The 10 Best Arduino Drone Projects – MakeUseOf

Build a drone controlled by Arduino, based on one of these high-flying projects.
Drones are aerial machines that range from micro drones to multi-rotor quadcopters. Sometimes a drone is even equipped with a camera, enabling the user to see and record the bird’s-eye view. There are many components that make up a drone; one of the most important is the flight controller, which is in effect the brain of the drone.
The Arduino development board is ideal for this purpose, even more so as there is a wide variety of models, from the tiny Arduino Nano to the beefier Arduino Mega, all portable enough for a drone’s design. In this article, we’ll explore some of the most impressive drones created with an Arduino.
The Drone Pi is a drone made with a MultiWii board based on Arduino. MultiWii is an an open-source software used to control multi-rotor drones.
It also utilizes a Raspberry Pi 2B and is controllable by two different devices: a smartphone and a remote control. While the MultiWii manages the four motors of the drone and distributes power to them, the Raspberry Pi is used for data gathering. This data can be sent to the MultiWii board.
There are many 3D printed frames available these days. However, in this build, the frame was used with recycled materials.
There are plenty of ready-made quadcopters on the market, but making your own drone will teach you skills that will allow you to further customize it.
The maker has created a series of tutorials. The first goes into detail on making your own flight controller with an Arduino Nano. Then you’ll learn how to calibrate and test the controller with the MultiWii software designed for controlling multirotor RCs.
After completing the first project, you can advance onto the maker’s second and third projects that take it a few steps further. This final Arduino 101 Drone tutorial goes into how to assembling the frame of a drone and putting all the parts together, including the Arduino-based flight controller.
Be sure to check out the second part, which goes into making an Arduino-based remote controller to pair the drone with. The maker also details the steps required in calibrating the electronic speed controllers (ESC).
Build your own autonomous drone that can follow you around! More specifically, the drone follows a user carrying an Android phone. It works by comparing the GPS location data of the phone with its own GPS signal.
This drone is based on a MultiWii controller which uses the same chip found on the Arduino Uno, the ATmega328p. So it’s possible to use an Arduino Uno instead. An ultrasonic distance sensor can also be found, which enables it to avoid various obstacles such as trees.
This is a drone that can deliver COVID tests (and potentially other medical test kits) to a person, without needing them to be in physical contact with anybody. It is handy as some people may reside in rural locations where a testing facility is inaccessible to them.
The maker uses an NXP Hovergames Drone Kit in their build, which also has a flight management unit. Since it uses an Arduino MKR GSM1400 microcontroller, an external GSM module won’t be necessary.
This quadcopter had a 3D printed frame and was created with an Arduino Nano clone as well as an HC-06 Bluetooth module. The maker has mentioned other alternatives such as the RF-Nano, Nano 33 BLE, Bluno Nano, as well as the Nano 33 BLE Sense. Also recommended are 55mm propellers.
Related: What Is Bluetooth? Common Questions, Asked and Answered
This quadcopter was programmed to follow a red ball as well as faces. It was built with a MultiWii controller, a Raspberry Pi Zero W, and a Pi Camera Module. The maker shows that the MultiWii can be programmed with the Arduino IDE and is recognized as an Arduino Pro Mini. It detects faces through the use of OpenCV and Python, so a Raspberry Pi is necessary in this build.
As its name suggests, this drone can be directed with a user's voice. With a flight controller based on the Arduino Pro Mini, the motors are controlled via pulse-width modulation (PWM) and connected to an Android mobile phone with a Bluetooth module.
The maker notes that the code analyses the voice command through serial reading and responds by controlling the motors. It can turn left or right, before going back to its original position. Therefore a gyroscope isn't necessary in this build!
This DIY quadcopter is capable of auto-leveling, so when a user releases the control stick, the quadcopter will level by itself. Although it is not a high-level flight controller, the code provided is simple and understandable, providing users with a starting point to build their own auto-level quadcopter.
For this build, you'll need a frame with a power distribution board, motors, propellers, ESC combo, LiPo battery, an Arduino Uno, an MPU-6050 gyroscope and accelerometer, a transmitter, and a LiPo battery charger.
Related: Fun Rugged Raspberry Pi Projects to Build for the Outdoors
This Arduino Uno based drone removes the need for an RF remote or GPS module. It uses an OpenPilot CC3D microcontroller and a camera to collect data and 2D video information. With a Bluetooth module, the drone can turn on and off as well as display live data through an Android phone.
It’s a drone that is controllable through brain waves! Using a MindWave sensor, an Arduino MKR1000, and code written in the Processing programming language, this drone is controllable with the mind.
By using the MindWave sensor and an Arduino, the maker notes that this build can read concentration, meditation, and blink states. Other brain wave sensors can be used too.
In this article, we've explored a number of drones made with the Arduino. Each drone requires a flight controller and some have incorporated a Raspberry Pi for computer vision purposes. Some of these drones are controllable by a remote control. Others have used less conventional methods such as a MindWave sensor.
Either way, they are all customizable thanks to the open source nature of the Arduino and MultiWii. Be sure to check out the documentation for MultiWii to make your own Arduino-based drone.
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Cherie is a Creative Technologist who joined MUO in 2021. She’s an avid maker and technical writer, with experience using Raspberry Pi, Arduino, Micro:bit, ATtiny, and ATMega devices as well as E-textiles, 3D printing, and KiCad. Outside of making, Cherie enjoys playing music and working out.
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