In this brief guide we will discuss the anatomy of a common drone, specifically a quadcopter which has 4 rotor discs and is one of the most common types around today. All quadcopters at a minimum have the following components:
A Frame which provides the main structure of the quad copter for all the other components to attach to. Frames come in different sizes and configurations which are suited to differing applications. Most common frames range in size from 80mm all the way to 300mm+. The size of the frame is measured motor to motor following the circumference of a circle drawn from the centre of the quad copter frame. This helps figure out the maximum propeller size which can be fitted.
A Power distribution board (PDB) which takes the electrical output from the battery and distributes the power to the other components. Most PDBs will also have outputs of 3.3 - 5VDC for other components and some even have a variable output transformer you can adjust.
A Flight Controller (FC) is the computer which controls the components of the quad copter and allows it to fly. It has built in sensors to detect movement and controls the motor speeds by sending signals to the motors via the Electronic Speed Controllers (ESC). The FC is the central hub of the quad copter which has inputs from most other components on board.
FCs are usually divided into two main groups: full size and mini or acro. Full size FCs have all the bells and whistles and support features like GPS way points, positioning, altitude hold and return to home functions among others and are larger than mini FCs. Mini or Acro FCs are physically smaller than full size FCs and do not have all of the extra features of them. They are mainly used in racing quad copters where their smaller size helps keep the quad copter light and agile, and the additional features would not be used.
The Electronic Speed Controller (ESC) takes input signals from the FC and uses them to generate electrical pulses to control the speed of the motors. ESCs also have direct battery voltage running through them to provide power to the motors.
The Motors provide torque to spin the propellers which generate thrust and allow the quad copter to fly. Battery voltage and propeller size are major factors when deciding which motors you should have. Motors are rated in kV which refers to how fast the motor will spin per volt applied to it, for example a 1000kV motor will spin at 1,000 PRM for each volt applied to it.
Propellers come in many different sizes and forms. They vary in blade diameter, weight, number of blades, angle of attack (the pitch of the blade) and construction material. Propeller selection mainly comes down to frame size, battery voltage and flying style.
The Battery provides all of the electrical power for the quad copter. They come in difference voltages, capacities and discharge rates. The nominal voltage of the battery is dictated by how many cells it is made from. Later guides will cover battery selection and attributes in further detail.
A Receiver (Rx) allows your transmitter or controller (Tx) to communicate with your drone and translate your stick movements into physical movement by the drone. Receivers and controllers must compatible using the same protocol, so always check to ensure they will work together.
Other components which may be fitted to a quad copter include:
See the image (credit: fpvdronereviews) for a basic design layout of a quad copter including pictures of the common components. We hope this brief introduction has helped you gain a better understanding of quadcopters in general.
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