Basic QuadCopter



This page describes the set up of a Basic QuadCopter and is intended to give a foundation on the practice of building a simple and cost effective frame. There will be two types of Basic QuadCopter. One with short arms finishing just past the motor mounts and one with longer arms to protect the props.

Overview Videos

An example of a simple Short Armed Quad built with the information described in this page can be seen in the following video:

Hardware details





KDA 20-22L 924KV

Available From Hobbyking


APC 10x4.7


SuperSimple 18 amps

Available From Hobbyking


25C 2200mAh

Can be flown with much heavier packs also

Landing Gear

Align T-Rex 450 Helicopter

Available From Hobbyking (HK450)

Flight Video

A brief flight video of the short armed quad


A quad is simply described as 4 arms with motors at each end that are secured by a center plate, the center plate also has the battery and landing gear attached. Quads are simple aircraft that use electronic stabilization to account for the fact they have no natural aerodynamic stabilization qualities.

It is generally cheaper to construct a frame from easily sourced items than buy something pre-made, additionally while some low cost frames do exist many are not that robust and some have design flaws that affect the flight characteristics.

To build the either the short or long armed quadcopter airframe you will need:

  1. Short Armed Quadcopter
    1. Aluminum tubing, 4 x 265 mm lengths
  2. Long armed Quadcopter
    1. Aluminum tubing, 4 x 390 mm lengths
      1. 20mm square aluminum tube
      2. You can get 12.7mm aluminum tube from local aluminum suppliers, I paid $16 for 6 meters.
  3. Plywood (high quality) for the center plates - between 3 and 5mm
    1. You can tell if its high quality ply wood because all plys will be of even thickness instead of two good plys and filler material in between.
  4. Hand Drill or Drill press
    1. You will need 3mm and 4.5mm drill bits.
  5. Fasteners
    1. The best place to buy fasteners is from a fastener specialist, they have a larger range and are generally cheaper. Stainless Steel grade 304 is the best grade to get because it is the strongest of the consumer grade metals. If you do decide to use stainless steel, try not to mix stainless and zinc, as they react slowly over time.
    2. 34 x M3 30mm steel bolts (longer if using aluminum tube larger than 12.7mm)
    3. 10 x M3 50mm steel bolts
    4. 34 x M3 steel nyloc nuts
    5. 74 x 1/8" steel washers
      1. Why 1/8" instead of M3? They have a larger surface area.
    6. 4 x M3 threaded nylon spacers
    7. 4 x M3 nylon nuts
  6. Rubber grommets
    1. 3mm center hole.
  7. Double sided foam tape
    1. 4 x large enough for your ESCs
  8. Power distribution board
    1.  Build the double sided PCB version
      One option is to cut a small square of blank double sided PCB. One side is negative the other side positive. For a mini use about a 1/2" square. After you confirm everything works, either cover the exposed copper in liquid electrical tape, heat shrink, or simply plain electrical tape
    2.  Solder your power leads directly to eachother

      Make your own (the harness construction is shown a short way down the page of RCExplorer's build log) or buy one. Whichever you chose, twist the positive and negative pairs as best you can to diminish magnetic fields created by the current that flows through them.

  9. Landing gear
    1. HK450 landing gear works great, but any 450 size helicopter landing skid with mounting holes in the center should work fine.
      1. You will need to buy three parts to build the landing skids.
        1. Landing skid arms -
        2. Landing skid pipe -
        3. Landing skid nuts -

Center Plates

  1. Use the Center plate drawings.
    1. It is recommended to use the Oct center plate as they offer the most mounting options.
    2. If possible,  get them laser cut if you want them perfect
      1. If you want to make them cheaper use a drill and spade bits to cut out the voids.
        1. The voids do not need to be perfect but they should be as equal as possible.
    3. You will need 4 center plates or 3 if you are either not going to protect your electronics, or protect them in other ways.
      1. If you get your center plates laser cut order at least 6 of them so you have spares.


 Copter Control Centre Plates

These are plates found on RCGroups. They have been modified so there are mounting holes for the OpenPilot board suite.

To make sure these are scaled correctly, print from AutoCAD or another drawing program, not PDF, or the scaling will be off and the holes for the Copter Control board will not be in the right spot.

You can make these center plates out of almost anything, but craft plywood is the cheapest and easiest to source. use a reccomended thickness between 3mm-5mm (1/8" - 3/16") ply.

Standard Copter Control Center Plates

Tricopter Center Plate

Quadcopter Center Plates

Hexacopter Center Plates

Octocopter Center Plates

Drilling Templates

OP Drilling and adapter Template (PDF)

OP Drilling and adapter Template (dxf)


  1. You will need 4 arms, but you could make some spares if you want.
  2. Short Armed
    1. The arms are approx 8.5 mm longer than the furthest motor mount hole
      1. Drill the 265 mm arms in the following way (from center to end of arm).
      2. 5mm (3mm), 15mm (3mm), 35.5mm (3mm), 46mm (3mm), 223.5mm (3mm), 240mm (4.5mm), 256.5mm (3mm).
      3. The 4.5mm hole is for the motor shaft, the rest is for the center plates and the motor mount.
  3. Long Armed
    1. The arms are approx 20mm longer than the extended propellers so when (not IF) you crash, the arms will save the props.
      1. Drill the 300mm arms in the following way (from center to end of arm).
        1. 5mm (3mm), 15mm (3mm), 35.5mm (3mm), 46mm (3mm), 223.5mm (3mm), 240mm (4.5mm), 256.5mm (3mm).
          1. The 4.5mm hole is for the motor shaft, the rest is for the center plates and the motor mount.
      2. Make your arms and buy more aluminum than you need as you will probably need to replace the arms at some point.

Now you have all the parts you need, the next part is to put it all together.

Build Instructions

The following build instructions are based on building a Quad X. If you want to build a Quad + there should be very few things that need to change.

Step 1

Get an Oct center plate and mark front and back on it. In the below picture you can see F and B marked on the center plate. This will be the top center plate.

  1. What you will need
    1. 1 x center plate
    2. 1 x pen or pencil

Step 2

This step is optional but if you skip this step its advised you protect your electronics in another way. You could also use a 50 pack CD case.

  1. You will need
    1. 8 x 1/8" washers.
    2. 4 x 50mm M3 bolts.
    3. 4 x M3 Nyloc nuts.
    4. 1 x center plate
  2. Using the center plate you just marked, mount the 4 bolts pointing upwards, with washers on each side.
  3. See below photo for more information
  4. The design  has since changed and only uses 3 bolts so as not to block the USB port

Step 3

Connecting the arms with the center plates.

  1. You will need
    1. 24 x 1/8" washers
    2. 4 x 50mm M3 bolts
    3. 8 x 30mm M3 bolts
    4. 12 x M3 Nyloc nuts
    5. 2  x center plates one of them being the one you just marked for front and back.
    6. 4 x short or long arms which have been pre-drilled.
  2. Mount bolts using the following photos as a guide.
    1. Orientation is important.
    2. All photos have been taken from the top of the quad.
  3. The design has since changed and uses the second holes from the end instead of the end holes on the arms. This allows the mounting of  the OpenPilot board on 2 layers of foam which allows for better reduction in vibration transmission.


Step 4

Mounting the PCB power distribution board.

  1. You will need
    1. 4 x 30mm M3 bolts
    2. 4 x 1/8" washers
    3. 4 x M3 Nyloc nuts
    4. 4 x M3 (inside diameter) rubber grommets.
  2. Mount the PCB using the following photos as a guide. All photos are looking at the bottom of the quad.


Step 5

Once you have mounted the power distribution board, you way want to solder any devices that require power to it. See below photo for an example of a soldered BEC to the power distribution board. The thin black and red wires are for the BEC.

Step 6

Mounting the base nyloc nuts.

  1. You will need
    1. 4 x M3 Nyloc nuts

These nuts are used as a platform for mounting the bottom center plate. The nuts should be mounted so they are equal in height to the neighboring 30mm bolts.

Use the following photos as a guide. Photos taken from the bottom of the quad, looking from the side.

Step 7

Mount the base center plate

  1. You will need
    1. 4 x M3 Nyloc nuts
    2. 8 x 1/8" washers

Use the following photos as a guide. All photos taken from the bottom.

The photo on the left is before the center plate is mounted and without the PCB wiring harness attached so you can see the washers. The photo to the right is with the bottom center plate mounted.

Step 8

Mount the landing gear.

  1. What you will need
    1. 2 x M3 50mm bolts
    2. 2 x 1/8" washers
    3. 2 x M3 Nyloc nuts

Use the following photos as a guide. All photos taken from the bottom.

The left of the photo is the front of the Quad.

Step 9

Mount the motors

  1. What you will need
    1. 8 x M3 30mm bolts
    2. 8 x M3 Nyloc nuts
    3. 16 x 1/8" washers

The motor mounts are spaced from the frame using 1 x 1/8" washer per bolt. You can see the washers in the photo on the left between the motor mount and the arm.

Use below photos as a guide.

Step 10

Mounting the ESCs

  1. What you will need
    1. 4 x double sided foam
    2. Electrical tape
      Mount the tape between the ESCs and the arms, leaving enough slack in the power cables to the ESCs for some flex. Secure the ESCs using electrical tape.

Use below photos as a guide.


Step 11

Mounting the nylon spacers for the CopterControl board.

  1. What you will need
    1. 4 x nylon spacers
    2. 4 x nylon nuts

Use below photos as a guide. The Nylon nuts are attached to the spacers in the below photo.

Step 12

This step should be skipped if you did not do Step 2 or you want to wait until you have mounted your electronics.

Mounting the top center plate

  1. What you will need
    1. 8 x M3 Nyloc nuts
    2. 8 x 1/8" washers
    3. 1 x center plate


  1. Screw down 4 of the nyloc nuts so they are about 8mm down the bolts and their base is facing upwards.
  2. Place 4 x 1/8" washers on top of the nuts
  3. Place the center plate over the bolts
  4. Screw on the remaining 4 nyloc nuts to fasten the center plate in place.

Use below photos as a guide. Some of the electronics were already mounted in this photo but the OpenPilot board was not.

You now have a finished quad. Have fun flying!!

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