Quadrotor History

Quadrotors have found widespread use in a large variety of applications including image/video capturing, optical inspection, video surveillance, and precision farming. The technology has reached an impressive level of performance and robustness and several high-tech companies are providing a large variety of quadrotors tailored for spare time and professional applications. Most of these companies entered the quadrotor market between 2004 and 2014.

However, the history of radio-controlled quadrotors with four electric propulsion units as the only actuators for control of the air vehicle can be traced back to 1996 when the author conducted first investigations regarding thrust requirements and controllability. These early experiments took place in Langerwehe, Germany and were continued in Lechsted, Germany (postal area 31) since 2000.

Several years later around 2003 I learnt that even earlier attempts to design an RC quadrotor have been made in Japan culminating in the launch of the Keyence Gyrosaucer E-170 in 1989.

Early Quadrotor projects

1996 : X-Copter, Wolfgang Niehsen, Germany
1999 : GizmoCopter, Flight Control Team of the Experimental Rocket Propulsion Society (ERPS), USA
2003 : Smartflyer, Hartmut Kaak, Germany
2004 : STARMAC I, Gabe Hoffmann, USA

Quadrotor suppliers

1989 : Gyrosaucer, Keyence, Japan
1999 : Roswell Flyer, Area Fifty One Technologies (AFOT), USA
1999 : Draganfly, Canada
2004 : Silverlit, Hong Kong
2005 : AirRobot, Germany
2005 : Microdrones, Germany
2007 : Ascending Technologies, Germany
2008 : HiSystems, Germany
2010 : Parrot, France
2012 : DJI, China
2014 : Yuneec, China

X-Copter Gallery

First frame (1996)

X-Copter v0 (1999)

X-Copter v1 (2004)

X-Copter v2 (2005)

X-Copter v3 (2008)

xc_tf xc_v0 xc_v1 xc_v2 xc_v3
First test frame designed for conventional brushed (Speed 700) DC direct drives. X-Copter v0 with Styrodur frame and brushed (Speed 400) DC direct drives. X-Copter v1 with carbon fiber frame, DC gear drives and piezoelectric gyroscopes. X-Copter v2 with shrinked carbon fiber frame, DC gear drives and MEMS sensors. X-Copter v3 with aluminium frame, brushless drives and MEMS sensors.

H-Copter v1 (2014)

QR v3 (2017)

qr_v1 qr_v3
H-Copter v1 with aluminium frame, brushless drives, MEMS sensors, GPS and LPC2148 controller. QR with 450 frame, AGM MT2216 BLDCs, FVT LittleBee ESCs, MEMS sensors, u-blox GPS receiver, and dual NXP LPC2148 / TI OMAP3503 controller.

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