I will send $200 USD by paypal to whoever can design/program up the circuits and Arduino necessary to make an adapter for the AR Drone to output PWM signals instead of using the original AR Drone motor controllers and motors. Payout is when I can duplicate the results myself (since I already have an Arduino and can solder up any other components needed) enough to fly a Drone on four bigger esc's and motors. Maybe not fly *well* but that can be a matter of tuning.
Specifically, this would be a module which would have input plugs (pulled off a damaged central cross) that hook into an unmodified AR Drone mainboard, and then an Arduino reads these serial inputs and talks back to the AR Drone like it's pretending to be OEM motor controllers, and then takes what motor values are being called for and turns them into PWM signals, and then outputs them to standard plugs that conventional ESC's and motors can be plugged into. The ESC's would draw their power straight from the battery instead of through the mainboards (due to the higher power desired).
WHY: The AR Drone offers hovering control that no other quadcopter on the market has, in terms of using the down-facing camera for positional hold, and ultrasonic / barometer for height hold. But it is unable to carry much payload, meaning there is a finite limit on how much battery life it can carry, and how much other stuff it can carry such as a GoPro2, tilt/roll mount with stabilizer, 800mW 5.8ghz video transmitter, GPS on-screen display, and on and on. If we could swap to bigger esc's and motors, now we could. With the right motors, props and batteries, I should be able to make a Super-Drone that can fly for half an hour and carry all the equipment I want.
Resource: Here is a link with what I'm guessing would be all somebody would need, aside from maybe a chip to read I2C commands and feed them to the Arduino, and a PWM output chip, pessimistically assuming the Arduino couldn't just directly handle the inputs and outputs itself.http://blog.perquin.com/blog/ardrone-motor-controller/
I base the discussion around an Arduino because that seems to be the current preferred chip for people to work with, and I have two (from old R/C mod's I don't use anymore). Yeah, I'll have to learn how to update the sketch on them, and solder them up to everything, but I am not looking to personally learn how to program an Arduino. I believe this can all be done with stock AR Drone (1 or 2) firmware, since this mod is all "down stream" of the boards, aside from this mod needing to talk back to the boards in terms of pretending to be the motor controller saying "Yep I'm here, version x.x.x, no problems to report"
Maybe this isn't possible. But if it is, and for what this would allow us to do (putting AR Drone's in the center of much bigger multicopters) I think this is something worth putting a prize out there for. And of course, look at the amount of people buying R/C mods, well this is an output rather than input mod, so there would be some serious money a person could make off of this too (not me - just really want it for myself).
So, Arduino programmers, what do you say, is this within possibility? I welcome discussion.