Looking to get into the world of DIY drones? The Pi Zero micro drone is one of the best ways to start — particularly if you’re looking for a safe drone that’s relatively inexpensive and still works with ArduPilot.
Now the Pi Zero micro drone certainly has a DIY feel. Expect to do your own soldering. You’ll also do your own binding and motor number mapping. Should you want to get even more advanced, the ArduPilot unlocks even more custom features like running your own autonomous missions and python scripting.
But it’s a lot cheaper than most other DIY drone kits. And in fact, it’s about half the price of the other DIY drone kit that I usually recommend: the $1,000 Drone Dojo Raspberry Pixhawk Drone Kit.
This new Pi Zero micro drone kit also comes from the folks over at Drone Dojo — and this one costs just $597. And, if you enter coupon code DRONEGIRL3, you’ll save $50, which brings your price down to just $547.
What is the Pi Zero micro drone kit?
The world’s first Micro Pi Zero Drone Kit is the ultimate way to learn drone engineering. It’s a micro drone, so unsurprisingly it’s a lot smaller than larger drones such as what you’d get with the standard Raspberry Pi Drone Kit from Drone Dojo.
But smaller does not mean worse. Among the top benefits is it’s a lot cheaper than its larger, older sibling. The Pi Zero Micro Drone kit is just $597, roughly $300 cheaper than the other kit. And besides being cheaper than the above drone, it’s much smaller (thus safer). Plus, it’s also better for certain applications (like indoor flight and drone swarms).
It includes the following pieces:
- Pi Zero 2W
- Drone Drome
- Four Brushless Motors
- All-in-one ESC
- RC Transmitter and Receiver
- 3D Printed Vibration Dampening Plate
- SD Card and SD Card Reader
- Mounting materials
- Lipo Battery
- Lipo Battery Charger
- Lipo Battery Fire-proof case
- Eight Propellers
- GPS and Compass Module
- GPS mount
- All connectors you’ll need
- Screws, screwdrivers, hex keys
Once you’ve built the drone, which weighs 450 grams, it flies for an impressive 20 minutes on one battery charge. The Pi Zero kit is especially great if you’re trying to learn ArduPilot.
What’s the big deal with ArduPilot?
Drone engineers almost certainly should know ArduPilot,which is made of over 1 million LOC. With ArduPilot, you can run autonomous missions.
ArduPilot Flight Control Code is used by major industry players including drone delivery company Matternet. ArduPilot supports a huge array of sensors, which basically means you can just plug them in — not any harder than connecting Lego blocks. In fact, Matternet used a $300 dollar precision landing sensor called IR-Lock to land within 15 cm of a target consistently with ArduPilot.
For Python coders, you can write code to allow for autonomous control, as it offers up a package to write python scripts with high level drone functions to control the drone’s movement. That means no RC required to make the drone fly.
Before ArduPilot was ported to these smaller FPV boards, drones this small were normally just human piloted drones. So — while this drone is the size of an FPV — it is a true robot that can run itself.
How to get your hands on the Pi Zero micro drone kit
For now, this appears to be a very limited-time product, so jump on it now. Only 15 are up for grabs (though I imagine more will come after that).
Drone Dojo’s founder, Caleb Berquist, told The Drone Girl that shipments will begin mid-April.
It’s available for pre-order now for $597. But enter coupon code DRONEGIRL3 to save $50, which brings your price down to just $547.
That’s a great price, considering the Pi Zero 2W (usually $114) and the Matek controller (usually $244) alone exceed $350 when purchased individually from a site like Amazon. Berquist tells me he is able to keep costs low by buying in bulk.
And if you really want to learn more, Berquist made the full, 90-minute long instructional video on how to build it available for free, right here:
What is Drone Dojo?
Drone Dojo was created by DIY-drone savant Caleb Berquist as the source for all information around building your own drone. The website features online video how-to courses, training materials around DIY projects and drone kits, such as this Pi Zero micro drone kit and the larger predecessor, the Raspberry Pi drone kit.
Among his most popular video DIY drone courses including “How to build a Raspberry Pi drone,” “How to program a drone using Python,” and a deep-dive, capstone-type course on “Precision Landing and Drone Delivery.” And in early 2023, Drone Dojo pivoted to a monthly subscription model where you can get all those individual courses — which previously ranged in price from roughly $100 to $400 — for one monthly subscription fee that’s just $27 per month.
Yes, that means that if you complete the course in a month, what used to be a $400 course would now just cost you $27.
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