Helicopters and robots: two of the most fascinating examples of the power of the human imagination and inventive ability. When combined, however, the sheer awesomeness of a robot helicopter might require you to lie down for a little while. Luckily, it’s not just a well-funded university or independently-wealthy Gotham playboy with a mysterious nightlife who can afford to build miniaturized robotic aircraft. With a few parts, some expertise and some friendly guidance, you can build your very own robot helicopter.
- Airframe (lightweight but durable plastic or metal)
- Mounting bracket
- Control circuitry
- Power source and containment frame
- Soldering iron
As your newly-built robotic friend is airborne in nature, be aware of the dangers and don't fly your robot near animals or people, especially without their knowledge.
Obtain or construct an airframe from a durable yet lightweight material such as plastic or metal. Use the level to ensure absolute precision in the airframe’s construction, as an imbalanced airframe can cause a disastrous crash during flight. If you plan to construct your own airframe from metal, use thin rods or plates of lightweight metal such as aluminum or some types of steel. These give you the necessary tensile strength for mounting your components, but are also light enough to permit flight.
Attach the mounting bracket securely to the motor and position your motor on the airframe with the shaft raised skyward. Use the level to determine the exact position of the motor for optimal balance before attaching the bracket to the airframe. Again, ensuring proper balance is critical to the success of your robot, so take your time and balance each component properly.
Affix the propeller to the motor’s shaft, making sure it’s level and securely attached. While an improperly affixed propeller might not be immediately evident, it will cause a great deal of strain on your robot and eventually cause severe problems.
Mount your control circuitry on the airframe, being careful to avoid gross imbalance in the position of parts. Your control circuitry can be remote-controlled, autonomous or a simple switch, but each requires you to solder the output leads to the motor and leave enough input leads to reach your power source.
Mount your power source’s containment frame to the airframe in an evenly balanced position. Solder the leads of the control circuitry to the output leads of the containment frame before you insert the power source itself. Make sure the connections between the containment frame and the control circuitry are secure before proceeding; a loose connection between these parts can cause a stuttering power source and could damage your components.
Ensure that the control circuitry is in it’s “Off” state, and insert the power source into its containment frame. Test your creation by clearing a testing area, ensuring that there are no airborne hazards within your robot’s reachable distance, and switching it on. Look for any wobbles or spinning in its flight path, as well as for any loose components.
Things You'll Need
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