In our do-it-yourself project on building a quadcopter with the Pixhawk flight controller, we decided to add a little flair by painting the booms black and yellow. The custom look really got the creative juices flowing and we came up with this nifty way to make our own custom canopy out of a soda bottle! Now, instead of our quadcopter looking like a flying experiment we have one well dressed bird!
To make a custom canopy for your quadcopter or multirotor you are going to need at least two soda bottles. The first is going to be used to develop the template so this bottle can be tinted if you like. Once the template is developed we'll transfer the pattern on to the second soda bottle, which needs to be clear if you plan on painting it. When selecting your soda bottles, try to use bottles that don't have too much glue left behind after the label is removed or at least have enough area to allow you to work around the glue without it affecting the look of the finished canopy. Also, try to find bottles that have no abrasion marks from the manufacturers bottling process.
On the bottle to be used for a template, the first step is to cut a slit from top to bottom and then cut off the bottle neck and bottom with a sharp utility knife and a pair of sharp scissors. When cutting off the neck of the bottle, try to stay close to the opening to save as much of the curved shoulder as possible. In the photo below, we have cut two tinted bottles for templates and shown the cuts to be made with a dashed line on the clear bottle.
Next, trim away enough plastic to allow the bottle to fit between the booms of the quadcopter. In the photo below we pinned the bottle open so that you can see the template starting to take shape.
With that done, begin to fit the soda bottle onto the quadcopter and continue trimming around the booms (including any antennas) and the front until the soda bottle fits nicely (above photo). To get a nice even curve around the front takes a bit of practice, but don't give up! Even if you have to redo the template several times it will be well worth it in the end! When you are satisfied with how the template fits, fit the template over the clear bottle and trace the pattern with a felt tipped marker. To hold your canopy template in place while doing this, just use some low tack painters tape (below photo).
After tracing the pattern, remove the template and label it as, "MASTER CANOPY PATTERN" or something similar so that you can always make additional or replacement canopies for your quadcopter. With the template removed, cut out your newly transferred pattern with some sharp scissors or a utility knife. When the pattern is cut out, wipe away excess marker lines with a paper towel dabbed with a little methyl hydrate. If you don't clean off the edges the marker will run into the paint and spoil the appearance.
To give the canopy the custom look that we are after we are going to paint the inside of the pattern. By spray painting the inside of the bottle pattern, we'll have a nice shiny outside appearance as well as protection against any scratches. In order to protect the outside from any over spray, mask off the outside with some low tack painter's tape (above photo).
For the painting board we covered a piece of styrofoam with newspaper and set two pieces of 2x3 studs across to allow the pattern to be pinned open (above photo). For some extra flair, we ran a black pinstripe down the middle of the canopy using automotive pin striping and then gave the inside a coat of paint with a spray can (below photo). It is far better to use several light coats of paint rather than one heavy one in order to avoid runs. Just be sure to let each coat of paint dry completely before applying another coat. If you do get a run or two, don't worry too much about it, from the outside it will barely be noticeable. When the paint is completely dry, remove the canopy from the painting board and take off the painters tape along the outside.
You now have a very nice custom canopy for your quadcopter! To mount the canopy we used some double sided tape on the underside of the frame.