Mini Quadrocopter Is Crazy Awesome


Quadrocopters are all the rage lately, and while we have seen our fair share of large devices, [Arnaud Taffanel, Tobias Antonsson, and Marcus Eliasson] have been dutifully working to buck that trend. Their CrazyFlie is a miniature quadrocopter that uses its PCB as the main structure of the device.

Since the goal was to use a PCB as its frame, the copter’s footprint from the edge of one motor to the other is a modest 8cm, and it weighs in at a measly 20 grams! The entire platform runs on a Cortex-M3 CPU that takes input from an accelerometer and pair of gyroscopes to help keep its balance. Wireless communications are handled via a 2.4Ghz radio transmitter, and the quadrocopter’s power is supplied by a tiny 110 mAh LIPO battery pack scavenged from an R/C plane.

All of the control and telemetry is handled by a PC, which relays control messages it receives from the pilot’s game pad to the CrazyFlie. We’d love to see if they could retain this small footprint if everything was handled by the quadrocopter itself. Either way, this thing rocks – we most definitely want one!

Stick around to see a quick video of their mini quadrocopter in action, and be sure to check out our coverage of U. Penn’s quadrocopter creations if you are interested in seeing more.


51 thoughts on “Mini Quadrocopter Is Crazy Awesome

  1. That is super cool. Very impressive what they have been able to build into a tiny package.

    I’d buy a kit for a reasonable price (hint hint!). One that has all the surface mount soldering done for me, that is :-)

  2. Looking at the picture I thought “looks pretty small 12″ x 12″ or so” then I see the video where its held in a hand and realize that its only 4″ x 4″. It was a shock to see how small it is. They seemed to have trouble flying it but when it flies it looks very stable, more stable than most quads I’ve seen, even those flying indoors. Don’t know why they went with 2.4GHz radios IR control like the mini heli toys should be fine for indoor and the short range and would significantlty reduce code size and weight (one photo diode instead of radio board). I can’t imagine why they would do flight control on the PC most of the quad copters run on AVR chips (8bit) the cortex-m3 processor is probably ten times faster so they should be able to do autonomous flight control.

  3. The CPU has plenty of grunt for doing the control, and there are a number of ways the PCB can be shrunk.

    The parts used are quite old, and this field is moving fast.

    For example – – a three axis magnetometer and 3 axis gyro in the same part.

    Also – I think the gyros used are analog output, meaning extra parts are needed for stuff.
    The above is digital output, removing that hastle.

    There are smaller packages for the arm cortex part, going down to as little as 3*3mm or so. You possibly wouldn’t want to go that far.
    The radio module is quite large – – for example would let you shrink that footprint a bit.

    There may almost be enough spare left after this shrunk to add a GPS – at 3 grams.

    The GPS simplifies the position solution a fair bit.
    However, almost as good can be gotten if you don’t care about slow drifts, with just an additional 3 axis magnetometer chip.

  4. Hi, I’m part of the group that have made this copter. Thanks HaD for the post and thanks for the comments :).

    @joe: Actually the regulation and everything required to get the copter to fly run in the cortex-M3. The PC sends set-points (thrust, angles of pitch/roll and angular rate for the Yaw) and receives telemetry from the copter.

    Hence, technically it would already be possible to fly the copter without PC if we build a remote controller. However, it was easier and more practical to write a python program using PyGame+libusb to handle the PS3 gamepad and the USB radio dongle.

  5. I was about to built something similar from broken mini helicopters but I wrongly assumed that small motors will not have enough lifting power and will weight more than single large motor

  6. Looks like it quickly looses calibration, and goes astray. Maybe small adjustable mounts to adjust trim?? I’m not into copters , but it looks like an awesome little package with great features!! well crafted!!!

    Excellent job guys, i’m not trolling. I Swear *scouts honor

  7. @arnaud: “work in progress”? Looks good guys. It seems like the “pilots” need a little more practice though :P

    I’ve flown many quadcopters, but yours is TINY! Great job!

  8. @therian: apparently motors are those used for a small electric fixed-wing. Motors for sub-micro helis may also work.
    Intuitively, I would expect stability to suffer as you scale the q-copter design. I don’t know much about the science though. Anyone with good knowledge here think this could be further scaled, and retain stability?

  9. 6mm pager motors . They do wear out pretty fast taxing the batt.

    The people @ RCGroups are making there OWN BRUSHLESS 6mm pager motors because there is no company offering anything like them. Brushless Would be so so much better!!

    My Favorites are the ones that look like a small 6mm actuator coil with a magnet inside Spinning a Prop pretty darn good. There are planes the fly using these WORLDS SMALLEST airplane motors.

  10. I’d loose the zigbee (way too heavy), replace it with a on board radio or IR reciever (make a kit for each version ;) )
    If the price is right, I would deff. buy one!
    (as a kit)
    One Q though! where to find replacement rotor blades (since they use 2 left and 2 right turning blades)?

  11. Do they use neodymium magnets yet in those small motors? I know they do in electric cars and such.

    @Hirudinea CIA doesn’t want stuff that can’t (illegally) murder whole villages really, it’s ‘oudated’ soviet era stuff to just spy.

  12. Very nice! Count me in as a customer if you make a kit!
    I’d also like a slightly larger version. Maybe mounting the motors at a bigger distance would give better stability. Larger props would also rotate at lower speed so it would not sound like a swarm of mosquitos:^)

  13. If you have to use words incorrectly, then go speak Esperonto. When I visit the grand canon, I’m going to call it awesome but you people have raped the English language to the point you deny other people their meaning.

    And Yes, we’re going to continue critiquing your speech until you stop talking as a stupid Californian teenager.

  14. Dear Elliot Nixon:
    I am already sick of the grammar police, and now you’re getting on Mike for using the word “awesome.” I really don’t get it. Are you saying he isn’t allowed to be in awe of this project? I would contest they your use of the word “raped” is much more of a travesty. I hope that you’re just really old, and your brain lacks the plasticity to deal with the fact that the meaning of words changes over time. Otherwise, I think you’re just a… Nevermind, I think you get my point.

    P.S. Sorry to any really old people I may have offended ;-)

  15. “If you hvae to use wrdos inelcotrcry, tehn go sepak Esperonto. When I visit the grand cnaon, I’m gonig to clal it aomsewe but you poelpe hvae reapd the English lagangue to the point you deny otehr poelpe tiher mnineag.

    And Yes, we’re going to cnitnuoe ctqinuriig yuor seepch utinl you sotp tnlkaig as a suptid Californian tegeeanr.”

    what a surprise you can read it even this way, what incredible minds do we have!

    Dont get mad on gamma police, it was medically proven to be obsession just like other forms of OCD they just have to correct people or world will end in their heads

  16. Is there something about youtube that says you must have music?
    I really want to hear the thing properly as I get most of my understanding of how well something is working by how “sweet” it sounds, and everybody feels the need to cut that channel of information off.

    That aside nifty project, stick a camera on it and sell it to the CIA for billions ;-P

  17. Really nice! I was afraid of how crash proof that was until seeing it crashed couple times :)

    I’ve made a 3″ (7.5 – 8cm) quadcopter too (not autonomous though). Here are some info:

    And video:

    The thread should have a lot of info on where to get the parts.

    I’ve been waiting for the MPU6000 from Invensense since February to add accelerometer into my design.


  18. i dont know much about this sort of thing but it does look interesting (and fun). that being said i think it would be interesting to see if besides the basic controls if some sort of pre-programmed landing and just hovering in place could be added.

  19. Not going to lie here, this size, or even a bit bigger, make it able to fly by itself (more like follow me to a certain distance by the tracking pin ill have on the neck of my shirt), and able to land in my hand when i put it out (also a different tracker thats a button activation and overrides the other on my shirt), and has one of those BRAND NEW near 90% efficiency solar cells/batts so i dont have to recharge it…

    I would pay a pretty penny for that… yes just to have the damn thing follow me around… no lie…

  20. Yeah quite a nice one, but the NanoKopter is much smaller… and it also does only weigh 16 gram with battery.

    I’ve heard that the NanoKopter people will license the quadrocopter to a company which is going to produce and sell it worldwide!

    Would be really cool to have such a tiny one :D

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