Last Christmas, [bonafide] received a WiFi enabled remote control helicopter from his employer. The heli is an interesting bit of kit, able to be controlled with an Android or iDevice. Being the good tinkerer he is, [bonafide] took a screwdriver to his Wi-Fli Bladerunner Helicopter and reengineered the toy to use an off-the-shelf wireless router.
The protocol used by the Wi-Fli helicopter is closed source, but a few people have had their hand at reverse engineering this cool toy. Instead of simply controlling the helicopter over WiFi, [bonafide] wanted to add a few unsupported features like sending images from a webcam. This isn’t supported in the toy’s firmware, so after a valiant attempt at flashing new firmware, [bonafide] decided to replace the electronics with a WiFi router.
In the stock configuration, the helicopter receives commands from an RT5350F-based WiFi module. This module communicates to the servos and motors with a serial connection. [bonafide] replaced the WiFi module with a very small router capable of running OpenWRT. The new router was easily configured to send commands to the motors, and allowed [bonafide] to add a small keychain webcam to stream video back to his desktop.
Interestingly, the makers of the WiFli helicopter, Interactive Toy Concepts, are putting out a streaming-video version of this toy next fall. The current version of the WiFli helicopter may hit the Toys ‘r Us clearance bin before that, so if you’d like your own unmanned aerial drone [bonafide]‘s may be worth looking over.