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How to Program a Flying Drone in Python


Top Image: A drone light show

Drone programming involves the creation of scripts or programs to control the movements and behavior of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). In this guide, we’ll focus on using Python to program a flying drone. Python’s simplicity and readability make it an excellent choice for developing applications that interact with drones.

How Python Communicates with the Drone’s Hardware

Python communicates with a drone’s hardware through the use of software development kits (SDKs) or application programming interfaces (APIs) provided by the drone manufacturer. These interfaces act as a bridge between the high-level programming language (Python) and the low-level hardware controls of the drone. The communication is typically facilitated through wireless protocols like Wi-Fi or radio signals, allowing for real-time control and data exchange.

The SDK or API exposes a set of functions and methods that developers can use to interact with various aspects of the drone, such as flight control, telemetry data retrieval, camera manipulation, and more. These functions are implemented in the native programming language of the drone’s firmware, which is often C or C++. Python, being a high-level language, abstracts away the complexities of low-level hardware interactions, making it more accessible for developers to write code for drone applications.

The communication process involves establishing a connection between the Python script and the drone. This connection allows Python code to send commands and receive data from the drone in real-time. Common operations include sending takeoff and landing commands, adjusting the drone’s altitude, controlling its movement in space, and retrieving telemetry data such as GPS coordinates, battery status, and sensor readings.

Furthermore, Python scripts can leverage event-driven programming to respond to various events emitted by the drone, such as changes in altitude, GPS location, or battery levels. This event-driven approach enables developers to create responsive and adaptive drone applications that can adjust their behavior dynamically based on real-time information received from the drone’s hardware.

Programming a Flying Drone in Python


Before delving into drone programming, ensure you have the necessary tools and knowledge:

Drone with Programmable Interface:

    • Choose a drone with a programmable interface or API. Popular choices include DJI Tello, Parrot Anafi, or drones equipped with Pixhawk flight controllers.

Python Installation:

    • Install Python on your computer. Download the latest version from and follow the installation instructions.

Drone SDK or API:

    • Obtain the Software Development Kit (SDK) or Application Programming Interface (API) provided by the drone manufacturer. The SDK acts as a bridge between your Python code and the drone’s hardware.

Step 1: Set Up Your Development Environment

Install Drone SDK/API:

    • Follow the documentation provided by the drone manufacturer to download and install the SDK or API.

Create a Python Virtual Environment (bash):

python -m venv drone_project
source drone_project/bin/activate  # On Windows: drone_project\Scripts\activate

Install Required Packages (bash):

  • Use pip to install the necessary Python packages for drone communication.
pip install drone_sdk_package

Step 2: Connect to the Drone

Establishing a connection between your Python script and the drone is the first step in drone programming.

from drone_sdk_package import DroneAPI

# Initialize the drone API
drone = DroneAPI()

# Check if the connection is successful
if drone.isConnected():
    print("Drone connected successfully.")
    print("Failed to connect to the drone.")

Step 3: Basic Drone Operations

Perform basic drone operations like takeoff, landing, and obtaining telemetry data in Python.

# Takeoff

# Fly to a specific altitude

# Obtain telemetry data (e.g., GPS coordinates)
telemetry_data = drone.getTelemetry()
print(f"Current GPS coordinates: {telemetry_data['gps_coordinates']}")

# Land the drone

Step 4: Implement Autonomous Flight

Write Python code to make the drone fly autonomously by defining waypoints.

# Define waypoints (latitude, longitude, altitude)
waypoints = [(35.123, -120.456, 15), (35.456, -120.789, 20), (35.789, -120.123, 25)]

# Fly to each waypoint
for waypoint in waypoints:

Step 5: Implement Advanced Features

Explore and implement advanced features such as camera control, obstacle avoidance, or following predefined flight paths in Python.

# Control the drone's camera

# Implement obstacle avoidance (if supported by the drone)
if drone.hasObstacleAvoidance():

# Define and follow a predefined flight path
flight_path = [(35.0, -120.0, 10), (35.1, -120.1, 15), ...]
for point in flight_path:


In this guide we show you how to program a flying drone using Python. Remember to consult the documentation provided by the drone manufacturer for detailed information on supported functionalities and programming interfaces. As you progress, explore additional features and functionalities based on your drone model and SDK capabilities.