Building the 215 Hopper

As promised supplied here in is everything required to put a 215 Hopper together exactly as I have built it.

Please see the end of this article for an update regrading a mistake with the originally supplied brd file.

The digital assets can be found on YouMagine or Thingiverse.
There is nothing specific about the 3D printing requirements, 15-20% infill will do the job and a typical 0.2mm layer height is ok.
For the PCB’s I typically use Dirty PCB’s from Dangerous Prototypes. The brd file to submit is included with the digital assets. Options you will need to specify are 1.6mm thickness, color black (or your preference) and ’10×10 max’ for the size. Note that I have found some flexibility with this limit as this board is actually larger than 10cm in one direction, I got no questions when ordering my first batch (of which I still have 8 unused). The cost they offer can’t be beaten but do note that they are a bare bones sort of service so support is limited, what you submit is what you get.

Purchased Items

  • Naze32 Rev 6 Flight Controller (NextFPV)
  • FrSky x4r Receiver (NextFPV)
  • DYS BE1806-2300KV BE Series Set of Four CW/CCW Motors (NextFPV)
  • 4x ZTW Spider Series 18A Opto Lite (NextFPV) This could be considered overkill from a power point of view, I chose it for its svelte size and preloaded blheli.
  • MultiStar Racer Series 1400mAh 3S 40-80C LiPo (Hobby King) I usually start with 3 of a particular battery size but the more you get the more you can fly.
  • 5×4 Propellers (NextFPV) I like to use a bright colour (usually orange or green) on the front and black on the rear to help with orientation. 4 propellers are required, 2 CW and 2 CCW, but buy plenty of spares.
  • 500mm x 12mm x 10mm carbon tube (ebay) Cut in to two pieces, both 183mm long, there will be a short piece left over.
  • 5V, 500mA Step-Down Voltage Regulator D24V5F5 (Pololu)
  • 20x M3x8mm hex socket button head screw (ebay)
  • 8x M2x16mm torx socket screws (ebay) A generic M2x16 cap or button head will also work however for anything smaller than an M3 I find that a torx socket is more reliable than a hex.
  • 8x M2 Washers (ebay)
  • 8x M3 nylon nuts (ebay)
  • 8 M3x15mm nylon screws (ebay)
  • 10x 15mm round threaded standoffs (ebay)
  • Battery strap (Hobby King)
  • 16 AWG silicone wire (Black Hobby King, Red Hobby King) This size wire is the largest size that will fit through the wire slot on the power distribution board. It is also the same size as the leads on the battery.
  • XT60 male connector (Hobby King)
  • XT60 female connector (Hobby King) Purchase 1 for every battery. I managed to fuse the XT30 connector together, admittedly whilst running 5 motors on a heavier rig, however I think the upgrade is still a worthwhile precaution.
  • 2x JST-PH pre-wired plugs with sockets (ebay) for Vbatt and 5v connections on power distribution PCB.
  • Self adhesive rubber feet 25mm(L) x 5mm(W) x 3mm(H) (Aliexpress) These seem a very uncommon size but are available if you are prepared to wait for delivery. Alternatively anything that is 3mm thick can be used as a spacer. They are required as the battery wire penetrates the top plate below the battery.
  • 9x 160mm x 2.5mm cable ties (Hobby King)
  • 20mm heat shrink tubing (Hobby King) for the modified receiver
  • 10mm heat shrink tubing (Hobby King) for the modified ESC’s
  • 1x 1 pin crimp connector housing (Pololu) For SBus connector to Naze32
  • 3x 2 pin crimp connector housing (Pololu) For receiver power, SmartPort and Vbatt at Naze32.
  • 2x 3 pin crimp connector housing (Pololu) for receiver connection and 5v connection to Naze32.
  • 13x Female crimp pins (Pololu)

Note that a lot of the links provide, particularly for small parts, direct you to sources that are sold in bulk lots. For example the M3x8mm hex socket button head screw I have linked are sold in a lot of 100. As you only need 20 do not purchase 20 of the linked item, 1 bag will give you enough to build 5 215 Hoppers.

Custom Parts

  • 1x Left side pannel (215H 103)
    215H 103
  • 4x Motor mount bottom (215H 104)
    215H 104
  • 4x Motor mount top (215H 105)
    215H 105
  • 4x Tube clamps (215H 108)
    215H 108
  • 1x Right side pannel (215H 111)
    215H 111
  • PCB

Optional Parts

  • 1x GoPro session mount (215H 113)
    215H 113

Build Notes

This is not an exhaustive step by step for building the 215 Hopper but rather a collection of build notes in the basic order of construction.

  1. 3D printed holes for fasteners should be drilled out to their finished size after printing. This includes the 5mm holes for the frame standoffs (parts 103, 108 and 111) and the 2mm holes in the motor mounts (parts 104 and 105).
  2. Depending on the quality and accuracy of your prints you may also need to clean up the counter bore for the head of the M2 fasteners. This detail can be particularly critical as there is very little thread engagement in the motors and getting the thread started can be challenging. If you are using a hand drill for this process take it very slowly and carefully. It is easy for the drill to bite and get pulled in too far. Grinding a flat point on to a spare drill bit can minimize this biting problem.
  3. The PCB needs to be split in to its two pieces along the tabs. Side cutters and a file will quickly tidy up any leftover material. Also round over any sharp edges where wires, zip ties and the battery strap rest.
  4. Clean up any edges on you 3D prints the prevent the parts fitting together nicely. Likely areas that can cause problems in this regard are the knobs that fit into the slots on the PCB’s and the wedge between the side panels and tube clamps. The holes in the side panels should be a loose fit around the tubes.
  5. Solder the 5v regulator and JST sockets in place on the power distribution board.
  6. Shorten the signal/ground connectors from the ESC’s. I found if left as they are supplied there is simply too much bulk in the tight confines of the 215 Hopper.
  7. Solder the motor wires directly to the ESC’s. This will mean that the wires must first be threaded through the last window in each end of the side plate. As previously mentioned this is a bit awkward and one of the shortcomings of the design. You will want to have a rough layout with arms and motor mounts in place to determine the length of wire required.
  8. Once the two previous adjustments have been made to the ESC’s reseal them with heat shrink tubing before cutting the input connections short and soldering them directly to the pads adjacent to the mounting points. Ensure you have the ESC up the correct way to match +ve and -ve connections. The ECS’s can be secured in place with zip ties. As there is no support for the signal wires a dab of hot glue will prevent them moving and possibly breaking.
  9. Solder 16 AWG wires on to each battery terminal and route the wire out through the rear slot. Trim the wires such that there is about 10-15mm of overhang past the end of the board. Attach the XT60 male connector to the end being careful with polarity. You may wish to position a battery to determine exactly how long you would like the battery connector to be.
  10. Prepare the SBus and SmartPort interconnects. The SBus interconnect should have a 3 pin connector at the receiver end. At the Naze32 end, 5v and GND should be on a 2 pin connector with the signal wire on its own 1 pin connector. The SmartPort interconnect need only connect the signal wire to both pins of a 2 pin connector. Use the breakout wire supplied with the X4r, remove excess wires and add a short loop between the two pins.
  11. Prepare the Vbatt and 5v interconnects. The Vbatt interconnect (pictured at top) should have a JST-PH connector on one end and a 2 pin connector at the other. The 5v interconnect (pictured at bottom) should have a JST-PH connector at one end. At the other end either a 3 pin or a 2 pin connector will work, on the Naze32 I connect it to motor port 5. Double and triple check voltages and polarity are correct before plugging either of these in to the flight controller. I damaged a receiver because on the initial board revision polarity of the 5v was reversed at the JST socket. This has been corrected on the supplied board layout.
  12. Use the nylon fasteners to attach the flight controller to the appropriately marked PCB. Each screw comes through from the outside and is secured to the plate with a nut. The Naze32 is then stacked on top and secured with another screw. Prior to attaching it to the PCB install pins on the Naze32 rev 6 as follows:
    • Motor ports – 90° header on top side and pointing away from centre.
    • Digital ports – 90° header on bottom side and pointing towards centre.
    • Auxiliary ports – 90° header on top side and pointing towards centre. This header will also need to be a little higher than usual to clear components on the board. The easiest way to achieve this is to attach a connector before positioning the header strip.
  13. Positioning of connectors dictates that the x4r must be modified to fit correctly. For me this is not a concern as I only use SBus and usually dedicate a receiver to each model. After removing the cardboard housing trim to remove the top row of servo connectors (i.e. the row which SBus is NOT on). Snip the wires before the plastic so that the plastic can give whilst you are cutting it, this will prevent splitting through the bottom row. The remaining connectors may need to be bent down slightly to dip under the ESC connectors on the flight controller. Once modified seal the receiver with heat shrink, you may need to cut a small window for the Smart Port connector. Zip tie it in place on the same board as the flight controller.
  14. It is easiest to assemble the frame upside down. The power distribution board is the top panel, the receiver and Naze32 are on the inside of the bottom pannel.
    Put the battery strap in place around the power distribution board
    Push the standoffs in to their holes and loosely fasten them to the power distribution board with screws. Put the arms roughly in place, the friction on the standoffs should be enough to keep everything in place.
  15. I found the easiest way to get the motor mounts on to the tube was to first screw the two pieces on to the bottom of the motor (do not tighten but ensure there is a couple of turns of thread engaged) before sliding the clamp on to the end of the tube.
  16. Connect the ESC’s, 5v and Vbatt to the flight controller then roll the bottom board over on to the bottom of the frame, poke the antennae out a couple of the side windows whilst tucking all the wires into the frame.
  17. When closing up the body be careful that no wires are pinched between the side panels and the PCB’s. Before locking everything down ensure that the arms are centered (measure from the side of the PCB to the inside of the motor mount) and that the motors are vertical. Rather than simply eye balling this put your propellers on and ensure the tips meet at the same level. Remove your propellers before connecting any power.
  18. Position 4 sticky feet around the battery wire penetration slot and battery strap to support the battery.

215H2-2

Configuration

My flight control software of choice is CleanFlight. When you first connect to CleanFlight there will be a number of setup changes to make. As a starting point change the following:

  • Enable Serial RX on UART2
  • Receiver Mode RX_SERIAL
  • Serial Receiver Provider SBUS
  • ESC/Motor Features Enable ONESHOT125
  • Minimum Throttle 1040
  • Maximum Throttle 1900
  • Battery Voltage Enable VBAT
  • Other Features Enable SOFTSERIAL and TELEMETRY
  • Enable SmartPort and SOFTSERIAL1.

On the PID Tuning tab:

  • PID Controller MultiWii (I found that the Naze32 was struggling with LuxFloat whilst SoftSerial was enabled)
  • ROLL rate 0.4
  • PITCH rate 0.4
  • YAW rate 0.52

Setup auxiliary switches on the Modes tab as you would like. I typically assign a switch to ARM and a 3 position switch to ANGLE/HORIZON/RATE.

You will then need to connect a battery (no propellers attached!) to ensure everything on the receiver tab is coming through correctly.

From here all the usual maiden flight checks and safety procedures apply.

If you have any questions about the build or would like more images or information about something specific feel free to leave a comment here, visit the contact page or leave a comment on either the YouMagine or Thingiverse pages.

If you build a 215 Hopper I would love to see the results. I have set up a form where you can tell me how it went and let me know where I can find some photos of your work.
Build Form

Update 1:
It has been brought to my attention that the original brd file that I upload had a fault on the vbat connector. The ground trace from said connector did not reach the main ground plane. Now uploaded is revision 2 of the board with this problem corrected.
My apologies to anyone who has already made the board. You will still be able to fly with it but you will need to forgo the connector for vbat and connect wires directly to the same pads as the battery leads (mind the polarity), or leave them off all together (mind you don’t over discharge your batteries). I have ordered a new batch myself so if anyone has already made boards and would like a corrected replacement get in touch.

215 Hopper – GoPro Mount 1

Just a quick update this evening. Shown here is is the first draft of a mount for the GoPro Hero4 Session on my 215 Hopper. I will need to check for propellor clearance on the side of the mount, there is clearance to the plastic but possibly not enough for a strap. If that does turn out to be problematic then I have an idea in mind for a plastic clip over the top.215H-14 215H-15

Also on the cards are two other ideas for less typical mounting positions that should both provide an interesting perspective.

215 Hopper Sneak Peak

It has been a while since my last update. Primarily due to the holiday season followed closely by an international getaway which spanned several weeks (some photos from my adventure will appear here in the near future). Since my return I have started to put together the 215 Hopper. It is not quite complete yet, there are still some wiring details to complete/tidy up however it is close as can be seen below. After the maiden flight I will put together a full write up on the parts, build, what I’ve learnt and how it has worked out.

215H-10

This progress also means that the Spidex 220 has officially been decommissioned.

215 Hopper Ready For Build

Thanks to my friend over at Steelcity Electronics I now have all the required 3D printed pieces on hand to build my 215 Hopper Quadcopter. Unfortunately I was a bit distant from the printing process as our schedules simply didn’t overlap at this time of year. I had hoped to have a closer look at it and learn a bit more throughout the process. That will Have to wait for next time. There is some cleanup and finishing work required as part of the build process but that was by design to ensure a nice fit.

215H-1

Also shown in the photo above is the printed circuit board as received from DirtyPCBs. They are my go to for prototype PCB’s at the moment as their prices and options really can’t be beaten so check out what they have to offer. I will also let you know that the 10cm x 10cm size they state as the limit for the higher price point is not in fact a fixed limit. This board (fabricated as a connected pair as shown) had overall dimensions of approximately 15.5cm x 8.5cm which is just over 130cm². Thats an extra 30% more area that the quoted size of 10cm x 10cm and they were made without a question or hold up.

215H-2

This was the first time I produced connected boards. DirtyPCBs is particularly suited to this as they will happily cut internal profiles/slots at no extra cost. The snap tabs drilled with small holes approach worked very well and the edges clean up easily and quickly with a small file. I have found a couple of small errors on the board but no show stoppers thankfully.

Next up will be a full bill of materials and build log. If everything works out then I will also supply the files for 3D printing should anyone wish to duplicate what I have created. That however (and unfortunately) will have to wait several weeks.

VersaCopter Motor Mounts

Through the cumulative effect of multiple crashes and initially over tightening I managed to snap one of the G4 plates that make up the motor mount tube clamps on the Flite Test VersaCopter. Unfortunately at the time I ordered the crash kit for the VersaCopter it didn’t twig that these plates were sold separately. As such I was faced with either making a very small order with Flite Test for replacements or coming up with my own solution.

I took this as an opportunity to test my tube clamp motor mounting method and the folks over at 3dprint-au.com both of which are critical elements of the MultiChase project. I knocked up a very quick model of a direct replacement part for the Flite Test designed tube clamps and sent it off for printing. 3Dprint-AU use an SLS printer which I hope will provide better dimensional accuracy and a more homogeneous structure than a FDM style printer.

VC-13

The results are not as spot on as I expected but I generally found the parts are oversize rather than undersized. For example the bottom edge of the clamp, as shown above on the right, is raised rather than rounded as designed. A quick touch up with sandpaper (applied only to the motor side) brought the overall measured height down to the designed number. Also interesting to note here is that the ‘black’ material offered is actually just the white material dyed black on the outside. I’m not sure of the specifics of this process, if it is done by the print head or if it is done as a post process but it is something to bear in mind.

VC-10

To ensure a nice clean holes for the mounting bolts I actually printed the hole under size and drilled them out as appropriate, they are shown here as printed.

VC-11

The installation process was simpler than the flight test motor mounts as there are less pieces to hold together. I also think it looks cleaner than the original pieces.

VC-12

Strength wise I have no doubt that this well be less susceptible to the same style of failure as the original design. Everything is nice and snug with no visible deflection when tightening. That does however raise some concerns about the next failure. My mounts fit much more tightly around the tube and seem much less inclined to rotate as the originals would in a crash. This could make the frame itself or the arm tubes more vulnerable. Despite the much bulkier appearance these mounts only add 1.7g per corner. Each printed half weighs 4g for a total of 8g per corner whereas the Flit Test design weighs in at 6.3g per corner.

Now it’s time to get this rig back in the air, it has been several weeks since I broke flew it last.

215 Hopper – Print Ready

Visually not a lot has changed since my last update. In preparation for printing most changes have been minor dimensional tweaks. Generally speaking the clamping interfaces are opened up slightly to ensure they go together easily and actually clamp to the tube. Fastener holes are closed up slightly to allow drilling of a clean hole after printing.

215H-09

One of the last unanswered questions I had with this design was where the battery connector would join to the power distribution board and how it would generally fit into the layout. My initial plan was to run it out through a grove in the outer surface of one of the end clamps. The reality of this is that there is very little space between tube and the plates on each side, certainly not enough for 16AWG silicone wire (as fitted to the battery) without squashing it. The plan instead is to run the connecting wires out through one of the slots which can now be seen in the top plate above. The battery is raised with the self adhesive rubber ‘feet’ stuck on top. Also now visible in the image above are the cutouts to accommodate a battery strap or two.

215H-10

I’ve also done a lot of the work getting the top board laid out. My approach with this is more ‘suck it and see’ than design perse. I’ve not checked current carrying capacity of via’s or the +ve and -ve planes. The board is laid out with:

  • Direct connections for battery power to the escs
  • A place for the 5v step-down
  • 5v accessory connection points front, rear and centre
  • JST connector for 5v connection to the flight controller
  • JST connector for battery voltage to the flight controller.

I’ve been debating how integrated to make the bottom board (hosting flight controller and receiver). I think it will probably be a better choice to keep it simple and mount these components with fasteners or double sided tape rather than trying to solder them in permanently. I am however a bit of a sucker for the clean look of soldering them in directly as impractical as this is for servicing. Stay tuned for an update on this front, I will need to make a decision in short order as I will now be waiting on fabrication of these for assembly.

215 Hopper Parts

With another 40 minutes on the clock I have added the final detail to the chassis structure for the 215 Hopper. All that remains now for these parts to be ready for printing is some minor tweaks to be sure everything will fit together.

215H-06

In order to positively hold the ends of the side pieces I have added a small tab to the top and bottom. These tabs will snap in to slots cut into the top and bottom plates. My plan initially was for the side pieces to key into the centre clamp pieces but in order to achieve this in a robust manner I was concerned I would have to give up to much of the clamping material. Also of note are the tapered faces I have added to the join surface. This change in shape of the seam should help secure the side plates in a longitudinal direction.

215H-07

When assembled the design makes for quite a tidy little package if I do say so myself.

215H-08

Laid out flat, this is what a full ‘kit’ of the core printed parts will look like. There will still be other non-critical items such as the antenna tube mounts to add to this print list.
To complete the build of the chassis the following pieces will also be needed:

  • Top & Bottom Plates
  • 12mm tube (any will work but I’ve got some carbon tube on hand which was purchased for the MultiChase Project)
  • Fasteners