The updated list of open source alternative firmware to inexpensive drones.
Whether you’re new to quadcopters and looking for something ready to fly that you can put an alternative firmware to play around with. Or an aspiring drone programmer looking for a cheap developer platform, quadcopters are a great way to start familiarizing with open source in unmanned aerial vehicles.
The first and main reason you might want to install alternative firmware is that you are adding features that although are possible on the consumer-grade hardware you purchased, the manufacturer decided not to add for a variety of reasons. They want to keep it simple and easy for Joe-pilot to fly and also because they sell much more expensive hardware to people who want those features.
Luckily for you, people have been working on ways to get the fancy software on this plain hardware even provide you full source code.
Since the ready to fly quadcopters featured here vary greatly in size, specifications and pricing, this list is not intended to be read as a direct comparison between the selected models. Rather, this list is a compilation of those few drones to which you can install a firmware based on open source.
Last updated: December 2016
1. Cheerson CX-10
Flight environment: Indoor
Programmer: STM32F4-Discovery Board (~$15) or ST-LINK V2 Emulator Downloader Programmer (3.33 $)
Open Source Firmware: Samuel Powell cx10_fnrf
Open Source Install Guide: Bartslinger step-by-step
The Cheerson CX-10 is not small. It’s really, really, small. In fact, this is, at least for now, the smallest quadcopter in the world. It measures in at just 1.65” inches on each side and is under an inch tall. When it’s in the air, it sounds like a bug flying around, and it looks like it too. Overall the CX-10 is a solid little drone. It’s not meant for those of you who want something to fly in the park or even in a big indoor space. It’s meant for those who want something super cheap and super small for flying around the living room. As a small drone as it is looks like it a cheap toy but looks however can be deceiving. It contains a powerful 32-bit processor can be reprogrammed with an alternative firmware. But there’s a catch after firmware upgrade you will need fit it with a micro PPM receiver and a matching RC Tx. Then you can fly acro (manual or gyro) modes. If you want to fly with stock remote check the next drone, the Eachine h8 mini.
2. Fluoreon H101
The Floureon H101 quadcopter is an extremely affordable aircraft which flies surprisingly well. This micro quadcopter can fly upside down with incredible yaw rate. Also has headless mode and one key return. $15.99 with coupon FXH101 .
Silverxxx from rcgroups did it again and this little also has available a opensource firmware. But if it’s your first time with a firmware update perhaps you prefer a cheaper H8 whose install is much more documented.
3. Eachine H8 mini
The Eachine H8 mini is so tiny it can fit nicely in the palm of your hand. It also has a 6 axis gyro which makes it very stable when flying with control sensitivity that can be adjusted to suit your flying style. With stock firmware a fast yaw rate makes it agile and easily maneuverable. If you need more can install a opensource acrobatic firmware that will make you take this little to the limit. A great choice for trainer acrobatic for novice pilots of larger drones.
4. Cheerson CX-20
Flight environment: Outdoor
Programmer: None, any micro-USB cable will work.
Open Source Firmware: Ardupilot APM
Open Source Install Guide: DroneGarage Step-by-step
This device is not a toy, with its characteristics can rival the famous DJI Phantom drones. With it you can record aerial videos like a professional. Cheerson CX20 is quadcopter with GPS/autopilot, video gimbal control (2 servo ouputs), and HDCamera/FPV capable. There are several CX20 versions on the market, but only one the Open Source Version which is compatible with APM that works with Arducopter/Mission Planner. This quadcopter uses an stock APM v2.52 with the ArduCopter v3.1.2 already installed. It fly very well and all the Arducopter features are working very well. When connected to the computer you can install current versions of APM, remove limits that will allow you to fly faster, try new flight modes, or even upload autonomous flight routes.