Finnian Anderson

My hackerspace

Drones, Zeros and Cake

We all love drones. We all love cake. And we all love Raspberry Pi. What better way to spend an afternoon than to kick up at my mate Ben's house, borrow his faster internet and combine all of those things.

We started the day by wrapping a Pi Zero and camera module in excessive amounts of electrical tape and sticking it to Ben's 250-class racing drone. Sounds cool huh? Not only did it work amazingly well, it didn't impact the performance of the quad at all. Pretty good for a 1 GHz fully featured Linux box!

Suitably padded Pi Zero - safe and sound before lift off

As you can see from the image above, the camera module was orientated so as to get a birds eye view from the drone's perspective. The two 'ears' sticking up are the antennae of the drone itself and the red one at the back is for the FPV.

The Pi was setup to record from the camera on boot, which caused some interesting problems when attempting to debug the software, because the preview from raspivid (that we'd forgotten to disable) was blocking us from seeing the GUI! Development cycles increased from < 10s to at least 10 minutes, per cycle.

Before setting out for our first flight, we deemed it sensible to fill ourselves with confidence by consuming large amounts of cake.

If life gives you cake, eat it.

Satisfied with our cake-eating efforts, we went outside for the maiden-flight-with-Pi. Everything went perfectly and we grabbed some great footage from the onboard Pi camera!

Ben's FPV goggles have an extra output connection for an analog display, so we hooked that up to a little TFT screen which I had so that spectators could view the live stream from the drone.

It turns out that having an external TFT display strapped to your head causes some unforeseen and inevitable circumstances. Namely the inability to move, let alone walk in a straight line.

We created a video compilation of the day's events, featuring drones and cake, which you can view below!

Many thanks to Ben for putting up with me all weekend and allowing me to precariously strap awesome stuff to his drone. Stay tuned on his blog for more drone-related madness!