Low Cost Drone Powered by ESP32 CAM

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A drone equipped with a camera opens up many new possibilities with respect to their applications such as crop monitoring, video surveillance and recording, and many more. However, such drones come at a very high cost (5 to 10 times more expensive) and also have limited functionalities concerning AI, ML or image processing. 

So today, we will use a ready-to-use drone kit to make a simple drone, which will be equipped with a camera, allowing it to do live video streaming and recording. It can also be programmed to perform face and person detection and many other things.If you have a drone which does not have a recording facility, then through this project you can add a camera. 

Bill Of Materials

Let’s begin our project by shopping the following components

Note:- If you already have a mini or full-sized drone or drone kit, then you can just buy an ESP32 CAM; no need not buy rest of the components. 

Fig 1. Flight controller Fig 2. Coreless motor Fig 3. Propeller

Assembling and construction of the drone 

First, insert the battery into the drone frame and motors into the motor section. Then carefully place the flight controller on the top and plug it into the motors M1, M2, M3 and M4. Now after connecting the motors with the flight controller, set the propellers on top of the motors in clockwise and counterclockwise directions.

Fig 4. Setting the battery inside the frame Fig 5. Setting the flight controller Fig 6. Diagram showing how to set CCW and CW props Fig 7.Setting motor

Now our drone is ready to fly. Connect the battery jumper and then turn it ON through a switch. Install the Pluto Controller app in your phone and use it for controlling the drone to take off and land.

Preparing the Live Stream Camera For Drone

First, we have to program the ESP32 CAM to perform live video streaming. To do so, go to Arduino IDE and add the ESP32 board in it using the following steps :-

  1. Open Arduino IDE, go to Preferences and then paste the given link:

https://dl.espressif.com/dl/package_esp32_index.json, http://arduino.esp8266.com/stable/package_esp8266com_index.json 

  1. Then go to the Board Manager and install the ESP32 CAM board in it.

After carrying out the above steps, enter the SSID name and password of your WiFi router in the code. Now you are ready to upload the code to ESP32 CAM.

Fig 8.Setting ESP32 cam Fig 9. Code1 Fig 10. Code2 Fig 11. Code setting the SSID and password

Connect the ESP32 board with a separate light weight battery that can provide an output of 4 to 5 V for the drone to easily lift off. Test the ESP32 CAM stream on a browser by searching its IP address.

Fig 12. ESP 32 cam showing live video


After setting all the things and attaching the ESP32 CAM onto the drone, it is ready to fly and and at the same time, capture videos, do live stream, face detection and other recognition tasks.