Finished Pieces

Drone Lab

PCBs and parts kits are now available for the NEW and improved Drone Lab!

The Drone Lab is an analog sound module specially designed for making dense, rich drones. I wanted to design something that could fit in your hand but still deliver some heavy sound. Check out the video below to see/hear how 3 of these lil’ guys can really bring the drone-y goods.

Below is a higher quality version of the audio from the video above.
3 drones recording

-4 Tone generators. Two can be pitch modulated, two volume modulated.
-4 Tone activation switches. 2 are 3 setting switches, up=on/center=off/down=volume modulation.
-Master LFO
-2 LFO dividers. The dividers can be used to modulate the tones.
-2 Pitch modulation depth adjustments.
-Resonant low pass filter filter
-2 Band pass filters

-Battery powered. Runs for weeks non-stop on one 9 volt battery!

Here are a schematic and block diagram drawn by Giancarlo Sica. Giancarlo has been very generous with his time and patient with me through the many revisions I requested. Thanks Giancarlo!!!
Click on either image to see a much larger version.


One of the main challenges with this pieces was getting 15 potentiometers, 4 switches, 2 leds, an audio jack and a big battery compartment to fit into such a small housing.

The next challenge was getting all of the circuitry to fit on one board in a way where it wouldn’t push against any of the hardware.

Then I had to get all of the wires to fit! This thing is really tightly packed…and I still have to fit the battery compartment in there.

The core of the Drone Lab is based on Ray Wilson’s Weird Sound Generator. I talk about Ray alot on this site. His work is amazing and the documentation on his site is unbelievable. His site is called Music From Outer Space. If you’ve never been there, go now. Just stop reading and go.

The basic architecture of the Drone Lab is 4 tone generators, a rhythmic modulator and a bunch of wave shapers.

Tone generators. I took these straight from Rays WSG. I used a CD40106 Hex Schmitt trigger to make 4 adjustable square waves. It’s very compact and stable BUT it’s very sensitive to noise. If you build a Drone Lab or WSG, be aware of this! This has been pretty tough to work around. Even if you turn off a tone you may still hear it in the final mix. There are ways around this which I may get into later but it requires extra hardware. All told, I’ve played out with the Drone Lab a lot and I haven’t found this to be much of a problem at all but some people may find it annoying.

Rhythmic Modulator. This is a really awesome feature that I’m going to start building into lots of gear. 2 dividers are linked to 1 LFO. The outputs of the dividers control the tone generators. The effects are linked but at separate tempos. You can use this to create really interesting rhythmic and melodic effects.
I used one more trigger from the 40106 to make a square wave LFO. Then I sent the LFO to 2 variable divider circuits. The dividers output subdivisions of the master LFO at a rate and pulse width determined by a single potentiometer (1 per divider). Each divider can be used to control 2 of the tone generators. One tone can be pitch modulated, the other can be volume modulated.

Wave Shapers. The wave shapers really bring the Drone Lab to life. I included 3 filters and a fuzz circuit for lots of knob tweaking potential. The fuzz is a very basic circuit and it’s main function is to accentuate the pulsing that appears when two tones are tuned to almost the same frequency. The resonant low pass filter is taken from Rays WSG but with a few small changes. The other filters are 2 band pass filters and they sound amazing.


16 Responses to “Drone Lab”

  • 1

    Twitted by Frammia said:
    May 7th, 2009 at 6:53am #

    […] This post was Twitted by Frammia – […]

  • 2

    * Casper Electronics » Archive » Drone Lab improved schematic said:
    May 10th, 2009 at 9:20pm #

    […] much improved Drone Lab schematic was sent in by Giancarlo Sica. I also found a few mistakes in my original drawing which […]

  • 3

    * Casper Electronics » Archive » Drone Lab update said:
    May 24th, 2009 at 12:23pm #

    […] posted some more schematic drawings of the Drone Lab sent in by Giancarlo Sica. Click on the images below to see larger versions. A PCB is in the works. […]

  • 4

    adyourbanner » Blog Archive » Sweet sounds of the Drone Lab said:
    June 30th, 2009 at 5:12pm #

    […] three going at once. For more info including ordering info and schematics (build your own!) go to:… You can also download a higher quality version of the full 12 minute audio recording from this […]

  • 5

    michael k said:
    September 30th, 2009 at 8:16pm #

    is it possible that you would build one or two of these as a custom order?

  • 6

    casper said:
    September 30th, 2009 at 8:47pm #

    Wayn3w and michael.
    I am currently working on the PCB for the new drone lab. It is slotted for release by november 1st. I will be selling PCBs and hopefully parts kits soon after. I will also be taking orders for complete units. I will post all over my site once they are ready to order.

  • 7

    Vytenis said:
    February 19th, 2010 at 7:17am #

    Hi! I’m almost finished drone lab. But I have a question: Is the schematics where is Two band pass filter I see that there is written capacitor 0.0047uF and below – 0.0047 . Is it 0.0047F ???

  • 8

    Matthieu Simard said:
    April 29th, 2010 at 5:02pm #

    Holly God This sound is almost making me crying with a mega-satisfied smile! You are a modern sound Hero!

  • 9

    casper said:
    May 2nd, 2010 at 12:58am #

    glad you like it! i wish I still had these guys. They have a good sound.

  • 10

    chris said:
    November 8th, 2010 at 3:55pm #

    i only have lm358’s an lm741’s, if i wanted to recreate this without ordering the quad amps, i could just use four of one type right?

  • 11

    casper said:
    November 13th, 2010 at 6:12pm #

    Yes you could just use 4 single op amps

  • 12

    2011 – Von Januar bis Dezember - said:
    December 31st, 2011 at 2:02pm #

    […] Dronelab gebaut (7 Stunden löten und ca 2 “Multimeter Bugfixing”) […]

  • 13

    J-R said:
    January 13th, 2012 at 6:30am #

    Hello everyone, is there any tutorial for a DIY noob?

  • 14

    casper said:
    February 16th, 2012 at 8:43pm #

    There is no more info on this project than what you will find on this page. The Drone Lab V2 on the other hand is very noob friendly.

  • 15

    Johnny-PSY said:
    August 15th, 2012 at 9:48am #

    Hi! I start my Drone Lab v1. Transistors are 2n3904 and 2n3906? Signatures are badly visible…

    Thank you for this project and sorry for my English =)

  • 16

    carmelpeach said:
    May 7th, 2014 at 6:17am #


    I would like to know the price of the DroneLab

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