Recently I came across the CircuitMess Wheelson on the Arduino website and got the idea to initiate a setup for a Arduino drone. Since there is plenty of information on the topic on numerous blogs, online communities and webshops, creating the concept of the hardware turned out not to be difficult with plenty of references available online.

figure 1: First schematic overview of the drone hardware and cicuitry.


Goal and strategy:

The goal of this project is to get more familiar with electronic hard- and software and control a setup of a drone that can be applied in agritech contexts to scan, monitor and/or intervere in a growing environment. Though there is not a fixed desired outcome of this project I try to create a system that can be changed/adapted to a certain extend.


When showing the draft of the circuitry Eduardo provided some reference materials and suggested to swap the Arduino Uno with a Naze32 flight controlling unit which he had available to apply in this setup. He explained that the Arduino would largely limit the flight functioning and picking a more common board would ease the customization in case of later configurations for more specific applications.

figure 2: Parts of the initial drone setup.

At first the ESC-motor combination did not function properly. I ran the assembly through a 5 VDC power supply but only got a brief momentary action. Betaflight did not support the older firmware of the Naze34 flight controlling board. When ran through a different configurator called Cleanflight, the movement of the gyroscope gave correct feedback on all three (X,Y,Z) axles but still without activity of the motor. Basically all components needed to be inventarized before running any first functional test.

figure 3: Second schematic overview of the drone hardware and cicuitry.

The parts seemed to be in-tune which each other compared to the reference setups I had. However I still wasn't sure about the wiring and connections. The reason for this is because the battery had 12AWG (international index for wire diameters) wire, the motors 20AWG and ESC's 16AWG. These differences could physically be evened out with either soldering or connectors but could cause some strange transistions in electric resistance.

figure 4: Second iteration with parts compatible with the revised flight controller.
figure 5: PDB and XT60 battery connector added to the circuitry.
figure 6: Video of functional test.

Main focus at this point is to get a calibrated connection between the receiver and transmitter with the battery in place. The connector of the receiver was wrongly connected at first causing no processing of the transmitter's signalling. With this corrected, the joystick- and switches movements were being interpreted by the receiver, configured through the Naze32 and fed by the ESC's to motor movement.

To get a proper functioning and controlable setup the motor should have enough propulsion to carry itself and take off. To reach this state I had to go through a series of test flights and see how to interact with the controls.


figure 7: Ideas on exploratory applications.

There are lots of additional uses and variations for it which are yet to be explored. During a field visit at Aurora del Camp in El Masnou we discussed some of these potential use cases with Gillad. He imagined they could have effect in keeping birds at distance since they caused over 3000€ in annual crop damage. I proposed to create a setup Big thanks to Eduardo and Adai from Fablab BCN.