The Airdrum - Make music while moving

Auditive and visual feedback with minimal effort in a modular package for everyone!

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The Airdrum is a musical instrument that can be played by moving objects above the panels. These panels contain IR-distance sensors and colored LEDs. The Airdrum is designed by three Dutch engineering students and is originally intended to be played by people with multiple severe disabilities.

The project is ongoing for quite some time.
It has been built and redesigned many times with numerous learnings in the process.
V3.0 will be versatile, modular, affordable and upgradable.

Meet The Airdrum V1

(Depreciated version. V3 is being engineered)


We talked with therapists and health care institutions during our research. These Health care institutions (which facilitate housing, learning opportunities and day care for severe disabled people) often encounter the difficulties of communicating with their clients. The institutions experienced that making music together is a great way of communicating and this is why many institutions offer music therapy. These music therapists say that clients are evidently learning and, more importantly, having fun while making music!
Unfortunately, clients are not always able to play traditional instruments because of their mental and physical disabilities. 

Contributions to society

According to music therapists, the main goal is having fun. It is proven that people learn more when having fun. When playing an instrument, and particularly the Airdrum, clients can share emotions, practicing their motor skills end learn to listen and watch.


We have four goals concerning the development:

  • Accessible

We want everybody to play and interact with the Airdrum. Varying from people who are to experience their first musical device to the professionals, who can use the airdrum as input to their compositions.

  • Affordable

While exploring the various specialized instruments for the above mentioned audience, we found out that these are very expensive. Often even more expensive than professional electronic or acoustic instruments. We want the Airdrum to be played for a broad audience so price must be a concern.

  • Adjustable

We want the Airdrum to be as versatile as can be. It must be possible to choose (custom) sounds and lights to play.

  • Modular

With a modular design in mind everybody can built the amount of panels they need / want.
With the minimum at 2 panels; Rpi motherboard and a batterypack panel.

Plans for further improvement

With accessibility, affordability, adjustability and modularity in mind, we want to implement the following ideas for the next build logs:

  • Create a working prototype
  • Connecting the prototype with a smartphone or tablet
  • Designing an app
  • Built in synthesizer
  • MIDI possibilities 

High-level overview of The Airdrum V3.0

We went full circle in the coming version. 
As seen in the picture below, users need a minimum of 2 panels and 2 speaker modules to get a fully functionable and portable Airdrum. (more details will be given in the logs)

All panels will include a Buck converter. This is done so the current through the connectors can be drawn to a minimum. 

The connectors will be magnetic so the panels can snap on and off for ease in use and maximum modularity.

  1. The Master module panel is equiped with an internal Rpi3 with IO accessible for connectivity and upgrades
  2. The Battery panel includes a 4S 16.8V 3300mAh 18650 batterypack
  3. Left and right speakers will be modular. Users can choose how many panels they want in between the speakers or if they want speakers at all. 

With this version we are taking making music to a next level!
Want to go full circle? Imagine making music standing in the middle of this light and sound organ! 

  • Magnetic connector

    alessandro verdiesen5 days ago 0 comments

    Today we started with the R&D on our magnetic power and data connector for the panels. 

    The initial idea began some time ago with:
    "How cool would it be to have magnetic connectors like those first macbook chargers"

    In previous versions this wasn't needed because The Airdrum consisted of six panels which where all connected permanently. As of this version we are building the Airdrum modular from the bottom up, and so we needed a connector that would meet this requirement.

    • The left side of the panels will get a magnetic side (the one that was encased in the cable)
    • The right side of the panels will get the female connector inserted with the male part of the magnetic cable.

    We have looked at numerous possibilities but the most affordable would be to use commercially available parts. And since USB-C now also comes in magnetic forms, we gave it a try. 

    The connectors are magnetic USB-C qualcomm quick charge 3.0 certified and therefore have more pins then  the cheaper magnetic cables. This type has 10 connections in total. 5 on each side. 

    The Airdrum panels need at least 6 connections:

    1. VCC and Ground          ( 3-GND [black] , 3-VCC [red] )
    2. I2C                                 (1-SDA [Blue], 1-SCL [Yellow] )
    3. Audio Left and Right     (1-Left [Green], 1-Right [Purple] )

    For convenience we've used the same wirecolors as the connections in the high-level overview of the project description.

    More testing in the coming days! 

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Kristen Swanner wrote 05/14/2019 at 22:17 point

I appreciate that your product is concerned with providing a learning experience for individuals with severe disabilities. You've created something magical that will surely encourage play and wonder.

  Are you sure? yes | no

alessandro verdiesen wrote 05/14/2019 at 22:40 point

Thanks Kristin!
I appreciate your comment  :)
Updates on the final version will follow in the coming weeks (parts have to arrive)

  Are you sure? yes | no

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