Adding a router and wireless camera to a remote controlled helicopter

Last Christmas, [bonafide] received a WiFi enabled remote control helicopter from his employer. The heli is an interesting bit of kit, able to be controlled with an Android or iDevice. Being the good tinkerer he is, [bonafide] took a screwdriver to his Wi-Fli Bladerunner Helicopter and reengineered the toy to use an off-the-shelf wireless router.

The protocol used by the Wi-Fli helicopter is closed source, but a few people have had their hand at reverse engineering this cool toy. Instead of simply controlling the helicopter over WiFi, [bonafide] wanted to add a few unsupported features like sending images from a webcam. This isn’t supported in the toy’s firmware, so after a valiant attempt at flashing new firmware, [bonafide] decided to replace the electronics with a WiFi router.

In the stock configuration, the helicopter receives commands from an RT5350F-based WiFi module. This module communicates to the servos and motors with a serial connection. [bonafide] replaced the WiFi module with a very small router capable of running OpenWRT. The new router was easily configured to send commands to the motors, and allowed [bonafide] to add a small keychain webcam to stream video back to his desktop.

Interestingly, the makers of the WiFli helicopter, Interactive Toy Concepts, are putting out a streaming-video version of this toy next fall. The current version of the WiFli helicopter may hit the Toys ‘r Us clearance bin before that, so if you’d like your own unmanned aerial drone [bonafide]‘s may be worth looking over.

Special thanks to [MS3FGX] for sending this one in. Also, the non-coral cache version of [bonafide]‘s site is here, but try not to turn his server into a pile of molten slag.

Comments

  1. Imbroglio says:

    We knew this was coming. :-)

  2. Colecoman1982 says:

    For a second, I kept looking at the photo trying to figure out where they had mounted the router and how the helicopter could possibly hope to provide the force needed to hold it steady as it milled through the target material…

  3. MS3FGX says:

    Really liked this project, I may have to find one of these helicopters to give it a shot.

    Being able to run tools like Kismet from a helicopter flying overhead is pretty incredible considering the cost of the parts involved.

    It would also only be a short leap to getting the chopper flying autonomously, just add in a few sensors and write some software to control the motors via serial.

    You could even go the easy route and write some functions for pre-determined maneuvers without any sensors, just flying scripted routes. Hopefully nothing get’s in the way…

  4. Madox says:

    I’m glad there are other people around hacking that router :)

  5. Jonathan says:

    A couple enexpensive range mods and throwing a few of these over a search area may prove the enexpensive solution to an expensive and time consuming problem.

  6. I got 3 of those routers (and the battery-pack for them) recently. This heli accessory for the routers is awesome. They would go good in an FPV airplane too. :D

  7. b0nafide says:

    Thanks hackaday! That explains the pile of molten slag :) I decreased the number of apache threads and it’s better. Awesome!!

  8. Dave says:

    i want a million of these routers and a million batteries for them. They can run dd-wrt or open wrt and im sure both have support for mesh networking.

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