“Yes, this is my old Game Boy,” Hattenberger told Digital Trends. “I was around 10 years old when I got it. I’m now teaching flight mechanics and doing research in UAV systems at the French Civil Aviation University (ENAC) in Toulouse.”
Hattenberger had to make a few small modifications to his Game Boy in order to turn it into the retro drone remote he was looking for. He modified the devices’ game link port — which let users connect two Game Boys together for pre-internet multiplayer fun — by attaching an Arduino circuit board and FTDI chip. This allows the handheld to read the buttons that are pressed and then send them to a connected laptop where Hattenberger is running an open-source UAV project called Paparazzi UAV, which he helped develop.
“I wrote a small program that converts the buttons into actual ground velocity commands, so the user can control the ground speed, the climb rate and the heading [of the Parrot ARDrone 2.0 quadcopter],” he continued. As controls go, it’s pretty neat stuff — with the Game Boy’s A and B buttons making the drone go up or down, and the directional pad used for steering it.
And he’s not done when it comes to converting classic consoles into drone controllers, either. “I actually already made a flight controller with an home made arcade gamepad, but only tested it in simulation,” Hattenberger said. “This was not really handy for outdoor flight. I also have a Sega [Genesis] gamepad, which I’m planning to test with the same configuration than the Game Boy.”
And just when you thought drones couldn’t get any cooler!