NAVI - "Hey, listen!"

Pocket Sized, 3d Printable, Coaxial Scout Drone

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Navigational Aerial Vehicle Imager, or NAVI for short, is a coaxial, pocket sized (well, I have rather large pockets. Exact dimensions are 200x80mm), 3d printable UAS, that is designed to be cheap, modular, rapidly deployable, and most importantly, extremely portable. It only uses a cyclic swashplate system, rather than cyclic and pitch. This simplifies the mechanism greatly, and allows for a much smaller size. Altitude and yaw control is achieved through varying the RPM of the motors, just like your average multirotor.
The uses range from SAR operations, to battlefield scouting, to just every day aerial videography/photography, in a much smaller package.

Update: 8/8/2017: NAVI is a finalist for the Hackaday Prize! Thanks everyone for all the help and and ideas thus far :) Cheers!

I originally started building 'drones' about 4 and a half years ago, before they were called drones. Autonomous platforms that carry cameras and have a lot of practical use, compared to your usual model aircraft.

Since then, I've always had this thing about trying to make them very small, and very portable. First I started with a folding quad that was still rather large and heavy, but it all fit more or less into a single backpack.

Then I started working on the Maviclone, late last year. As the name implies, it took a fair bit of inspiration from the DJI Mavic Pro.

There were other projects along the way, but these are the most notable, showing major progression in making things smaller and lighter.

And now, NAVI. NAVI is something completely different. No arms to fold out, no bolts to tighten in order to lock said arms in place. You dont need to place it on the ground in order to initialize and take off.

You pull NAVI out of your pocket, hold it in the air, and hit the take off button. Thats it. To retrieve it, you do the inverse. Its simple, its small, and its fast. All traits that are extremely desirable for a search and rescue volunteer, who doesnt want to carry anymore gear than necessary.

Assembled 4-30-2017.123dx

These are NAVI's 123D Design files as of April 30th 2017. They have not been flight tested and it is not yet recommended to print them. I will update with flight proven designs at a later date.

123dx - 2.50 MB - 05/01/2017 at 03:27


  • 2 × 2213 920kv brushless motors with built in or matching ESCs
  • 2 × 9g "micro" servos
  • 2 × Carbon fiber folding propellers
  • 99 × Assorted M3 bolts and nuts (Amount and sizes to be determined)
  • 1 × Set of printed parts

View all 8 components

  • Almost ready!

    Glytch07/19/2017 at 22:04 0 comments

    This will likely be the last project log prior to the end of the Wings Wheels and Walkers contest. The hardware is pretty much ready for a spin up test, and depending on how that goes, Ill fit the flight controller and try a flight test. However it has been exceedingly hot outside here lately, and I dont feel comfortable testing this inside, so I'm not sure Ill be able to test it before the 24th.

    I will get a video put together today or tomorrow, explaining the mechanism (at least as well as I can) and point out a few things that still need worked on.

    Anyway, good luck to all entries in the Hackaday Prize :)

  • Some significant progress has been made

    Glytch06/20/2017 at 04:06 0 comments

    Apologies again for the long overdue update. Some significant assembly progress is being made, but NAVI still is not ready for a flight test quite yet.

    Things left to do is get another set of 2.5mm linkage balls (ordered but shipping from China >.<), design an avionics and battery mounting plate, assemble the rest of the cable harness, and configure the flight controller. Below is a picture of the project as it currently sits, however. Cheers :)

  • Waiting game...

    Glytch05/10/2017 at 18:08 0 comments

    Sorry for the lack of updates everyone. I figured since Hackaday just featured me (massive thanks! :D), I should give a bit of an update as to what's going on. Admittedly, progress slowed to a near stand still for a short time, here's why:

    So, swashplate linkages. These linkages are one of the most critical components for making this build work. I tried and tried, multiple iterations, designs, and permutations, to make 3d printable versions of these. While I *believe* its possible, it will take a lot more work. For the time being, in order to hopefully get a test flight in by the Wheels, Wings, and Walkers contest that Ill be entering in, I've ordered TREX Helicopter brand linkages and balls. These are proven reliable and smooth, and should be more than adequate for NAVI. I'm now just waiting for those to show up, ETA is Monday or Tuesday (5/15, 5/16)

    Once I have those in hand, all that's left is to mount them up and adjust them. After that, print the avionics and battery sled to hold those in place, and a temporary 'tripod' landing gear, so I dont have to have my hands near the blades during the trial take-offs/landings. Thats about it, and we'll be ready for a test flight!

    Assuming the test flight goes according to plan: Any tweaks that need made to improve performance will be made, and then I will print the shell, mount the cameras (yes, thats plural, more on that later ;) ) At that point, NAVI Mk1 will be considered "Completed." (A project like this is never truly done...)

    What happens after that? Well I have a couple other highly portable, quickly deployable designs I want to play with. When those are out of the way, NAVI Mk2 development will begin. Goals for Mk2 is to integrate GPS and other sensors to facilitate full, proper autonomy. This requires a larger diameter CF center tube to carry the cables, which in turn requires a near complete redesign. I'm sure there will be other changes that I will make along the way, using the knowledge gained from NAVI Mk1.

    Thanks again for all the helpful comments, likes, and follows. Please keep an eye out for the test flight of NAVI, and my entry into the Wheels Wings and Walkers challenge! Cheers :)

  • More work done, more to do!

    Glytch05/01/2017 at 03:35 0 comments

    I have 3D printed a good majority of the parts, have gone back and tweaked them, and reprinted more. I've started assembly as well, and am aiming for a flight test the first week of May, sans the outer shell. I've uploaded the files as they are now, however I would discourage you from printing them, as almost any are subject to change prior to the test flight. Feel free to dig around and make suggestions however :)

    Below are pictures of both the partially assembled NAVI MK1, as well as the CAD renders as they currently sit.

  • Water Bottle Sized

    Glytch04/18/2017 at 19:36 0 comments

    I have been working more on getting NAVI's parts printed and assembled. This is a rather tedious build, with lots of small tweaks that need to be made, so most of the work isnt worth writing a log about, but I'm definitely still working on NAVI! Here's a more recent image (however not indicative of its current progress) of NAVI, compared to a tape measure and average 28oz double wall water bottle.

    You can also see the NCR18650B cell-based 4s pack I'm putting together to power this bird.

    Anyways, just a quick little update. Hoping for a test flight this weekend :)

  • Starting 3D Printing and Assembly

    Glytch04/11/2017 at 19:24 0 comments

    I've uploaded a Part 1 video on printing and assembly of NAVI. I've also decided to change my initial plan of using Black Widow 1200kv motors, instead opting for 920kv motors and external ESCs (they are however round, and the diameter of the motor, so I will make a custom adapter to mount them as if they were integrated,maximizing use of available space.)

    I've also gone through and designed 3d printable gears that thread onto the motor's shaft as if it were a standard prop, and will be testing those. If those dont hold up well, I'll either switch to a belt drive, or have the gears printed in metal or SLS nylon through shapeways.

    Just waiting on black ABS filament to show up, to be able to print the rest of the bits :)


    Glytch04/11/2017 at 19:21 0 comments

    I have been working a bit more on NAVI's CAD. The details arent too terribly interesting, and are just minor mechanical things. Here are some updated images. I will be ordering the motors (Using 2208 1200kv Black Widows with integrated ESCs), batteries (Going with a custom 18650 cell based pack, using NCR18650GA cells in a 3s assembly. Using these over LiPo as they can source the needed current and have a higher energy density.) the carbon fiber tube, bearings, and some other bits in the next day or two. Once those arrive, things get interesting :) I intend to do a video on putting NAVI together, or at the very least, there will be images of its assembly. This has been a fun challenge thus far, and should continue to prove interesting :) Thanks for all the love and support, heres to getting NAVI flying in under 2 weeks time, just in time for a family barbecue! :)

    There are still some more things to be designed/addressed, such as the motor mount, however they are pretty trivial. Just need to get the motors in hand for precise measurements.

    So far I have been able to maintain my 200mm length, 80mm diameter goals. Hoping I can keep it that way :)

View all 7 project logs

  • 1
    Step 1

    Download the required files (Not yet as they are still in beta)

  • 2
    Step 2

    Print the required components, and acquire non printable components

  • 3
    Step 3


View all 5 instructions

Enjoy this project?



Werner wrote 08/02/2023 at 18:50 point

Hello, what kind of experiences have you already had with your "Navigation"?
I have Parkinson's and need a smooth flying drone and not a sensitive one!
Question: Has anything changed in the materials?
How do you control your sat nav? 2.4Ghz or Bluetooth?
Werner,  I'm 64 years old and enjoy constructing.
Do you want to scale slightly?
There are also good ideas at:

  Are you sure? yes | no

Dylan Turner wrote 08/11/2021 at 17:10 point

It reminds me of the invention from the movie "Robots",h_800,q_75,strp/robots_wonderbot3_newrender_by_webgrafi.jpg?token=eyJ0eXAiOiJKV1QiLCJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiJ9.eyJpc3MiOiJ1cm46YXBwOjdlMGQxODg5ODIyNjQzNzNhNWYwZDQxNWVhMGQyNmUwIiwic3ViIjoidXJuOmFwcDo3ZTBkMTg4OTgyMjY0MzczYTVmMGQ0MTVlYTBkMjZlMCIsImF1ZCI6WyJ1cm46c2VydmljZTppbWFnZS5vcGVyYXRpb25zIl0sIm9iaiI6W1t7InBhdGgiOiIvZi8wYzRiMGI4Yy01Y2M5LTQ2OTItYjMyOS1kZTI2Nzc4NjBmMTAvZDFnOTBubC00M2I0NjViNS01ODZjLTRkYTYtYmIxZC03MWZhYTA5YTM1YjAuanBnIiwid2lkdGgiOiI8PTEwMDAiLCJoZWlnaHQiOiI8PTgwMCJ9XV19.ayA5c73ghT3XqV5_XR4JvqGdbfbpHyv15DGCB-FtVrc

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thatleisguy wrote 02/26/2018 at 15:20 point

Any updates? I would love to see this operate, even if it doesn't work as planned.

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Eric wrote 09/25/2017 at 07:57 point

Hi Glytch, How is going on with NAVI?

  Are you sure? yes | no

xfce wrote 06/24/2017 at 03:24 point

want to have a try^-^ . do you consider to share all stl format files and BOM on , BTW, there is the case of Sprite, link is

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Kristjan Berce wrote 06/17/2017 at 13:15 point

Can't wait to see the code because I have a strong feeling it will be pretty crazy. Just to program a quadcopter is a difficult task, I can't imagine having to make working software for this kind of drone :)

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EngineerAllen wrote 06/08/2017 at 19:13 point

looks heavy

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ActualDragon wrote 06/08/2017 at 20:00 point

depends on how and with what it was printed

  Are you sure? yes | no

EngineerAllen wrote 06/14/2017 at 03:22 point

Yes with what and how it was printed

  Are you sure? yes | no

kevin wrote 05/24/2017 at 10:55 point

hey this project has given me some inspiration.  Thanks! I don't build drones but I'm extremely interested in the system you're using for driving the two  blade sets .  If you're getting slip with the drive gears perhaps an adjustable gear opposite the motor for reinforcement.

  Are you sure? yes | no

robertncstrickland wrote 05/14/2017 at 19:00 point

will you be selling the finished product? 

  Are you sure? yes | no

Nick S wrote 05/10/2017 at 19:32 point

Hey i started something similar in the past when the Sprite drone was first announced, I kind put the project on hold when i became a dad. Your fresh work may be the inspiration i need to resume it.

I had problems with sloppy linkages and the control ams sticking at certain angles with 3d printed parts. So yeah you are right going with proper copter linkages. I originally started out with a printed gimballed swash, but ended up using a hirobo swash i had on hand. Your ball swash looks smashing. Keep up the good work!

  Are you sure? yes | no

Glytch wrote 05/11/2017 at 03:21 point

That looks great! Have you done any spin up tests on it? How'd the gears hold up, if so? That's one of my primary concerns right now :) 

  Are you sure? yes | no

Nick S wrote 05/16/2017 at 10:34 point

Sorry for the late reply! Yeah we span the thing, the gear were printed in PLA and the gears help up okay. I used a herringbone gear on one and a helical gear on the other with a view of increasing the surface area in contact. So i was just testing. 

  Are you sure? yes | no

Carl Mueller wrote 05/10/2017 at 18:34 point

Seems like you could simplify the swash mechanism.  Instead of having two ball joints that are linked to each other, why not just combine them into one?

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Charles Dean Modrich wrote 05/10/2017 at 18:05 point

Awesome project, please keep up with the updates. After the flight test and subsequent updates please upload the updated assembly asap!

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Glytch wrote 05/11/2017 at 03:24 point

Thanks! And will do! :D

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Danie Conradie wrote 05/09/2017 at 19:49 point

I like it! This is actually a perfect place for the underactuated rotor concept that was featured in on Hackaday quite a while back.

But the control system to apply this would be tricky.

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lukasgdanietz wrote 04/12/2017 at 23:27 point

I hope you keep on going with this proyect, i find it very interesting. Lets see where this interesting proyect ends. Good luck

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Glytch wrote 05/11/2017 at 03:25 point

I definitely have more I want to do on this, no worries of it stopping any time soon :) 

  Are you sure? yes | no

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