Drones have become increasingly popular and with good reason. They are great fun to fly and are now quite affordable. There are several possibilities for the budding pilot. You can buy a complete remote controlled drone that is ready to fly or, if you like playing around with electronics and building you own projects, you can buy kits. Either way you will (hopefully) end up with an airworthy remote controlled drone. A drone like this will have an onboard flight controller box (often called AutoPilot Module or APM) that receives input from your remote control, combines it with readings from onboard flight instruments like gyroscopes and accelerometers, and manipulates the speeds of the drone motors in order to perform the desired maneuvers. If you want an even bigger challenge you can decide to build your own onboard flight controller. You can then use it instead of a store bought ready-to-use flight controller together with a remote, or you can go all the way and make an autonomous drone that doesn't need a pilot with a remote to tell it what to do during a flight.
The Raspberry Fly is such an autonomous aerial drone based on the popular credit-card sized computer Raspberry Pi. I have been working on and off on this project for a couple of months now and thought I would share some of my experiences with others who might be interested in building their own autonomous drone. This will hopefully give me a chance to reflect on some of the design decisions I have made on the Raspberry Fly so far, and result in new ideas for improvements.
My background is as a computer scientist, but it is my firm belief that anyone with a good understanding of high school level math and the willingness to learn the rest along the way will be able to build an autonomous drone based on the Raspberry Pi or one of the other popular credit-card sized computers.
A word of caution though. Always be careful and treat your drone with respect. Some aspects of building and operating an autonomous drone are dangerous and can cause injury to yourself or others. So be careful!
Drones are fun but can be dangerous. Use any information on these pages at your own risk