AE Unit 6: Quadcopters

Small-scale flight and the development of quadcopters


 Download the Bug Bot Assignment

No discussion of flying machines is complete without considering the most recent advances in quadcopters and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). While most of our course is about fixed-wing aircraft, we’ll take this unit to look at quadcopter design and flying. Over the course of the unit, you’re expected to learn the following

  • How UAVs and quadcopters are used in the world today
  • What key components go into quadcopter design to make a functioning quadcopter
  • How quadcopters can be modified and adapted to increase functionality or stability

While many of the planes and gliders we’ve studied so far have required pilots on-board, UAVs and quadcopters are flown by remote control.  As you investigate flight navigation, you’ll go through three major steps:

  • STEP 1: Investigate the types of UAVs that are being used today
  • STEP 2: Build a quadcopter and learn to fly it
  • STEP 3: Design and build your own quadcopter from scratch

When you’re all done, you will have learned how quadcopters and other UAVs are used by professionals.  You also will have built two quadcopters and practiced flying them.


(10 pts) About 1 days

To start our work with quadcopters, we’ll look at how different unmanned aerial vehicles are used today.  We’ll investigate UAVs, drones, and quadcopters of all sizes before we narrow our focus on the kinds of quadcopters that we can build in our class.


(30 pts) About 3 days

Our first quadcopters will be from fully functional kits.  You’ll have the chance to build a working quadcopter by following some clear directions and making things work together.  The next step will be to learn to fly your quadcopter, and make careful notes about the function of each component on the quadcopter.


(30 pts) About 4 days

Now that we each have made one working quadcopter, it’s time to go back to the drawing board and develop our own quadcopters.  You’ll be given motors, a flight controller, and the freedom to design and build the body of your quadcopter however you’d like.  You’ll spend this part of the unit designing and building a quadcopter that can complete the Quadcopter Design Challenge.

 Download the wiring information!

 Download the designing information!

 Download the building information!

Part 1: UAVs Today

Learn about the role that unmanned aerial vehicles currently play in the world

How Quadcopters Fly

To get started with our unit on quadcopters and UAVs, we first need to understand how they work and how they’re being used.  You’ll start with D: missing some stuff


Take 1 full page of detailed notes on how Quadcopters and other multicopters work

 Take 1 full page of detailed notes on UAVs and Quadcopters and how they’re used today

 Have Mr. Benshoof confirm your notes on UAVs and Quadcopters



Cool Quadcopter Applications

What’s Due In Part 1: UAVs Today

  • Flight Notes
  • Application Notes
  • Mr. Benshoof’s Confirmation

Here’s what’s due in Part 1: UAVs Today

  1.   Take a full page of careful notes on how quadcopters fly
  2.   Take a full page of careful notes on how UAVs are used today
  3.  Have Mr. Benshoof confirm your notes

Part 2: Quadcopter Building

Build a working quadcopter kit

Quadcopter Diagram


Building things that fly is always fun.  We started our class with some simple paper airplanes, developed gliders, and have looked at computer simulations of planes.  Now it’s time to tackle the job of designing and building working quadcopters.  Unlike gliders, quadcopters will require some complex electronics to make things work properly.

In this part of the unit, your job will be to put together a working quadcopter. We have some complete kits to work with as you get things flying.  You’ll need to take careful inventory of the pieces it takes to make a quadcopter as well as their function.  When you’re up and going, you’ll practice flying and complete a navigation course.


 Take careful notes about the process and structure of your quadcopter kit and the function of each component

 Build your quadcopter following the directions

 Learn to fly your quadcopter and complete the navigation course

 Have Mr. Benshoof check-off your completed navigation course

Quadcopter Components


Quadcopter Assembly

Quadcopter Navigation

What’s Due In Part 2: Quadcopter Building

  • Quadcopter Notes
  • Build Your Quadcopter
  • Navigation Course
  • Mr. Benshoof’s Confirmation

Here’s what’s due in Part 2: Quadcopter Building

  1.   Take careful notes on the components and construction of quadcopters
  2.  Build your quadcopter following the instructions
  3.  Learn to fly your quadcopter and complete the navigation course
  4.  Have Mr. Benshoof confirm your navigation course

Part 3: Quadcopter Design

Design and build your own small-scale quadcopter

Quadcopter Design Challenge

Now that we’ve seen different applications of quadcopters, and even built a working one from a kit, it’s now time to design our own.  Taking the concepts that make quadcopters fly and applying them in our own way will be a big challenge.  Completing this challenge will require some careful planning, hard work, and persistent trial-and-error.

For this final part of the unit, your job will be to take the raw components for a small quadcopter, and use them to design and build your own quadcopter.  The model you design and build will need to be able to lift and transport special cargo, so your design will need to be reliable and easily pilotable.


 Identify components and plan your quadcopter design & construction

 Make a detailed diagram in your engineering notebook of the quadcopter you want to build

 Build and test your quadcopter

 Complete the Quadcopter Design Challenge

 Complete construction reflection

 Have Mr. Benshoof confirm your build & reflection

What’s Due In Part 3: Quadcopter Design

  • Quadcopter Plan
  • Build & Test
  • Design Challenge
  • Construction Reflection
  • Mr. Benshoof’s Confirmation

Here’s what’s due in Part 3: Quadcopter Design

  1.   Take detailed notes on your quadcopter materials and plans
  2.   Build & Test a working quadcopter
  3.  Complete the Quadcopter Design Challenge
  4.  Complete construction reflection
  5.  Have Mr. Benshoof confirm your build & reflection

Double Check: Unit Expectations

Check what you need to have completed by the unit deadline

The purpose of this unit is to give us a chance to explore quadcopters. When it comes to flying machines and aerospace design, quadcopters and other UAVs are probably the coolest thing around.  Here we get the opportunity to learn more about their construction and their application.  We also get the chance to design and build two quadcopters that serve navigation and cargo-carrying roles.  In this unit, you will get to explore what it takes to make quadcopter work.

Engineering Notebook:

  (Part 1) You should have taken notes on UAV applications and quadcopter components

  (Part 2) You should have documented your quadcopter assembly including the function of each piece

  (Part 3) You should have documented your quadcopter design

  (Part 3) You should have completed the post-challenge reflection

Building & Making:

  (Part 2) You should have built your quadcopter kit and flown it through the navigation course

  (Part 3) You should have designed and built a flying quadcopter

 (Part 3) You should have completed the design challenge task

Checkpoints & Quizzes:

 (Part 1) Mr. Benshoof should have confirmed your notes on quadcopter applications and materials

 (Part 2) Mr. Benshoof should have checked-off your completion of the navigation course

 (Part 3) Mr. Benshoof should have confirmed your final design and task completion