ESP-Drone: Building An ESP32-Based Quadcopter For Not Much Cash

What’s the cheapest quadcopter you can build? As [Circuit Digest] demonstrates with their variant of the ESP-Drone project by Espressif, you only need a minimum of parts: an ESP32 MCU, an inertial measurement unit (IMU) such as the MPU6050, and four MOSFETs to drive the brushless DC motors. As the PCB also forms the structural frame and landing struts for the quadcopter, not even a 3D printer is needed. All told, [Circuit Digest] figures the total BOM comes in at around 1,000 Indian Rupees, or about $12 USD.

The fully assembled ESP-Drone flying around. (Credit: Circuit Digest)
The fully assembled ESP-Drone flying around. (Credit: Circuit Digest)

While this [Circuit Digest] project provides basic IMU functionality, the Espressif project also has a few expansion boards detailed on its hardware page, depending on the base model of the mainboard you pick. The [Circuit Digest] project follows the ESPlane-V2-S2 version with no expansion boards, but the ESP32-S2-Drone V1.2 mainboard can be extended with position-hold, pressure and compass modules, as well as custom boards.

As a derivative of the Bitcraze Crazyflie project, the ESP-Drone firmware also supports the rather nifty cfclient software for remote monitoring, logging and control. This may also be in the [Circuit Digest] firmware, but wasn’t listed among the features.

A nice feature of using cfclient is that you can use a standard (game) controller to control the quadcopter, while also getting a lot of flight data back. The other option is to use the Android or iOS app from Espressif (with source code available via their GitHub) and control the drone that way. Regardless of the method, you’ll be limited to the limits of the local WiFi network in terms of range, which probably resolves the issue of it not having a camera feed to steer from. This makes it arguably more of an (indoor) toy than a DJI competitor, but as a DIY quadcopter project it definitely is a lot of fun, while costing a lot less than most hobbies.

11 thoughts on “ESP-Drone: Building An ESP32-Based Quadcopter For Not Much Cash

  1. Searching esp32 with the filter set for today or this week on yt sends me to a lot of the latest cool videos a lot of times before there posted here. That being said y’all pick out the best ones to feature on here. This pbc looks to be the new age of bare bones useful systems indeed, great post!

    1. Per the original source, the motors and props are in that cost estimate. Solder is obviously part of it too since the estimate is a PCBA. The dollar conversion is closer to $13 than $12 (USD) though.

      I think the only thing notably missing is the battery, but since this takes a single cell and only calls for 30C, so that’s going to be cheap. It does plausibly double the cost though :D

  2. I ordered one of these about a week ago and am still waiting for it to arrive. Supposedly the Bitcraze CrazyFlie (TM) expansion boards -almost- work with it (some tweaking required). I plan to harass my cats with it.

  3. expressif took the project from crazyflie and modified it to run it on esp32. They had the decency to share the original pcb files as they called it “OPENSOURCE” . These guys simply took those pcb files put it on their GitHub, closed the pcb files and called it a day. What have they changed ?

    1. It looks like a copy-paste with no changes. They claim that they “designed the PCB in a way that the feet for the drone are also included in the PCB” but that’s already part of the project from Espressif.

Leave a Reply

Please be kind and respectful to help make the comments section excellent. (Comment Policy)

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.