VEX Controllers Mapping for Drones

I’m looking into whether or not it will be possible to map VEX controllers to control an AR Drone. In theory, it seems relatively simple, but I don’t know the technical aspects to make it possible.

Would it be possible to use the VEXnet key as a general 2.4 GHz transmitter to control a drone that operates at the same frequency? How will I be able to pair the two together?


It’s not simple, no.

There are two primary ways to use the VEX joystick controller/VEXNet key combo to control a drone, and both are difficult, and made up of multiple steps that are independently difficult.

  1. The first way would be to emulate the cortex on a drone platform. That is, you can’t use just any drone; you’d have to use a drone where you can run either the unmodified CPU firmware and one of the operating environments that run on-top-of/along-side it, or you’d have to reverse-engineer the firmware. In order for the Master CPU firmware to run unmodified, you have to provide exactly the environment it wants to run in. That level of reverse-engineering of a hardware platform is possible, but only done because you must, or because you like the challenge. If fully reverse engineering the hardware platform isn’t your thing, you’d need to reverse engineer the Master CPU firmware and modify it to run on something else. Oh, you’d have to use a VEXNet key on the drone.

Once you have your VEX platform on a drone, programming it would be straightforward.

  1. The other way to do this does not require additional external hardware. You would need to reverse engineer the firmware of the joystick controller, and (probably) also of the VEXNet key. Both those things are really small embedded systems running compiled/assembled software. Start with the joystick; it’s possible (but not probable) that you won’t need to reverse engineer the code in the VEXNet key.

Since you’re not forced to do either of these two feats of reverse-engineering, you’d have to do it just because you wanted to do it.

But I think, what you wanted to do was fly a drone. There’s only so much time available; you’ll have to prioritize what you want to do.

If you change the question a little, to “Is there any way to control a Drone with a VEX Joystick controller?” then the answer is “yes.”

You could use the joystick to talk to a ground-bound Cortex. Write a program on the cortex to talk to a radio module attached to the cortex via UART port or digital I/O pins. You could use one of the small 2.4ghz radios typically driven by an arduino.

That would not be hard; not compared to doing it without the cortex.