After building multiple quadcopters (drones with four propellers) I decided it would be time to try a tricopter. I have built this tricopter before, actually the same exact one before. After winning the bid on eBay, and I received the Armatttan 258 tricopter frame, I noticed it looked very familiar, and not just because it was the same model, but because it had the same plastic standoffs I had put on it before I sold it. After digging through my eBay history I tracked down who I sold it to, then I checked their history and saw they sold it to the same seller I repurchased it from. So, in fact, it was the same exact frame I sold two yeas prior, and neither of the two buyers actually used the frame, it was still mint!
The goal now is to rebuild the tricopter, with new parts, and better software. The previous attempt left me completly frustrated as the craft never flew stable. It would “wag its tail” like a happy dog, which is funny when seeing it, but it makes for terrible footage and makes you nauseous when flying FPV. I believe the trouble was due to the software I was using at the time. After I sold the tricopter I built a mini quadcopter, it too would jitter when flying and ultimately put me off from building mini-drones. After that software became unsupported I had to find a new one to update my larger crafts. I tried using a cloned software but it doomed me, my larger multirotor had worked great, when I loaded the other software it began to have the same jittery issue, it even ruined a shoot for a client. Then came dRonin, after I loaded my flight controller with this software everything worked perfectly. I went back and loaded it to the mini and that also worked perfectly. So I am hoping it will be the case with the tricopter.
So the basics to get a multirotor in the air is having a few essential parts:
Flight controller (FC): The brain of your craft, it is what you program and tune, it has the gyros to keep your craft stable
Electronic Speed controllers (ESC): These translate what your FC tells them and makes your motors spin at the right speed, they connect to your battery and give your motors the right amount of power.
Motors: These spin the propellers, you have to get the right propeller size and motor speed for a stable craft
Propellers (props): Normally on a quadcopter you use two counter-clockwise props, and two clockwise props, on a tricopter you use two of same on the front and the opposite for the rear. You could go with a two blade, or three blade prop, the two-blade are more efficient but produce much more noise, the three-blade can also be used if size is a concern.
Battery: For the amount of power we need at the fast discharge rates multirotors require, lipo batteries are the best bet at the moment. They are a bit fragile and dangerous as a big crash and puncture could lead to your battery becoming a flaming torch. It is always a juggle to get the biggest battery for longer flight times, but small enough to keep your craft agile and capable, too big of a battery will be using more power to carry the battery so its a fine line to keep your craft optimal.
Receiver (rx)/ Transmitter (tx): lastly you need a transmitter, or “controller” to tell your craft what you want it to do. On the craft, you will need a receiver to to translate the messages to your flight controller
Servo: The biggest difference from a quadcopter to a tricopter is the use of a servo to tilt the rear motor. On a quadcopter, the motors speed up and slow down in order to turn or tilt the craft. with a tricopter, the servo tilts the rear motor to turn the craft. See the photo below for the plate that spins side to side
I won the frame on eBay, but you can also purchase one new like I did the first go around from Armattan
For the flight controller, I went with an Open Pilot CC3D atom from Aloft Hobbies, I normally order it from Hobby King but they did not have the horizontal pin version. Seeing as this is a small frame I prefer the horizontal pins for verticle clearance.
For the receiver I use FrSky’s D4R-II, it is small and compact, and has a port to connect a battery meter to transmit to my Tx. I use a FrSky Taranis to control my multirotors. Again I normally order this from Hobby King but I decided to combine the shipping to save a few bucks, and at the time of ordering they only had stock in the China warehouse.
The ESC’s I will be using for this craft are Lumenier Mini 20A ESC, these things are tiny and work perfectly on my other mini-multirotor. I prefer to use parts I have used in the past, it makes it easier to keep spares and I know they will work. I ordered these from GetFPV.
The last part I ordered for this build are the motors, I decided to take a risk and just get the same motors I have on my mini-multirotor. They are about the same size and are on the faster side of the recommended motor speed for this frame. I ordered the SunnySky X2207S 2100KV’s from BuddyRC
The batteries, servo, and the props I already have, I will be using 4S 1800MAH batteries from my other multirotor, and some 6 inch props I have, the recommended prop size is 7 inch but I will try these as I already have them. I will worry about setting up FPV gear later once I know thise baby will work. I still had a servo from the last time I built it, it was recommended to me by Armattan through an email. the model is New Power XLD-25HMB.
I can’t wait for all the parts to come in so I could start the build, I will be writing up another post once I get started