Pi0drone: A $200 smart drone with the Pi Zero

Hardware components:
Pxfmini 1
Erle Robotics PXFmini
× 1
Raspberry pi zero
Raspberry Pi Zero
× 1
HobbyKing Spec FPV250
× 1
Erle Robotics PXFmini compatible power module
× 1
Software apps and online services:
APM flight stack
Debian-based Linux file system for drones
Hand tools and fabrication machines:
09507 01
Soldering iron (generic)
Tape
Screwdriver

Pi0drone: A $200 smart drone with the Pi Zero

STORY

This tutorial demonstrates how to build a Linux drone with the Raspberry Pi Zero using a BOM (Bill of Materials) of less than 200 US$. The drone uses a real-time capable Linux kernel, a Debian-based file system and Dronecode’s APM flight stack compiled for the PXFmini autopilot board. All these components have been put together by Erle Robotics in their OS image for the PXFmini.

This tutorial demonstrates how to build a Linux drone with the Raspberry Pi Zero using a BOM (Bill of Materials) of less than 200 US$. The drone uses a real-time capable Linux kernel, a Debian-based file system and Dronecode’s APM flight stack compiled for the PXFmini autopilot board. All these components have been put together by Erle Robotics in their OS image for the PXFmini.

Step 1: Assemble the drone kit

Required time: 30 minutes

Once you get all the components start by assembling your drone:

  • Get the black frame together and place the motors on top.
  • Fix the ESC (Electronic Speed Controllers) to the frame using some tape and connect them to the motors.
  • Put together the power (red) and ground (black) ends of the ESCs into the individual cable (to be connected later to the battery) and fix everything underneath the frame.
  • Adjust the power module connectors to the battery ones. There several ways to do this but here’s a quick one: a) cut the connectors and solder battery and power module together (do it one at a time, careful with short circuits!). b)  cut the other end of the power module and resolder the battery connector (previously cut) there. c) Done!, this will allow us to easily connect and disconnect the “battery+power module”  to the drone.
  • Place the “battery+power module” pack underneath, use the velcro included in the package to do so.

Step 2: Get the autopilot ready

Required time: 30 minutes

Connect the PXFmini shield on top of the Raspberry Pi Zero as described in the following content:

You’re almost done but you still need to get the right software on the Raspberry Pi Zero+PXFmini set. This should include the flight stack, an appropriate kernel, enabled daemons that auto-launch on boot, and additional goodies…

schematics

Fortunately, if you purchased the PXFmini from Erle Robotics you’ll get access to their Debian images which include all this so just fetch a PXFmini compatible Debian image and flash it into a microSD card

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