Using smartphone for the brain of a drone

3689640082?profile=originalHi DIY Drones, we are happy to write here about our drone that use smartphone as the brain, and phone's display for its face! We are trying to build an API set that runs on Android, which send commands in MAVLINK over USB serial to Pixhawk.

We were researchers of optimization problems at Stanford univ. and the Univ. of Tokyo, and we study route scheduling and optimizations for robotics, using simulated annealing of Ising model. As its application, we aim to implement our algorithm onto drones. APM is our base (Thank every contributors for the amazing work!), and we need a more powerful processor and also network connectivity, instead of using a Raspberry pi, we implemented an Android phone.

In our campus test flights, nobody cared about what we study, people just think it looks cool! Then we came to the idea, why not make it a robot. The phone display and speaker are there, which can also provide visual assistance in remote rescue assistance mission, or visual alert in aerial patrol.


After trials and error we made the prototype takes off successfully. Meanwhile we continue to implement our research algorithm, we are also looking into OpenCV. Everything of this project is Open Source, we are also exciting to see how people utilize the advanced functionalities on a phone to make drones intelligent. We will release the hardware CAD and software source on GitHub. We setup a start-up in Palo Alto, CA and to support our research we launched the project on Kickstarter. We will incorporate 3DR Pixhawk as the main flight controller, and Android as the co-processor that provide visual look and programming platform.

Details on our Kickstarter page:

and our website:




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  • Is it open source?Can I get the source from the github?

  • @Henry, wonderful! we will make our depo on GitHub and let's discuss into the details.

  • @arment_t yes we saw the Qualcomm and UPenn at 2015 CES, charming!

    @HeliStorm, for example, when using UAV to deliver a Defibrillator, with the display it can visually show how to use the defibrillator, and a doctor can visually assist the rescue.

    The original idea is from here, and we thought adding the display would help better:

  • @lot, yes actually we knew project flone long ago and it is cool!

  • @Kai_Yan May I ask what you mean when saying, "The usage we come up now is for visual assistance in remote rescue, or visual alert in patrol mission, etc." Maybe I am not thinking it through to its most logical conclusion, and that is why I am not understanding. I can see using the brains of the phone to control a UAV, but I am not sure how this helps in rescue work. I am someone interested in the use of UAS in search and rescue, and emergency services work, so I would be interested in your more detailed thoughts on this aspect.

    @Joe Renteria...I think most consumer side aerial photography will eventually go the direction you suggest, with virtual gimbals. The Parrot Bebop is just  the tip of the spear. As others have suggested the prosumer and professional levels of AP will probably remain gimbaled for quite awhile.

  • @Kai, I used to build uavs like this. I think it is a great direction in the future. Maybe I can give you some help.

  • @Kai

    You dont need a phone on the flying to do route optimisation. Your computer can do all that before it loads the waypoints onto the pixhawk. If your controlling your pixhawk from a tablet or phone, yet again they can optimise before sending the waypoints via the air.

  • Makes me remember when I tried hooking up my blackberry on my

    fixed wing after hearing of Maynard Hill, a UAV pioneer doing a transatlantic crossing.

    August, 2003 A small UAV, called TAM 5, flew 3,020 Km from Newfoundland in Canada to Stone Bog in Ireland, using GPS guidance, while sending telemetry information back, via satellite. The small plane used its GPS system to fly at an average altitude of 305 m (1,000 feet) above sea level, to avoid ship masts and any other aircraft.

    Now flight are so no expensive don't think a phone is the way to go. 

    Long distance record for FAI Class F8 model plane
  • Qualcomm  Snapdragon  displayed this at 2015 C.E.S. 

    have you guys seen their projects? You should Google them.

  • Nice to see that you will release as an Open Source project.

    I would like to use your system with our project flone: the flying phone.

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