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: 11339

Comment by Kevin Bouchard on May 13, 2011 at 11:33am

Wasn't this called the DroneDroid board just yesterday? Why the sudden name change?

Still, I'm very excited about this! Opens up so many possibilities! Congratulations to those responsible.

3D Robotics
Comment by Chris Anderson on May 13, 2011 at 11:52am
Kevin: turns out that Lucas Inc controls the use of the word "droid" ;-)
Comment by Sam Kelly on May 13, 2011 at 1:39pm
@ Kevin, this isn't the droid you're looking for. (sorry :I)
Comment by Kevin Bouchard on May 13, 2011 at 5:58pm

Ahhh, yeah, I forgot about that. I guess the name change won't impact performance huh :P


@Sam... You wouldn't believe how often I hear that one on mobile phone blogs...

Comment by Aleksander Nowak on May 13, 2011 at 6:27pm
This is an exciting development for me!  I have two old android handsets which could be happily deployed in such a project. :)

Comment by Mark Colwell on May 13, 2011 at 7:27pm
This will force me to get a new Android 2.3 tablet or better, any idea of cost?
Comment by Dano on May 13, 2011 at 8:50pm
Android requires 3.1 for the new API
Comment by Dano on May 13, 2011 at 9:58pm

Whoops! I just reread Androids open accessory API notes and it is backwards compatible to 2.3.4... My mistake :|


Comment by Gerry Lichter on May 13, 2011 at 10:00pm
Are there any libraries which justify going about 2.3? The invensense sensor fusion package is the only thing since Froyo that has caught my interest.
Comment by Natalius Kiedro on May 14, 2011 at 3:19am
I think it's an overkill to buy a 2nd android just for motion processing. Kalman (7state) and expanded DCM become alive with 250Hz even on a 32MHz Xmega A1 (Look for Atmel's new Xplained boards and Xplained sensors, also kiXAHRS - much cheaper than a 2nd phone). Faster than 256 Hz will not go on Android phones either because they use Invensense components as well. I am more tempted to ask why Arduino stops at Atmega....


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