Raspberry Pi Pico Drone | DIY Micro Drones

With the advent of the Raspberry Pi Pico microcontroller in early 2021, it was only a matter of time before Pi Pico Drone projects surfaced. Sure, we’ve seen larger raspberry pi drones before, but the micro form factor would be a new invention.

But first, what is the Raspberry Pi Pico, and how is it different than the raspberry pis we’ve come to know and love? 

Well, the Raspberry Pi Pico is a microcontroller, while the normal raspberry pi boards are mini computers. What is the difference? Well, microcontrollers are cheaper, lighter and designed for low level control of hardware with very specific applications. 

Microcontrollers have limited resources, so each board is typically used for only one project. On the other hand, Pi4s are designed to run many processes at once and are less resource constrained. 

The Pi Picos are going for about $6 USD, while the Pi 4s are selling for about $90 USD. Looking at weight, Pi Picos are about 11 grams, while Pi 4s are about 46 grams. 

Pi Pico

In conventional smart drone setups at the drone dojo, we recommend having a dedicated companion computer for high level applications (like 4G drone control), and a dedicated flight controller for low level hardware control of the drone. 

For example, in the drone video building guide below, the micro drone uses the Pi Zero as a companion computer and a F405 as the flight controller. (Shameless plug, we have kits for this)

Pi Zero Drone Build | You Won't Believe How Long It Flies...

Pi Picos are very similar to arduinos, so think of pi pico drones like arduino drones.

Well, the Pi Pico is microcontroller, so through code and cheap ancillary sensors (like barometers and IMUs) you could have a capable flight controller. 

And better yet, these things are tiny, so the design could be ported to micro drones. 

That is exactly what happened when Ravi Butani developed his PiWings micro Pico drone. 

And more micro pico drones have surfaced since then, we also have the Pico Drone design from Robu.in 

Raspberry Pi Pico Drone | PiWings Maiden Flight 2 with Android App | RP2040 Drone | STEM Education

As you can see, these Pi Pico Drones are not only possible, but already proven. 

The main downside to the Pi Pico drones are the requirement of writing your own flight control software. Hopefully communities will grow around these micro drones so that the reinvention of the ‘flight control software’ wheel isn’t required for each micro drone to get its wings. 

If you’re interested in learning about how to build your own drone from scratch, I recommend looking into our complete guide DIY drones

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