How to Fly a Drone with a Game Boy Classic

Gather round, children, and hear a tale of gaming gone by.

It is spring in 1989—the Berlin Wall is still standing, the first Bush is in the White House, and all over Japan people are smashing buttons on a little device called a Game Boy. The handheld console that would come to define gaming for the next decade originally came bundled with Tetris, which users could play on the Game Boy’s green monochrome screen. It was so much cooler than whatever those nerds were playing on their TurboExpress and Pokémon wasn’t even a thing yet.

Today, it seems that we have forgotten the awesomeness that was the Game Boy classic. What was once one of the most popular gaming platforms in the world has now come to inhabit forgotten kitchen drawers the world over. But Gautier Hattenberger hasn’t forgotten. Instead, he’s reinvented the classic device for the 21st century—by turning it into a drone controller.

As Hattenberger details on the Paparazzi UAV blog (an open-source project for drone hardware and software), he recently rediscovered his Game Boy classic while at his parents’ house and immediately found himself wondering: “can I fly a drone with this?”

The answer, it turns out, is hell yes.

Image: Hattenberger.

To make this happen, Hattenberger modified the Game Boy’s game link port (which allowed users to connect Game Boys and play against each other) by adding an Arduino circuit board and FTDI chip, which allowed him to convert the game link signals to USB. Using a small software program on his computer (Hattenberger has uploaded the software’s source code to GitHub), he was able to pilot a Parrot ARDrone 2.0 quadcopter using the Game Boy. The controls are simple enough, with the A and B buttons used to go up or down while the four arrow buttons are used for steering.

It’s no Super Mario Bros, but it’s still pretty damn cool.

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