Chapter 13. How to Build an Autonomous, Voice-Controlled, Face-Recognizing Drone for $200

After building an image-classifying robot, the obvious next step was to make a version that can fly. I decided to construct an autonomous drone that could recognize faces and respond to voice commands.

Choosing a Prebuilt Drone

One of the hardest parts about hacking drones is getting started. I got my feet wet first by building a drone from parts, but like pretty much all of my DIY projects, building from scratch ended up costing me way more than buying a prebuilt version—and frankly, my homemade drone never flew quite right. It’s definitely much easier and cheaper to buy than to build.

Most of the drone manufacturers claim to offer APIs, but there’s not an obvious winner in terms of a hobbyist ecosystem. Most of the drones with usable-looking APIs cost more than $1,000—a huge barrier to entry.

But after some research, I found the Parrot AR Drone 2.0 (see Figure 13-1), which I think is a clear choice for a fun, low-end, hackable drone. You can buy one for $200 new, but so many people buy drones and never end up using them that a secondhand drone is a good option and available widely on eBay for $130 or less.

drone collection
Figure 13-1. The drone collection in my garage; the Parrot AR drone I used is hanging on the far left (image courtesy of Lukas Biewald)

The Parrot AR drone doesn’t fly ...

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