I did a dumb thing - small, cheap Rover testbed

I keep beta testing and gaining curiosity and interest…and I do so via a 21 horsepower zero turn lawnmower with 48" worth of spinning blades. So perhaps I did a smart thing…

I have a spare Cube Orange that I once wired with a shorted ESC, so I’m not 100% certain that it’s reliable for flight or a more critical project, but it does appear to function correctly.

So I bought this very inexpensive Bexzgar1 RC truck, replaced its ESC with a HobbyWing 1080 ESC, wired up the spare Cube with a FrSky R-XSR receiver, the HolyBro GPS unit that I used last year as a mower proof of concept test, and an ESP32 for basic telemetry (more on that in another post at a later date), and voila! I now have a little testbed Rover.

image rover 0

The additional electronics even fit under the gaudy stock body :smiley:

image rover


Very nice! a great idea I think. Easier to carry!


I have a similar Rover I have been having fun with for a couple years. Crawler version.

It has a camera and 2W Vtx on it now :grinning:


Nice Yuri. I’ve been wanting to do this. Been having trouble finding something like the above crawlers but steers from the 2 powered motors instead of a steering system.

I can’t wait for some videos on this

There are not that many skid steer vehicles around unless you build it. It’s seems to be junk or very nice and not much in the middle.

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This chassis is around the same price point and would provide the skid steer drive system you want. If it’s anything like this one, which I was using for a Raspberry Pi teaching aid, the motors are the cheapest component, but they are adequate for a test platform.

I would even go with a cheaper tracked robot chassis without suspension. The suspension limits the payload and is a point of failure.
This one for example:

The plastic wheels are surprisingly strong. I use them on my amphibious rover (3kg+). I had to drive up and down a ledge multiple times at below zero degrees C to brake one of them.

That’s fair enough! The price point is certainly right :smiley:

I considered that one but with the dry dirt roads, grass etc around where I live and how its less efficient, was hoping for a 1/10th size with skid steer tire style. But like Dave says, there’s not much in between very cheap and expensive. I’ve been on the lookout for cheap electric wheel chairs on craigslist. Figure if I’m going to build something may as well have it useful, I’d like to put a box on top, trailer hitch… as I’ve seen on youtube and make it a utility rover.

Electric wheelchair motors are crazy powerful and often cheap! You’ll likely incur some expense finding powerful enough motor drivers, though.

I almost ordered some components for a wheelchair motor powered electric lawnmower before I went all-in and converted my gasoline powered zero turn mower.

Thank you all for narrowing down my shopping list. I need one of these, too!

Speaking of shopping lists, I recognize that using a Cube Orange isn’t exactly a cheap option. I happened to have one that I wish I’d treated better, so it’s now my testbed FC.

For 1/3 the price, if you still want an H7 processor, plenty of RAM, and a bunch of bells and whistles, I don’t think you can beat the Matek H743-Wing. If I had to buy an FC for this project, that one would’ve been a frontrunner. It has all the horsepower required for scripting and advanced features without the pricetag of some of the other H7 boards.

If you are truly on a budget, Holybro’s Kakute series will get you going.

If one were to splurge a little and move away from the Cube architecture, I think mRo’s Control Zero or Pixracer series might be worth checking out, but again, those aren’t exactly for the budget-minded build.

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Size and Modular design was the motivation for my new build. Doug


SPAM---- Small Property Autonomous Mower


I have all of these except the Control Zero. All good. I would buy another Matek H743 if I needed another FC.

That’s a beauty, Doug. I eventually want to have something like that do trim near fences and such. I’d like to have it very low profile where it can mow under the lowest board of a wooden fence, but that will be a tall order (pun intended) I think. I might have to make a mini sickle bar mower or something. Who knows if I will ever get to it anyway!

Looking forward to seeing yours in operation.

I thought I was upgrading my FC when I moved from a Pixhawk 1 to a Kakute F7. I then realized that it only had 1 MB of Flash and so didn’t support the full ArduRover builds. :anguished: I even built this home-made carrier board for it image
but ripped it out to put in a Cube Orange. So, it is begging for a home on a small rover.

But I do like the looks of the Matek H743-Wing.


Yes, I don’t buy 1MB boards any longer. But the Custom Build Server has breathed some new life into them!

I have the mini version of the board and it’s impressive. Talk about feature rich in a small package. And I think the price is about right.

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Doug, that’s some nice work. I considered building one similar for sure.

Is it up and running yet? Do the fixed front wheels drag a lot during turns?

What’s the electrical system like (I don’t see any significant battery, so inquiring minds want to know…)?

On the subject of flight controllers, I’m so tempted to order one of those Matek H743-Wing boards, but I don’t have a project in mind for it, so that seems wasteful. I’m wondering how it compares to the Cube series with respect to IMU accuracy since the IMU ICs are exposed, unheated, and not vibration isolated like the Cube.

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I don’t have a Cube but I’m sure they will all be compromised to some degree. Properly mounted (with isolation) I don’t have any issues with Vibration and that’s on a very light weight Mini version of the H743. The Tcal routine is there to compensate for IMU temp changes. Of course it’s algorithmic compensation so I suppose it can’t be as good as fixed temp with a heater.

Perhaps it just comes down to the use case but I’m very happy with the performance.

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