Introduction: 3 Crazy Simple Autonomous Drone Ideas

I've always liked thinking up ways to make high tech devices as simple as possible.

So without further ado, here are three potential ways to build a dead simple drone that ought to be able to have programmable flight paths (using guide beacons) and maybe even dodge obstacles.

These are in the theoretical stage, but I think they are all feasible.

The bolded text sections are your friend.

Step 1: Idea #1 Manual Control Toy Drone to Autonomous Patrol Orbiter Modification

The transmitting radio signal beacon (either a 433mhz TX module, OR a NodeMCU board set to access point mode) would be mounted on and powered by the toy drone and would act as a beacon.

The radio receiver (either a 433mhz RX module + Arduino, OR a NodeMCU board instead) connects to the beacon and reacts when the signal is lost by moving a servo arm, which moves the rotation/throttle stick on the drone remote controller with one magnet on the servo arm, and the other on the control stick.

The stick would be automatically moved to the "descend slowly and rotate slowly" position when the beacon signal is lost, and to the "ascend without rotation slowly" position when the beacon is in range.

The range can be set by changing the voltage input to the 433mhz TX module using a voltage step-down module.

If you will be using NodeMCU's, use RSSI (see our other instructable "Versatile NearBot" for code that would work and NodeMCU setup instructions)

The remote controller would be trimmed to always fly forward (no hover)

In theory, this would result the drone flying in a sort of "orbit" around the remote control.

For this idea you will need:

  • toy quadcopter ready to fly
  • SG90 servo motor
  • small magnets
  • hot glue and hot glue gun
  • 433mhz transmitter and receiver pair
  • One Arduino board OR two NodeMCU boards
  • voltage step down module

In theory, to make this one obstacle avoiding, you might be able to put one IR photodiode in series with each front quadcopter motors and an IR LED to shine forward. When the IR light reflects off of an incoming obstacle, the photodiodes would pass more voltage to the motors, causing the drone to sway back until the obstacle is out of the way.

Just fine tune the two servo angles to move to depending on your remote controller dimensions.

Here's the code for the Arduino + 433mhz modules version:

#include 
const int switchPin = 4; //active low // pin 4 to receiver module signal pin
const int servoPin = 9; // pin 9 to servo signal pin
Servo servo;

void setup() {
  pinMode(switchPin, INPUT_PULLUP);
  servo.attach(servoPin); 
}

void loop() {
  if (digitalRead(switchPin))
    servo.write(90);  // HIGH (switch is off) //rotate servo arm to 90 degrees positioon
  else
    servo.write(100);  // LOW (switch is on) //rotate servo arm to 100 degrees position

  delay(500);  //delay for debounce
}

Step 2: Idea #2 Indoor Beacon Following, Obstacle Avoiding Super Wing

This one would use differential thrust and steering.

So basically a flying IR light follower.

It could fly above a path of IR led lights placed on the floor of a large indoor gym.

It would also have two IR LED's aiming forwards and downwards that would emit light that would reflect off of approaching obstacles back into the infrared photodiodes (analog light sensor) which controls the motor speed using transistors, help the drone plane steer away from obstacles.

The left wing sensor controls the right wing motor, and the right wing sensor controls the left wing motor.

The brighter the light coming from a beacon or reflecting obstacle is, (closer to beacon or aiming towards it) then more thrust is applied to pull the opposite wing. This causes ascending or turning.

It is possible that my circuit diagram needs to be fixed! If you spot any problems with it, let me know so that I can fix it here.

Parts Needed:

  • 2 IR photodiodes
  • 6+ IR LEDs
  • small lithium polymer battery with charger
  • 2 blocking diodes
  • 6+ resistors
  • 2 coreless motors (search "replacement motor for toy quadcopter" on Gearbest.com)
  • 2 toy quadcopter replacement propellers for our use.
  • foam cutting utility knife
  • hot glue gun and hot glue
  • foam board
  • several coin cell batteries to power the beacons.

Step 3: Idea #3 Outdoor Patrol Orbiter Airplane

This idea would simple use either a 433mhz RX & TX, or two NodeMCU modules (same code as previously mentioned) + a transistor and pull down resistor to control a single pusher motor on the v-shaped tail of a small foam glider.

The 433mhz TX or NodeMCU access point acts as a central ground beacon that the receiver on the airplane listens to. When it goes out of range, the motor shuts off until it is back in signal range.

You could use the NodeMCU receiver to control a rudder servo motor and the thrust motor, but there is a more clever way!

By using a pivoting motor mount, a springy rudder flap, and a string, the motor's own torque can straighten out the rudder while in radio range to ascend and fly in a straight line. When out of radio range, the motor would be OFF, which has zero torque, which makes the rudder flap spring sideways, causing the airplane to descend and turn back into range again, eventually making an orbiting flight path.

For this one, you'd need the following parts:

  • 2 NodeMCU modules OR 1 Pair 433MHz RX TX Modules
  • 1 coreless motor (quadcopter replacement motor)
  • 1 small toy foam glider with v-shaped tail
  • hot glue gun and hot glue
  • packaging tape to make the springy flap hinge.
  • transistor
  • resistor
  • servo (optional)
  • pivoting joint mechanism (3D print or use LEGO Technic pieces)
  • wire

Step 4: That's All for Now!

I hope you find this instructable interesting!

Hopefully you build a drone like these theoretical drones! I sure will. Stay tuned.

If you wish, vote for this instructable.

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Bio: We are two brothers who like to make things.
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