Nikodem Bartnik is a 15-time award-winning Polish maker in the Wevolver community. “I am maker so I like making things, making everything that is possible but mainly electronics, robots, programs (applications, games, and robots soft) for some time I also play with 3D printing,” he says. His designs have caught public attention with over 350,000 views on YouTube.
In June 2016, Nikodem began building his own drone, “Ludwik,” because he thought it would be an interesting challenge that would prompt him to learn new things. He made the drone, “completely by myself, including flight controller, pilot, program, and frame design.” Today, he says it is the project he is the proudest of because “literally everything in this project is made by me. It was a huge challenge for me, but I like challenges, I am addicted to them.” The project took over 9 months to complete, “mainly because of bad weather, rain, snow, and windy days,” he says.
Made-from-Scratch: How to Make Your Own Drone
“This project is not the simple one. You need some basic knowledge of Arduino programming, PCB’s and electronics to make it. If you haven’t done anything like that before I advise you to start with something simpler,” Nikodem advises. Nikodem began by buying the motors, electronic speed controllers (ESC’s), and a battery. Then, he designed and 3D printed his frame to start prototyping.
Flight Navigation Controller
He created his own navigation console, which brought the cost down from $50+ to $20. The console was a breadboard and a potentiometer connected with five meter long cables to an Arduino Uno on his quadcopter. The Arduino Uno communicates with the gyroscope and accelerometer. “It looked pretty funny and it wasn’t very safe but it provided me with the opportunity to test my drone and iterate quickly,” Nikodem says. Creating his own navigation console allows Nikodem to create any number of radio frequency channels for the console to communicate with the drone.
The custom design in the code and console meant that Nikodem would need custom printed circuit boards (PCB’s) to distribute motor power, pilot the drone, and control flight.
Nikodem says his greatest challenge with the drone was with the code for stabilization. “It wasn’t hard to write it,” he says, but he found difficulty in adjusting the bugs and removing the code. After one adjustment, he says, “I almost destroyed my room because of a bug in my code.” He ended up fixing his PID regulator, which was the problem, but he broke his 3D printed frame four times in the process. He eventually decided to buy a frame because manufactured frames offer more strength and rigidity than 3D printed frames.
A Maker’s Spirit
“You may ask why did you write your own program for it? Why did you make a custom pilot and PCB’s? Basically, because I can,” Nikodem says. “I like making things on my own and learning how they work. Thanks to this type of thinking, I’ve learned a lot about quadcopters and how they work, and I hope you do too.”