Drone Station lets you fly an AR.Drone using a Mac, with gaming controllers
By Ben Coxworth
December 29, 2011
The AR.Drone quadricopter really is quite a nifty toy ... or tool ... or whatever you want to call it. Up until now, however, it could only be controlled by an iPhone/iPad/iPod touch, an Android smartphone, or for the people who have one, a Linux PC. While those options weren't exactly holding users back, the folks over at Drone Apps realized that a lot more would be possible if the aircraft could be piloted through an iMac or Macbook - most importantly, controllers such as joysticks and gamepads could be used. The result is an OS X application called Drone Station.
Among other things, the app lets users record video or snap stills from the drone's front and bottom cameras, and practice their flying skills on a simulator before sending their US$300 quadricopter skyward. The onscreen display also provides real-time readings on attitude, altitude, direction, and battery level. Additionally, by using an external USB WiFi dongle on their computer, users can reportedly get over three times the range possible using a mobile device.
Probably the biggest selling feature, though, is the fact that pilots can use commonly-available gaming controllers. Compatible models include wired USB Xbox 360 and PS3 units, Logitech's Extreme 3D Pro joystick and Dual Action Gamepad, the Thrustmaster T-Flight Hotas X, and Wii Motion Controllers with Nunchuk and/or Balance Board. If nothing else, the computer's keyboard and mouse will also suffice.
The Mac itself must be running OS X 10.6.6 or later.
Drone Station is available via the App Store, for US$9.99. A demo of the system can be seen below.