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:




E-mail me when people leave their comments –

You need to be a member of diydrones to add comments!

Join diydrones


  • @Euan, we did our best to lower the price. The price covers part of the cost in developing accompanied software that runs on Android, and verifications on available phones.
    Since our production is in Japan, the salary here is expensive than that in China. We might consider to move to China factory in future, however, current supply chain and assemble line we have in Tokyo is the most reliable support we can promise to our backers.
  • @Joe, yes we believe the software gimbal is the future for consumer drones. It's quite difficult due to the different in lens distortion on varied phones, our approach is to let user create a profile for his phone, by adjusting the appearance of a given pattern.
  • @Jerry, yes the telemetry can be sent over 4G with phone onboard, however, we are more interested in the processing and platform aspects of the phone.
  • @Nicholas, thanks! We spent a long time on the frame design. Yes APM on pixhawk already handles the flight control, what we are interested in is to utilize the functions of the phone, say OpenCV, software gimbal stabilization, voice recognition, such jobs are easier done on the phone. Pixhawk keeps the flight safety, and Android provides a common development platform.
  • Joe - you might be right for the average GoPro filmer, but the cinema guys will always have RED's to lift.

  • Ouch. Pricey.

  • Using a smartphone for telemetry, video feed and general control is the way to go. Using purely software is the future of video stabilization. We will view mechanical gimbals like we view mechanical gyros now...
  • So this is a pixhawk drone, with the 4G connection handling the connective in place of the 3DR radios? 

  • im not sure on the possible uses for this app (?), but I DO know that your frame design looks sweet. I always like folding frames.

    Forgive me if im wrong, but doesn't the flight controller already do what the LAB API does. eg, create a mission in mission planner or droid planner?

This reply was deleted.