One of the things that many people like about the AR Drone is the fact that the user’s iPad doubles as the quadcopter’s control unit. While using a tablet as a controller does have its advantages, there is one drawback – because the iPad communicates with the drone via Wi-Fi, its range is quite limited. The designers of the Fighting Walrus Radio are attempting to remedy that situation, by allowing newer iPads, iPhones and iPod touches to communicate with unmanned aerial vehicles via longer-range radio frequency.
The aluminum-bodied Fighting Walrus Radio attaches to the side of an iOS device, and will be available in both 30-pin and Lightning connector versions. It’s based around a HopeRF HM-TRP Transceiver module, and is able to communicate not only with the AR Drone, but with any UAV utilizing the MAVLink Micro Air Vehicle communication protocol.
Its line-of-sight range is one mile (1,609 meters) – quite a bit farther than the AR Drone’s current Wi-Fi range of 165 feet (50 meters).
Using the open-source software, users can steer their aircraft in real time, monitor flight systems, log flight data, and add mapped way-points to the programmed flight path of GPS-enabled UAVs. AR Drone owners can use a modified version of Parrot’s FreeFlight app, although they will lose the feed from the onboard video cameras as the quadcopter moves out of Wi-Fi range.
The San Francisco-based designers of the Fighting Walrus are currently raising production funds on Indiegogo, and are working with Apple to ensure that their device meets the company’s requirements. A pledge of US$99 will get you a Walrus of your own, when and if they’re ready to go.
More information is available in the pitch video below.