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: 11340

3D Robotics
Comment by Chris Anderson on May 12, 2011 at 9:27pm
dydx: the usual use of an Adroid phone would be for high-level functions such as image processing and more AI-type stuff. Basic flight control is better left to a dedicated board such as APM with a real-time OS.
Comment by Dimitar Kolev on May 12, 2011 at 9:33pm
Start the pre-order, Chris :-)

3D Robotics
Comment by Chris Anderson on May 12, 2011 at 9:38pm
Chris: that's the Google reference design. Google asked us to create a specialty board derived from that (all the Android boards are derivatives of the reference design, at Google's request) optimized for RC use. Ours is much smaller and has 8 RC channels in and out, etc.

Comment by Pete Hollands on May 12, 2011 at 11:06pm
Chris, is this an open source design ? Can you point us at the Eagle Schematics and Board drawings ?

3D Robotics
Comment by Chris Anderson on May 12, 2011 at 11:20pm
Pete: Yes, when we release the product we'll release the Eagle files.
Comment by PeteD on May 12, 2011 at 11:29pm
Excellent. Thanks to Michael for the technical explanation and Chris for the strategic explanation.
Comment by Chris Appleton on May 13, 2011 at 1:05am
Chris Anderson you say that APM which I assume means ArduPilot Mega, is better left to a dedicated board with a real-time OS. I was trying to find if APM uses a real-time OS and could only find this comment

Can you tell me for sure does APM use a real-time OS? Any particular reason why you changed your mind if so?
Comment by tshado on May 13, 2011 at 1:30am

@Chris Appleton

I agree with you on the point that APM / Ardupilot code is non real-time OS...

Would like also to have same clarification on Chris Anderson statement above


Comment by Paul Mather on May 13, 2011 at 5:33am

He did not mean real time OS and I'm not sure why you think you're "catching" him here.


He meant on-board processor.

3D Robotics
Comment by Chris Anderson on May 13, 2011 at 7:09am
Sorry, was typing too fast. I meant real-time code. APM uses no OS at all, but the code is tied right into the Atmega interrupt system for predictable timing. My point is that's hard to do with a non realtime OS like Android.


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