh 3S 25C Lipo Pack2You should get 4
hexTronik DT750 Brushless Outrunner 750kv3Maybe get an extra
D-MG16 Metal Gear 2.9kg/.08sec/18.8g1Spare. I use the other one.
Turnigy Pure-Silicone Wire 16AWG (1mtr) BLACK2
Turnigy Pure-Silicone Wire 16AWG (1mtr) Red4
Front Wheel Steering Arm & Mount Set 40mm (5sets)1
Scorpion Lipoly Lock Strap 205mm (Small) x 31
Lithium Polymer Charge Pack 25x33cm JUMBO Sack1Get a smaller one
Prop Saver w/ Band 4mm (10pcs)1I don't use these. Skip.
Turnigy 380MG Micro Servo (Metal Gear) 3.6kg / .15sec / 15.6g1Has held up so far.
TURNIGY BESC Programming Card1
XT60 Male w/ 12AWG Silicon Wire 10cm (5pcs/bag)1
Servo Extention Lead 420mm (5pcs/bag)1These are great to have
PolyMax 3.5mm Gold Connectors 10 PAIRS (20PC)1Buy 2 of these
Hex locknuts M4 10pc1
USBasp AVR Programming Device for ATMEL proccessors1
Turnigy 9X 9Ch Transmitter w/ Module & 8ch Receiver (Mode 2) (v2 Firmware)1Cheap radio NOTE: Get the 9xR now. Better out-of-box experience
Hex Screw M3x16 (20pcs)1
Hex locknuts M3 10pc2
10CM Male to Male Servo Lead (JR) 26AWG (10pcs/set)1
Turnigy 2650mAh 3S 1C LLF Tx Pack (Futaba/JR)1For the radio
TURNIGY Plush 18amp Speed Controller1Actually need 3. Whoops
Hobbyking KK2.0 Multi-rotor LCD Flight Control Board1
GWS EP Counter Rotating Propeller (RH-1047 254x119mm) (6pcs/set)1Buy 4 packs
GWS EP Propeller (RD-1047 254x119mm) (6pcs/set)1Buy 7 packs
Turnigy Heat Shrink Tube 20mm Transparent (1mtr)1
EV830/20G 30 Min Cure Clear Epoxy1Didn't use
Peel-n-stick foam tape. 10x5inch 4mm thick1Useful
Hobby King Discovery Buzzer1
USB Simulator Cable RealFlight G4.51Use with simulator
Extra Length Cardboard Box and Packing 439g1
TURNIGY 3~8S Voltage Detector1I now use KK2 board feature for this. Skip
ShipmentEMS Express to USA (Max 5kg) $81.73

Order 2: Speed controllers I forgot on first order, and extras of things I wanted
TURNIGY Plush 18amp Speed Controller32 need plus spare
GWS EP Counter Rotating Propeller (RH-1047 254x119mm) (6pcs/set)1
GWS EP Propeller (RD-1047 254x119mm) (6pcs/set)1
Nylon XT60 Connectors Male/Female (5 pairs) GENUINE1
hexTronik DT750 Brushless Outrunner 750kv1Spare
PolyMax 3.5mm Gold Connectors 10 PAIRS (20PC)1
Charging harness1To charge TX battery
Turnigy 4mm Heat Shrink Tube - RED (1mtr)1
ShipmentEMS Express to USA (under 500g) $18.95

Order 3: Lighting and more extras
Turnigy Receiver Controlled Switch1
Turnigy High Density R/C LED Flexible Strip-Green (1mtr)1Buy a red and a white too
Servo Terminals (JR) Gold Plated (10pairs/set)1
Flat 26AWG servo wire 1mtr (R/B/W)1Buy 3-4 m
Servo Lead Lock (5pcs/bag)1Useful
JST-XH 3S Wire Extension 20cm (10pcs/bag)1
Balance Plug Savers (JST-XH 5s) (5pc Per Bag)1
JST-XH 2S Wire Extension 20cm (10pcs/bag)1Useful for charging
Hex locknuts M4 10pc1Spares
ShipmentInternational (Registered) Air Mail 201-300g $6.99
Credit Total
Order 4: 2 more batteries buying these from your local warehouse is a good idea.
ZIPPY Compact 2200mAh 3S 25C Lipo Pack (USA Warehouse)2IN STOCK
ShipmentUSPS Priority Mail 2-3Day US-PM $6.36 08cdce62-b9cd-4b38-afb9-9c600a07282c
Order 5: After my batteries were getting dinged up, I decided to shrink wrap them. Picked up a few more things as well.
M3 x 20mm Nylon Screws (10pcs/bag)1Bought others from ebay as kit
M3 Nylon Nut (10pcs/bag)2
GWS EP Propeller (RD-1047 254x119mm) (6pcs/set)1
Grub Screw Set M3x4 10 Pack1Spares for motor mounting
M3X10 Nylon Screws (10pcs/bag)1
Turnigy Heat Shrink Tube 50mm Blue (1mtr)1I wrap my batteries with this
Front Wheel Steering Arm & Mount Set 40mm (5sets)1Spares. Not necessary
ShipmentInternational (Registered) Air Mail 201-300g $6.99
Order 1b: From McMaster Carr:
19910T151 EachMultipurpose Garolite (g-10), 1/16" Thick, 12" X 12"
288625K631 EachO1 Tool Steel Tight-tolerance Rod, 4 Mm Diameter, 3' Length
37132K7841 PackChemical-resistant Pvc Heat-shrink Tubing, 1" Id Before, 1/2" Id After, 6" Length, Clear
47130K121 PackStandard Nylon Cable Tie, 4"l, 7/8"bundle Dia, 18# Tensile Strength, White
530565A2631 EachMetric Black&gold Oxide Hss Jobbers Drill Bit, 4.2mm, 83mm Oal, 49.2mm Drill Depth, 135 Deg Point
67132K731 PackChemical-resistant Pvc Heat-shrink Tubing, 3/16" Id Before, 3/32" Id After, 6" Length, Black
This was $27 with $10 shipping.