Rugged Carry-On Drone Case

Carrying or even checking drones on an airplane exposes the fragile mechanics to all sorts of opportunities to break. If the frame has been designed in a CAD program such as Fusion 360, it is very easy to create a decent rugged drone case tough.

Just project the outline and connect the corner points with a spline.

Then extrude the outlines of components such as the FPV camera, the gimbal rails etc at the right height.

The waterproof case has the right size to be taken on a plane as carry-on and allows to create additional layers to fit all required equipment. Please find the PDF version here: Quadcopter Case Foam.

Two Acoustic Panels, cut to length perfectly fit the top rugged drone case to protect the props.

Even though there are specific foam cutter available,  Kaizen Foam can be perfectly cut with a 1/4″ flat end mill on the Shapeoko or other routers at 1524 mm/min.

Watch out for:

  • Adaptive clearing of large pockets needs quite some babysitting though as the foam tends to wrap around the end mill.
  • Kaizen foam layers are around 5mm high. Try to avoid pockets to heights which would result in too little material left till the next layer
  • Align pockets with the height of the Kaizen foam (recommended 30mm)

6S LiPo Battery Value and Capacity Comparison

Flight time depends mainly on the drone weight. In order to get flight times above 1 hour on a single charge (as shown here), the weight has to be minimized. Typically the most dominant weight hereby is the battery.To identify the best battery I created a 6S LiPo Battery Value and Capacity Comparison.

While there are several arguments speaking for 6S, it added agility to the PhoDrone build and fixed the issue of sporadically maxing out motors.

Even though the 12000mAh battery shows the best value and density, its 266Wh are too high for taking it on an airplane as carry-on (FAA limit is 100Wh / battery, with airline approval two batteries up to 160Wh). Due to this reason the 6600mAh (147Wh) has been selected. According to the Frontier airline hotline there is no upfront approval required.

  • Value can be calculated by Capacity / Price)
  • Density can be calculated by Capacity / Weight

The diagram above is sorted left to right by Ranking = Cap /Weight * Cap /Price

See also 4S LiPo Battery Value and Capacity Comparison.

Long Flight Time (1h), Aerial Photography Quad, 770mm 17inch

RC Groups

Centerboard

The center board has been glued with HK CA glue (HC-50-175). A small frame with screws through the four beam holder holes kept the sandwich layers aligned.
Note: Better do large areas with this glue outside as it generates a fume.
Using nylon spacers and screws, the top and bottom sandwich were assembled.

Beams

The beams were machined with a 1/32″ flat end mill and cut to length in the last run.
M3 nylon screws lock the beams and act as breaking point when crashing.

Electronics

To attach the electronics to the center board, I chose two different approaches. Components which will not be used in every flight have been attached using Velcro. The other components were glued directly to capton tape I put to the center board. The ESCs were wrapped in capton tape to prevent short circuits. I hope the heat dissipation is reasonably low with the 30A ESCs.

Sandwich Glue

  • HK CA glue (HC-50-175)
  • Loctite Vinyl, Fabric & Plastic Flexible Adhesive
  • HK 30min Slow Cure Epoxy
  • 3M General Purpose 45 Spray Adhesive

Sandwich Bend Test

  • 100x10mm x 1mm CFK, 3mm Fill, 1mm CFK

CFK 1mm, 3k plain weave carbon, orientation parallel (0°/90°) to centerline
Fill +/-45°

Bend test showed best adhesion and no separation up to 6kg for HK CA glue (HC-50-175). All other separated well below this (usually at around 3-4kg). However glueing is tricky for large areas such as the center board.

Endurance

During the first flights, the flight time was reasonably high at a bit over one hour with 1555 props.

Crashing

Arms folded away during the first crash (I’d love to call it unplanned rapid decent though :-)) and the M3 nylon screws broke as planned, preventing damages to the rest of the drone.

Flight Time

With this setup, flight times above one hour have been achieved, even including the 180g 3-axis gimbal and GoPro.

In the diagram below various test flights for a 15″ 5.5 and 17″ 6.0 propeller were aggregated to show the effect the prop choice has on flight time.

Update: I’ve updated the battery with a 6600mAh 6S and the quad flies a lot more stable now.

Previously the flight recorder showed motors occasionally maxing out during sharp moves or wind gusts.

I’ll do some test flights and check the flight time. First flight was 2500mAh for 15min

Bill of Material

AmountDescriptionLink
6
rctimer 5010 360kv
NA
3
Multistar Lipo Pack XT90
Amazon
4
Flyduino KISS
Amazon
4
1760 Folding Props
Ebay
1
Flight Controller and Power Module
Hobbyking
1
GPS witd Compass
Amazon
1
Receiver
Amazon
1
Damping Balls
NA
1
Folding GPS Antenna Base/Black
Ebay
1
Lipo Voltage Checker
Amazon
1
FPV Camera
Amazon
1
VTX
Amazon
1
Telemetry Radio
Amazon
1
Skyfpv Video Switch
NA
1
OSD
Amazon
2
LC Filter
Amazon
1
FPV 3 Axis CNC Metal Brushless Gimbal With Controller For DJI Phantom GoPro 3 4
Banggood
1
GOPRO
Amazon
1
pigtail
Amazon
1
Silicone Wire
Amazon
1
FPV Antenna
Amazon
1
Transmitter
Amazon
1
Goggles
Amazon
2
Goggle Battery
Amazon

4S LiPo Battery Value and Capacity Comparison

Flight time depends mainly on the drone weight. In order to get flight times above 1 hour on a single charge (as shown here), the weight has to be minimized. Typically the most dominant weight hereby is the battery. To identify the best battery I created a 4S LiPo Battery Value and Capacity Comparison.

  • Value can be calculated by Capacity / Price)
  • Density can be calculated by Capacity / Weight

The diagram above is sorted left to right by Ranking = Cap /Weight * Cap /Price

See also 6S LiPo Battery Value and Capacity Comparison.