Saturday 4:30 p.m.–5 p.m.

Cheap Helicopters In My Living Room

Ned Jackson Lovely

Audience level:
Embedded Systems


Using Python and a minimal amount of hardware hacking, it's possible to build computer controlled helicopters you can fly around your living room for surprisingly small amounts of money. This talk will describe the steps you'll need to take to start the ball rolling towards Skynet using a $20 helicopter and an Arduino.


Both toy helicopters and interfaces between a computer and electronics used to be prohibitively complicated and expensive. Now, for less than $50, you can have a toy helicopter and an Arduino delivered to your doorstep. In this talk, we'll cover the basics of how helicopters work, and talk about how our control system needs to take into account the physics of our cheap toy helicopter. We'll then talk about how to create an interface between our helicopter and a computer with an Arduino. This is when the power of Python comes to bear. We can use Python to develop systems to understand how control inputs affect the helicopter, and then build on top of these lower level tools to create higher-level applications that would have involved substantial effort in lower-level programming languages.