Taking Flight with the Raspberry Pi Pico & MicroPython: DIY Quadcopter Drone

Tim Hanewich
2 min readOct 14, 2023
My drone is powered by a Raspberry Pi Pico

The Raspberry Pi Pico, equipped with the Raspberry Pi Foundation’s first in-house designed microcontroller, the RP2040, is an extremely versatile platform at an incredibly inexpensive cost!

From smart home systems, controlling LED lighting, air quality sensors, and more, the only limit to what you can do with the Raspberry Pi Pico seems to be our imagination!

During summer 2023, I developed a DIY quadcopter drone using the Raspberry Pi Pico as the “brain”, running a Python-based custom-developed flight controller to achieve flight. This was a very computationally challenging task, but through much trial-and-error, I was able to squeeze enough performance out of the RP2040 to allow for stable and agile flight.

In addition to its processing strength, the compact yet powerful Raspberry Pi Pico allowed for easy integration with various sensors and components required for a quadcopter. It allowed me to easily integrate with the following over its GPIO pins:

  • Read telemetry from an MPU-6050 accelerometer & gyroscope via the I2C protocol
  • Receive radio commands from an onboard receiver via serial communications (UART)
  • Control four independent motors through an ESC via pulse width modulation (PWM)

12-Part Series

I fully open-sourced this DIY quadcopter drone; I wrote a 12-part series, documenting how I developed this quadcopter that I named Scout. You can find a detailed tutorial for each piece of Scout’s development in the series below. The series is complete with concept and code explanations, sample code, wiring diagrams, safety instructions, and more:

  1. Introducing the Scout Flight Controller
  2. Quadcopter Flight Dynamics
  3. Capturing Telemetry with a Gyroscope
  4. Receiving Pilot Input with an RC Receiver
  5. Stabilizing Flight with PID Controllers
  6. Controlling Brushless Motors with ESC’s and PWM
  7. Setting up the Quadcopter Hardware
  8. Full Flight Controller Code & Explanation
  9. Taking Flight
  10. A Lesson in Persistence
  11. Potential Future Improvements
  12. Bonus Code

Please reach out to me @TimHanewich on Twitter/X with any questions!