AR.Drone RC mod extends flight range to 1.5 – 2.5 kilometers

The flight range of the AR.Drone is limited because the wifi range is limited to somewhere between 30 – 100 meters depending on where you fly and whether you have line of sight.

The flight range of the AR.Drone can be drastically extended to 1.5 – 2.5 kilometers by using RC equipment. The 2.4 GHZ RC hack instructions describe how the range can be extended in full detail.

The actual flight range will depend on the RC transmitter & receiver used. According to the tutorial it has been tested to work with Spektrum DX6i and Spektrum AR6200 DSM2 6 Ch Rx Ultralite. The Spektrum DX7 with the AR6200 (2.4Ghz), Futaba 9CH with Assan module and X8R7 (2.4Ghz) and the JR790UL spcm Rx (72 Mhz) have also been tested to work according to the tutorial. You will need a 5 volt BEC (Battery-Elimination Circuit) to power the Arduino and the RC-receiver since the AR.Drone’s battery is 11.1 volt. This will cost you around $10.

The wifi signal is passed from the RC-receiver to the AR.Drone through a small Arduino compatible device called YellowJacket ($55). The YellowJacket is based on the Arduino mini and comes with on-board wifi. You will need an USB breakout board ($14) as well to be able to program or transfer the Arduino sketches to the YellowJacket.

This is not a cheap hack. You could buy an extra AR.Drone for what you will have to shell out for this hack. And you have to feel comfortable with a soldering iron, programming an RC-controller and command line stuff. Like most hacks discussed here this is not for the faint-hearted.

Experimental GoPro HD steady camera mount for AR.Drone

Photographer Bo Lorentzen has made a prototype of a steady ARdrone Camera mount for the GoPro HD by using a 3D-printer. The idea was that the gimbal would provide a steadier image. After some quick prototyping Bo came to the conclusion that the AR.Drone was too light to stabilize a camera the weight of a GoPro. Unfortunately the experiment did not work as he planned but you can get an idea of what he was trying to achieve from the video below.

How to separate foam and plastic of the AR.Drone top hull

In a previous post a hull mod was shown to accommodate an external camera. On the Dronescapes website you can also find an excellent write-up of how to separate the plastic from the foam parts of the AR.Drone with isopropyl alcohol and a dulled plastic knife.

After modding you can later put the parts back together with the tape from the AR.Drone Adhesive Kit or some similar double-sided tape.

AR.Drone 7-missile rocket launcher

It had to happen. Ever since I saw the so called USB-pins on the AR.Drone main board I’ve been wondering what could be done with that. One of the first things to come to mind was one of those USB missile launchers. But after seeing the ‘fantasy’ missile launcher experiments at the exellent DroneScapes website the USB missile launcher all of a sudden seem kind of lame.

For starters have a look at the 5-missile launcher video (9.7Mb/MP4) by clicking on the image below for some real fireworks.

AR.Drone Missile Launcher

And then DroneScapes even went one step further and built this intimidating contraption:

AR.Drone 7-missile rocket launcher

Remember these hacks are from the category don’t-try-this-at-home and might seriously harm you and your drone. The latter probably won’t be eligible for any guarantee whatsoever anymore after tryings something like this.

But without further ado head on over to the Dronescapes website for some background information on their remote-controlled 7-missile launcher AR-Drone hack. Unfortunately they never released a video for that one.

GoPro HD Hero 960 hull mod for AR.Drone

The video quality of the onboard camera of the AR.Drone leaves a lot to be desired. DroneScapes has done some serious modding of the AR.Drone hull to accommodate a GoPro Hero 960. Because it is a light weight HD-camera it is ideally suited to be used on an AR.Drone. In earlier hacks the camera was fitted to the top of the AR.Drone. This one is different in that it alters the shape of the hull body to fit the camera in the actual hull.

Hull modding

If your fingers are itching to do some serious AR.Drone Hull surgery you can prepare by reading the step-by-step instruction of this mod on the Dronescapes website.

Natural Kinect-Based Interface for AR.Drone

The Visualization and Graphics Group of the Dipartimento die Automaytica e Informatica of the Politecnico di Torino in Italy have made a natural kinect-based interface for the AR.Drone. It uses Flexible Action and Articulated Skeleton Toolkit (FAAST), PrimeSense NITE and OpenNI to interface to the kinect and DLL Drone to connect to the AR.Drone itself.

Leaning forward, backwards, to the left and to the right will make the drone move in those directions. Raising and lowering your left arm will control the drone’s height. Raising your right arm will make the drone take off as you can see in the demonstration video below.

Urbi running natively on AR.Drone now!

Psykokwak, who previously hooked Urbi to the drone, has now managed to get Urbi running natively on the AR.Drone. In the video below you can see how you can upload a tar-file to your AR.Drone. After extracting the tar-file you can start Urbi and control the AR.Drone through Gostai Lab. With Urbi running on the drone itself (instead of sending commands to it from a computer running Urbi) a whole new level of hacking your AR.Drone has become reality. For performance reasons streaming video from the drone has been disabled for now.

In the following video you can see how Psykokwak controls the drone with Urbi running natively through Gostai Lab.