New DIY Drones product preview: the PhoneDrone board for Android!

I hinted that the DIY Drones team had been working with Google on an Android-compatible RC interface board. Now that I/O is over, I can give the details. We're calling it the "PhoneDrone board for Android", and it's a way to connect any Android device (2.3.4 or higher) to the world of RC and UAVs.The board has 8 channels of RC in and out, with PWM-to-PPM conversion and multiplexing between RC and Android control. You just plug the Android's phone USB connector into the board and you have two-way communications with RC gear and any other board, such as APM.


That means that you can switch between RC control and Android control or mix the two. An example would be "fly/drive by wire". You steer your vehicle via RC, but an Android phone does the actual control using its onboard IMU. On a car, that would allow every turn to be a high-speed controlled drift, for instance (we may show something like that at Maker Faire).


Or, with a UAV, you might have the Android phone doing high-level image processing and object tracking, sending mission commands to an autopilot board such as APM. You might also want to use the phone's long-distance wireless instead of an Xbee for two-way telemetry.


This can either replace APM if you've got equivalent code running on Android, or compliment it with the Android device doing image processing or long-distance wireless comms.


Note that the pictures here are of an early prototype and some branding has been photoshopped out, pending final silkscreen approval.



  • 8 Input&output PWMs
  • Native USB host master (MAX3421)
  • Native USB slave (Atmega32-au)
  • Arduino Compatible
  • Atmega2560 as main controller
  • Atmega32-u2 as FTDI substitute and PPM encoder
  • Three spare serial ports to communicate with other boards (including APM)
  • Build-in 5V-2A switched power regulator (input range 6V - 36V)
  • Build-in 3.3V LDO power regulator 
  • Android TM compatible... 
  • All Atmega2560 pins exposed.
  • High quality PCB is ROHS/lead free, Gold immersed. 
  • Dimensions: 4" x 1.6"...
It will be available in limited quantities next weekend at Maker Faire at the DIY Drones/GeekDad booth, and then available at the DIY Drones store afterwards. Target price: $99.
More pics:


Views: 11325

Comment by Dano on May 12, 2011 at 4:48pm
Nice Chris. Will be interesting to see it implemented soon
Comment by Gerry Lichter on May 12, 2011 at 5:46pm
That is so hardcore. I'm actually drooling. How does it interface to the droid? USB? Did any of the Google engineers have a specific prepaid in mind for this project?
Comment by Darren on May 12, 2011 at 7:09pm
count me in!

Comment by Sandro Benigno on May 12, 2011 at 7:13pm
THIS is freaking awesome. I'm pretty sure that I need this to keep my lungs working from now on. I'm not kidding.
Comment by Jack Crossfire on May 12, 2011 at 7:30pm
Suspect the big problem is communicating exactly what it does, without videos.  It's not exactly an autopilot or a microprocessor breakout board or a transmitter, but something which uses PPM, PWM, phones, & has the word Android on it.
Comment by PeteD on May 12, 2011 at 7:55pm

Looks very cool. But can someone help me better understand how it all works?

So is it kind of like one of these but with all the control coming from the android phone? Does that mean the phone will be situated on the plane?

Comment by Rory Paul on May 12, 2011 at 8:47pm
So the idea is that somebody is going to develop a droid based AP and you will have one Droid driving the plane and another acting as a TX? What kind of link are we talking about Wifi, Bluetooth, Cellular? Not sure if I get the rationale behind this.
Comment by PeteD on May 12, 2011 at 9:05pm
So its also acting as an IO interface board for sensors other than the phone's IMU/GPS/compass, such as: Pressure sensors.....actually I can't think of much else...?
Comment by Michael Zaffuto on May 12, 2011 at 9:24pm
Think of it as an ArdupilotMega main processor board, that happens to have an integrated SPI controlled USB Host peripheral to connect to and use an Android enabled hardware platform as a coprocessor.  Android phones, dev boards etc, have an OTG USB connector.  The OTG functionality allows the Android device to present itself to this board as a USB peripheral.  Software on the ATmega2560 controls the USB host (as a master) and connects to the Android device (as a slave).  Packets of data, defined by you the user can transfer between this board and the Android device.  The Android device could have an application on it that can perform incredibly heavy math routines due to its formidable processing power (think Kalman Filters and other crazy things).  Android devices typically have camera interfaces and thus can provide coordinated information  to the DroneDroid board.  The two platforms complement each other.  The DroneDroid benefits from all of the work that has gone into the ArduPilot Mega and performs all of the low level timing sensitive activities relating to being an autopilot including interfacing to the imu sensor shield in the usual way.  It will be interesting to see how users harness the massive computing power available on Android platforms.
Comment by Chris Appleton on May 12, 2011 at 9:26pm
Looks almost exactly like this How much involvement are you saying diydrones dev team had in that?


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