I heard about Raspberry Pi flying drones.

Does anyone have a clue how long you can fly with those things?

For example: An AR Parrot drone can only fly for 12 minutes.

Does someone have an idea to make any one of these drones / helicopter / quadropcopters fly for hours, without making it to heavy with all the batteries?

Some reference to Raspberry Pi drone.

closed as not a real question by user46 Aug 6 '12 at 18:30

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  • Since you know the current draw requirements (~500mA), you can work it out! – Alex L Aug 6 '12 at 13:23
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    The raspberry pi might be used as the "brain" of a drone, but unless it is being applied to an unreasonably small platform for its size (or is doing a very poor controlling job), things like flight time will be determined by the engineering of the rest of the platform, not by the pi. – Chris Stratton Aug 6 '12 at 13:34
  • Can you be more specific in your question as It is left open ended and open to HUGE speculation. Thanks – Piotr Kula Aug 6 '12 at 15:07
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    This isn't really a fully answerable question, but your link raises one obvious consideration: where it can meet your mission needs, use a fixed wing platform rather than a rotorcraft. They are able to hang multiple modules (including a dedicated autopilot) on that wing and may well get a useful mission despite things like the socketed through-hole ICs shown in one of the pictures. Sometimes rapid development or reconfigurability is more important than optimization, at least early in a project. – Chris Stratton Aug 6 '12 at 15:27
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    @user131008 Hi and welcome to Stack Exchange. The linked drone isn't actually flown by a Raaspberry Pi. It is flown my an on board Arduino. Are you thinking of another drone, otherwise I think this is off-topic? – Alex Chamberlain Aug 6 '12 at 15:35

The Raspberry Pi seems to try to be everything at once. People seem really ambitious about it... The only ambitious thing is that it's really cheap but it does not mean it can do everything that well. And it certainly will not work very well as a drone.

There are many reasons for this,

  1. Is that it needs good RF Communication. Are you going to use ad-hoc wireless out side with your iphone or android? What happens if it goes out range... bye bye drone!
  2. The power supply is very inefficient and there is no built in H-Bridge that needs more power - (you will need 4 channels for four motors)
  3. The Raspberry Pi does actually allow for an HD camera to be connected which is great but you will come to realise you want OSD and using a Pi to do this is pure overkill and waste of precious battery juice!
  4. You also need a GPS unit and 3 Axis accelerometer for yaw / tilt compensation as well as flight stability. This is purely code that will need to monitor all this data and Raspberry Pi can handle it easily, but so can a very slow and power efficient AVR chip. So again the Pi is mega overkill
  5. The Pi is not a minimalistic design and will weigh to much + it needs all this other stuff added to it.

There are very mature projects out there that offer highly optimized and efficient micro controllers with everything that mentioned above - especially a RF link that can handle up to kilometres in range and code for safe back to home auto pilots in case of COM's failure / GPS signal issues or any other lovely surprises.


The Pi can do ALL of this very well, but your question is very specific:

Does someone have an idea to make a drone or helicopter fly for hours, without making it too heavy with all the batteries?

The Raspberry Pi is not the best choice in trying to maximise flight time because of its own gross weight plus additional things like RF, GPS and accelerometer can all be bulky ad-dons. You are still missing H-Bridge circuit and you need to remember (as commented the Pi takes up 500mA) That is already too much consumption for this simple job.

End of the day - If you can balance power consumption and power storage it does not matter how big you build it and what MCU/CPU you use.

Using the Raspberry Pi as the brains could be ideal in UAV applications as planes handle power to weight much better than heli / quadro copters.

With other open source and *closed source / proprietary * the answer is YES - Loads of people try everyday to make it more stable, more power efficient and cheaper to build.

Also the Picopter (Pictured below) is not related to Raspberry Pi in anyway. It refers to AVR's Pico MCU specially designed for low power RF and is much better suited and is only suited for home use as it has no GPS.


Or something I found on Sparkfun, the ArduPilot.

Nevertheless, it is always very interesting to see the Raspberry Pi used in any project.

  • What this answer overlooks is that few optimized or custom solutions can match the pi's performance and price; what it fails to consider with its narrow assumption of featherweight platforms is that projects needing endurance, or having the kinds of missions for which the pi's compute capability would be warranted likely point to platforms weighing hundreds of grams if not a few kilos - which, until the last handful of years were the smallest routinely built. – Chris Stratton Aug 6 '12 at 14:44
  • Hello everyone! I would like to remind you that comments are not for having extended discussions/arguments. If you would like to have an extended discussion please join us over in Raspberry Pi Chat. Thanks! – user46 Aug 6 '12 at 15:01
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    If there is a GPS in drone then clever software could return drone to it's home position if signal is lost for more then n seconds. – avra Nov 22 '12 at 8:49
  • There is this.... the proof is in this picture. Video of it working here, updates here. – Wilf Jun 8 '14 at 17:23

Flying drones require a substantial amount of energy for lift. The problem is, the bigger the battery, the more they have to lift, the greater the drain. That's why things like the AR drone use LI-Ion batteries specifically designed to have high output, but low duration. 10-15 minutes is pretty much what you would get out of an RC specific battery, so don't get too excited thinking the RPi would use little power and therefore be a good flight controller.

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