All posts by fletcher

DJI Controller Hack

DJI Controller Hack

Last week I hacked one of our DJI controllers to work with our new Zenmuse brushless gimbal. I looked around for a good tutorial on how to modify the controller to interop with the new parts, but didn’t find a comprehensive one. Because of that, I tried to document the process, step-by-step, so that others can do it too! Special thanks to Ben Kreimer for all the tips.

This is what you’ll need to get the job done:
-Soldering iron, solder
-Desoldering pump
-Wire clipper/plier combo
-One potentiometer, or other variable resistor if preferred (I could see a slider working well!)
-Small phillips head screwdriver
-Three 6 inch wires, ideally in three different colors
-Hot glue gun, glue cartridges
-Small, sturdy knife

Step 1
Unscrew and separate the controller case into its two parts. Be gentle because the power and ground wires running from the battery connect the two halves of the case and need to be unplugged.
photo 2(1)

Step 2
On the front side of the case, you will see a silver loop between the two sticks for connecting a harness. Unscrew it, and discard or save. We have to remove it to make room for one of the silver, three way toggle switches that we are about to relocate. With your knife, carefully shave away some of the plastic from where the harness loop was housed to make room for the switch.

Step 3
Unscrew one of the three way toggle switches and relocate it to the center hole. photo 1(2)

Step 4
Remove the white plastic slide toggle from the front of the case by sliding your knife under each side and gently prying upward.
photo 1(1)

photo 2(2)

Step 5
On the inside of the case, unscrew and lift the circuit board and flip it around so you can see the underside (the side with the LED).

Step 6
Using the hot soldering iron and desolerding pump, remove the solder from the three pins of the orange, stock potentiometer. The picture below shows the three spots that need to be unsoldered.
photo 4(2)

Step 7
While your soldering iron is hot, solder your replacement potentiometer to your three 6-inch wines. Power, Signal, and Ground. I used Red for power, Blue for signal, and Black for ground. Then, put the potentiometer in the hole that we made by moving the three way toggle switch.
photo 3(3)

Step 8
Solder the other ends of the wires to the circuit board. They must be soldered correctly to Power, Signal, and Ground as shown in the picture below. If the Power and Ground wires are switched, it will work fine, but the direction that the potentiometer controls will be inverted. Choose whichever way you think is more intuitive. Also, if you make a mistake at this stage, you can always unsolder and switch the wires!photo 5(3)

Step 9
Using scissors, cut a half inch sized piece of glue gun cartridge. Make a pile of hot glue on the inside of the case, in the spot mirroring the newly added potentiometer and stick the glue stick piece in it until it has dried. In the picture below, I used a piece of plastic, but anything will work.
photo 2(1) copy

Step 10
Make sure the circuit board and all other parts are in their places, and rescrew case back together (don’t forget to plug the power and ground lines from the battery box back in!). That’s it, you’re done! Make sure to test the modifications before taking the phantom out into the wild!
photo 4(1) copy


originally posted at

I spent the day with TK and Daniel programming AR drones. We used Node.js and the nodecopter libraries node-ar-drone and ardrone-autonomy. Check out their github repositories here: node-ar-drone , ardrone-autonomy

First here is a step by step order of operations in case you want to follow along:
-Get Parrot AR Drone.
-Download Node.js
-In Terminal, enter the command: npm install ar-drone
-In a text editor (e.g. sublime text), write your code! Code examples and be found at or try the example come below.
-Save your text file as flight.js or a name you prefer to your desktop or another location of your choice. Remember the name and location of the file.
-In Terminal, write the command: cd desktop (or where you put your file) and hit enter.
-In Terminal, write the command: node flight.js (or the name your chose to give to your file) and hit enter.
-Your AR Drone should do whatever your program instructed it to do!

Here is an example of a simple program that we used to pilot our drone:

Here is what that same code looks like in behavior:

Drone flight from lifeonhoth on Vimeo.

Drone journalism, here to stay or just a passing fad?

Drone journalism, here to stay or just a passing fad?

It’s an interesting question. One that is asked about all disruptive technologies.

And like many other disruptive technologies, here is why I hope it sticks around:

The internet and world wide web, especially the social internet have allowed the non-professional access to tools and avenues that were formerly off limits. Not long ago, only those within the publishing or newsprint industry had the ability to reach an audience. And that conversation was one-to-many. News corporations, governments, and publishing companies were the only ones allowed to say anything, and everyone else could only listen. For the first time, the internet let people publish many-to-many (read Clay Shirky).

The ubiquity of smart phones was the next step. For the first time, the average person was able to document their world. Most of the time this looks likes sunsets and selfies, but it also has had serious political implications. Protests, <a href=”″ title=”police brutality” target=”_blank”>police brutality</a>, and citizen science have been revolutionized.

Drones have the potential to usher in another chapter in that revolution. As they become more accessible and affordable, the everyday person will have the ability to take citizen journalism to the next level (up). Until now, only the military, the hyper-rich, and news agencies had the ability to conduct aerial photography, reconnaissance, and research. Drones now offer the citizen journalist the chance to go places they have never been before.

So, unless legislation completely stifles it, I think it’s here to stay.

Copy and paste link to see a drone’s eye view of ITP!