If you're thinking of competing in this weekend's Drone Olympics in San Francisco, this tutorial will come in handy. Or even better, replace the AR.Drone's closed-source controller with the open source PX4, and make a real drone!
[Max Ogden] wanted the option to add sensors to his Parrot AR Drone. This a commercially available quadcopter which runs Linux. This makes it rather easy for him to use Node.js to read the sensors from an Arduino board. The use of the Arduino is merely for easy prototyping. It is only needed to bridge the drone’s serial port with a sensor’s delivery method, so just about any microcontroller could be substituted for it.
There are some hardware considerations to take into account. The manufacturer was nice enough to populate a 0.1″ pitch pin socket on the serial port (if only this kind of invitation to mess with hardware was an industry standard). But the device expects 3.3V levels so pick your hardware accordingly. There is one commenter who tried the project for themselves and found that the drone wouldn’t boot up with the Arduino already connect — he had to boot and then complete connections. Troubles aside this makes adding your own sensor payload very simple and you don’t have to wait until landing to get at the data.