What fun is it to leave a fantastic device like the AR Drone bone stock? We all want more power, more altitude, longer flight times, and better looks. While there are quite a few mods for sale, I am going to stick to ones that myself or people I know personally can attest to. If you have suggestions, please post them in the forums so we can check them out.
Note – here is an external site with a number of proven mods – and maintenance tips.
Note – some of these modifications and additions only fit one model of the AR Drone (either 1.0 or 2.0), so be sure to do your homework before purchase!
Bastens LiPo battery upgrade
The Bastens LiPo battery is a direct replacement for the stock battery with more power in almost the exact same size and shape. The batteries come with the AR Drone Parrot battery connector already attached so it is just like using the stock battery. You should be able to get 20+ minute flight time or longer. You can use either the stock OEM charger or an aftermarket one that can push up to 2.6 Amps charge rate for a faster charge time (as fast as 45 minutes). The battery Features:1300mAh / 3S1P / 3 Cell / 11.1v; Discharge: 15C Constant / 20C Burst;
Bastens Fast LiPo Battery Balance Charger $64.95
There is nothing worse than “being in the zone” and then having to wait an hour and a half to charge up your batteries again. The Bastens Fast LiPo charger can cut your charge time in half and get you back flying faster. With a couple of their batteries you can fly almost non-stop all day.
2.4ghz Radio Upgrade About $150
Upgrading to a 2.4ghz radio system will DRASTICALLY increase your range and improve your control. If you are getting serious about your Drone and want to do things like mounting a GoPro camera on it, than this is a must-have upgrade. It also will tame the earlier 1.0 Drones, which were prone to flying away and losing radio contact!
Note – there are companies selling conversions for less – sometimes much less, assuming you have the transmitter receiver already. Here is one example:
Using the AR Drone as a better video platform
It is possible, with multiple modifications, to make a useable GoPro camera flying platform out of the AR Drone. In fact, much of it is documented in the video below:
The basics are as follows:
1. Purchase an install a properly designed GoPro mount from:
Note that they sell different models for the 1.0 and the 2.0
3. Obtain a GoPro camera – and, if desired, some stronger batteries for longer flight times.
While a new copter like the DJI Plantom may be competitive in cost, it would be possible for a hobbyist to build a low-cost AR Video platform with some astute purchasing! As an example, right now you can buy a rebuilt (factory refurb) AR Drone 1.0 from Brookstone for less than $150.
Let's add it up!
1. AR Drone 1.0 refurb: $150
2. GoPro Camera – older model (for economy) and on sale – you can find these new for about $140 or slightly used for $110 or less.
3. Macdrones (or other) Modification – $80 – $150
4. Camera Mount from Etfett – $99
The extra batteries are something you would need for any drone, so I won't add those in.
The total above would be about $530. Those less concerned about video quality could save $150 by using only the Drone, the MacDrones R/C mod and then using the HD 808 #16 Keychain cam for the footage. This would eliminate the need for the GoPro or the Camera mount, as you can mount the Keychain cam yourself.
So, in this case, the total cost for a decent (light wind only) long range mid-sized quadcopter with video would be only $340. Even at the beginning of 2013, when this is being written, I can't think of a lower priced platform with the same capabilities.
Personally, I would use the Keychain cam or something lighter weight than the GoPro and mounts – or, in some other way, shave some weight off the AR Drone before mounting the GoPro.
Here is the link to the refurb 1.0 Parrot AR Drones. This is obviously a time-sensitive link, so if you want one get them while you can!
(Note: we do not suggest that newbies get the 1.0 model for “stock” flying – it has problems. Unless you know what you are doing, stay with the 2.0!)
Here is a link to a R/C conversion to the AR Drone 1.0 which is only $80 (you provide transmitter)
For those who want to follow radical AR Drone modifications and hacks, check out this site!
For more info about the R/C mod, google “Mirumod”. Here is the main Mirumod info site:
Below are some Amazon links to the AR Drone 2.0 (newest model) as well as parts, etc: