How To Create PCB For Drone

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Designing and building your own custom printed circuit board (PCB) for a drone can be an exciting and educational project. With the right components and some basic skills, you can create a PCB to control motors, manage sensors, power components, and more for your drone.

In this guide, we’ll walk through the full process of creating a custom PCB for a drone step-by-step. We’ll cover:

  • Developing the circuit schematic
  • Selecting components
  • Designing the PCB layout
  • Making the PCB
  • Assembling components onto the finished PCB

By the end, you’ll have the knowledge to design, build, and assemble your own custom drone PCB for motors, controllers, cameras, and other components. Let’s get started!

Developing the Circuit Schematic

The first step is to plan out the electronics circuit for the drone PCB. This involves creating a schematic diagram showing the components and connections.

Here are some things to include in your circuit schematic:

Power Supply

  • Battery – Lithium polymer (LiPo) batteries are commonly used to power drones. Select a battery with the right voltage and capacity for your components.
  • Voltage regulators – Step down and stabilize the battery voltage for sensitive components like microcontrollers.
  • Power distribution – Safely connect battery power to all components.


  • Flight controller – This integrated circuit (IC) serves as the brain of the drone, controlling the motors and stabilizing flight. Some options are STM32, Arduino, or Raspberry Pi Pico.
  • Support ICs – May need additional ICs like motor drivers or sensors.


  • Battery connector – JST or XT30 are common LiPo battery connectors.
  • Motor/servo connectors – Connects motors and servos to controller.
  • Programming/debugging connectors – Allows you to program the microcontroller.
  • Other connectors as needed – GPS, camera, etc.

Other Components

  • LEDs for status indicators
  • Antennas for wireless communication
  • Buttons for manual input
  • Any other required electronics

Spend time thinking through all components needed before moving to the layout stage.

Selecting Components

Once you have the circuit schematic, it’s time to select the actual electronic components to use for the PCB. Here are some tips:

  • Microcontroller – Select a microcontroller that matches your processing needs in terms of memory, GPIO pins, peripherals, etc.
  • ICs/chips – Match the specs of any supporting ICs like motor drivers or sensors to your requirements.
  • Connectors – Pick connector types and sizes that fit with your battery, motors, and other connections.
  • Passive components – Choose appropriate resistors, capacitors, inductors, and diodes for your design.
  • LEDs – Pick LEDs in sizes and colors that will be easy to see.
  • Buttons/switches – Choose switches rated for the voltage and current they’ll handle.
  • Battery – Select a LiPo battery that can provide adequate capacity and maximum discharge for your system.
  • Other – Pick any other components needed like antennas, cameras, GPS, etc.

Choosing components with the right specifications prevents problems down the road. Consult datasheets and device libraries when selecting parts.

Designing the PCB Layout

With the schematic complete and components selected, it’s time to design the physical layout of the PCB. This involves carefully arranging components and routing connections on a PCB design software tool. Here are some tips for PCB layout:

Place Components Strategically

  • Group related components together (e.g. microcontroller and support ICs).
  • Place components with high power consumption away from heat-sensitive ICs.
  • Position taller components so they don’t shade smaller parts.
  • Leave space for connectors, buttons, LEDs, etc. to be accessible.

Create Power and Ground Planes

  • Use copper fills/planes for both ground and power nets.
  • This helps reduce noise and provides stable voltage across the board.

Route Traces Efficiently

  • Use straight traces in right angles when possible.
  • Avoid right-angle traces for high-speed signals.
  • Match trace width to expected current levels.
  • Minimize trace length for critical signals.

Include Power and Signal Decoupling

  • Use decoupling capacitors near power-hungry ICs.
  • Add capacitors between power and ground near sensitive components.
  • This filters noise on power nets and signal lines.

Add Test Points

  • Test points allow probing signals for debugging.
  • Place them near voltage regulators, microcontrollers, and other key nodes.

Review Design Rules

  • Fix any errors related to trace width, clearance, via size, etc.
  • This ensures manufacturability and reliability of the PCB.

Following good layout practices results in a robust, high-quality PCB design. Take the time to optimize the board layout before moving to PCB fabrication.

Making the PCB

Once you’ve designed the PCB layout, it’s time to get the board physically manufactured. Here are some options for making PCBs:

Professional PCB Manufacturing

  • Full-service PCB fabrication companies can manufacture custom boards.
  • They support features like multilayer boards, fine trace/space, specialized materials, etc.
  • This is ideal for complex or high-volume boards but can be pricey.
  • Some companies offer budget pricing for simple 2-layer boards with standard specs.

DIY Home PCB Making

  • DIY photolithography can create basic PCBs using UV exposure of photosensitive boards.
  • Limitations are lower feature size, only 1-2 layers, and chemicals involved.
  • Great for learning the PCB fabrication process and making simple boards.

CNC Milling PCBs

  • A CNC milling machine can directly mill out PCB substrate.
  • Allows highly customized PCB profiles but has lower resolution than photographic methods.
  • Small desktop CNC mills are popular for home PCB fabrication.

Consider your design requirements, budget, and timeline when choosing the best PCB making method for your project.

Assembling Components on the PCB

Once the fabricated PCB arrives, you’re ready to assemble the electronic components onto it. Here is an overview of PCB assembly steps:

Prepare the Workspace

  • Have a clean, well-lit, and well-ventilated area for assembly.
  • Use an anti-static mat and grounded wrist strap.
  • Organize small parts in trays and have required tools on hand.

Solder Components

  • Place components on the silkscreen side, matching their outlines.
  • For ICs, align the pin 1 indicator.
  • Solder each pin/terminal, checking orientation as you go.
  • Ensure solder joints are shiny and smoothed out.

Install Mechanical Parts

  • Press-fit any mechanical standoffs, buttons, connectors, etc.
  • Solder pins on connectors if needed.
  • Attach heat sinks over ICs using thermal epoxy.

Inspect and Test

  • Visually inspect for mistakes in placement or soldering.
  • Test board function using breakout wires or test rig connections.
  • Use multimeter probes to check voltages and signals.
  • Fix any issues before final assembly.

Working methodically to assemble the PCB prevents mistakes and ensures nothing is missed.


Designing and assembling a custom PCB for your drone gives you maximum control and understanding of the electronics powering it. By following this guide and using good layout practices, you can successfully create a PCB tailored specifically to your drone’s components and functions. With some testing and troubleshooting, you’ll soon have a finished PCB ready to be integrated into your drone for flight control, video transmission, sensor management, and other critical functions. Learning PCB design and assembly skills is very rewarding, especially when you see your custom drone board come to life!

Frequently Asked Questions

What software is used for designing drone PCBs?

Some common PCB design software packages used for drone PCBs include:

  • KiCad – Free, open source PCB design tool
  • Eagle – Affordable PCB design software from Autodesk
  • Altium – Advanced PCB design tool with extensive features
  • OrCAD – Powerful PCB design software from Cadence
  • DipTrace – Low cost PCB design software with good capabilities

Most of these programs allow schematic capture, PCB layout/routing, design rule checks, 3D previews, and generating Gerber manufacturing files. Advanced packages offer more features but have higher licensing costs. Beginners can start with free or low-cost options.

What manufacturing process is used for drone PCBs?

Professional drone PCBs are typically manufactured using a photographic process on FR-4 fiberglass material. This allows for double-sided or multilayer circuit boards with fine trace widths and spacing. Photochemical etching creates conductors by selectively removing copper from the substrate. Precision drilling machines are used to create the plated through-holes (vias) in the board. Multilayer boards require special lamination processes. High-end PCB shops offer advanced quality control checks during fabrication. For lower-volume DIY boards, methods like CNC milling or at-home photolithography may be used.

What components are most critical for drone PCB design?

Some of the most important components to focus on in drone PCB design include:

  • Microcontroller: The brains of the drone like STM32 or Arduino that handles flight control and stabilization.
  • IMU sensor: An inertial measurement unit with accelerometer, gyroscope, and often magnetometer for orientation sensing.
  • Motor drivers: ICs to control brushless motors for propulsion.
  • Power management: Voltage regulators, filters, distribution to properly power components.
  • Battery connector: Securely interfaces the LiPo battery to the PCB.
  • Debugging interface: Connector to program/debug microcontroller code.

Paying attention to these key components results in a robust, reliable drone control board.

How are components attached to a PCB?

The most common method of mechanically and electrically connecting components to PCBs is soldering. This involves using a soldering iron to heat solder pads on the board while applying solder to create a strong joint. For through-hole parts, leads are inserted through holes in the PCB before soldering on the opposite side. For surface-mount devices, the pads are soldered directly to contact on the underside. PCB assembly machines automate pick, place, and soldering for mass production boards. Press-fit connectors don’t require soldering. Thermal epoxy or adhesive is used to secure any non-soldered mechanical parts.

How do I test a finished drone PCB?

To validate a finished drone PCB assembly, start with visual inspection under magnification. Look for poor solder joints, damaged traces, and misaligned parts. Beyond this, test procedures include:

  • Power-on testing – Check that appropriate voltages appear where expected.
  • Function testing – Use breakout wires to connect to motors, sensors, servo ports and verify they operate as intended.
  • Input signal testing – Provide known inputs to the board and measure the expected response and outputs.
  • Motor testing – Verify the flight controller and ESCs can spin motors properly.
  • Sensor data – Read IMU sensor data like orientation and acceleration.
  • Flight testing – The ultimate final test is to install the PCB in the drone and test all functions during an actual flight.

Thorough testing at each stage catches problems early and ensures the PCB performs as designed when integrated into the full drone system.