I am working on a project where I want to run some computer vision algorithms (e.g. face recognition) on the live video stream coming from a flying drone.

There are many commercial drones out there that offer video streams, like

But none of them seem to give access to the video feed for real-time processing.

Another idea is to have the drone carry a smartphone, and do the processing on the phone through the phone's camera. Or just use a digital camera and an arduino that are attached to the drone.

Although these ideas are feasible, I would rather access the video-feed of the drone itself. So my question is that are there any drones out there that offer this feature? or can be hacked somehow to achieve this?

  • $\begingroup$ I've had a quick look at your links and I can't see a mention of streaming the data, just capturing to SD card. What ever solution you choose you may have bandwidth problems . $\endgroup$ – Code Gorilla Oct 15 '15 at 12:43
  • $\begingroup$ or you could simply mirror your phone to your laptop. a multi screen system would allow you to play phone on one and analyze data on the other. $\endgroup$ – Jojo Feb 7 at 6:09

This AR.Drone provides SDK, therefore, you can access the images on real-time. It is fully compatible with Linux. They have examples also for smartphones. I believe android and iPhone. It has two cameras. I've bought it and its price is reasonable. At that time, the price was roughly 272 CAD. Of course, the price is now more expensive than before but I believe it is affordable. You need to know c programming and Makefiles.


I bought an AR done 2.0 for my research.

I used Labview to process the realtime video feed from either the bottom camera of the drone or the front camera.

You can read more details on how to setup the 3rd party free library to use Labview to control and to receive realtime sensors data and video feed as well:

AR Drone Toolkit for LabVIEW - LVH


Another option is to build your own drone, for example with a PixHawk Autopilot. Then connect your PixHawk to an embedded computer as the Odroid XU-4 or the (way more powerful) Nvidia Jetson TX2. Both of them support Linux (on the TX2 you have linux ubuntu for tegra) Then you could choose your own camera (I am actually in the process of selecting a new camera for our drones) and interface everything through ROS.

Of course, this is not trivial and it requires some expertise. But I firmly think it is one of the best options out there. Especially using the TX2 because it could open also to you the world of Deep Learning onboard the quadrotor. This is true because the NVIDIA Jetson TX2 has a GPU which is meant for deep learning application.

I hope this will help.


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