How to Program / Upload Code to ESP32-CAM AI-Thinker (Arduino IDE)

The ESP32-CAM AI-Thinker development board can be programmed using Arduino IDE. This guide shows how to program and upload code to the ESP32-CAM (AI-Thinker) development board using Arduino IDE.

The ESP32-CAM AI-Thinker module is an ESP32 development board with an OV2640 camera, microSD card support, on-board flash lamp and several GPIOs to connect peripherals. However, it doesn’t have a built-in programmer. You need an FTDI programmer to connect it to your computer and upload code.

  • Buy an FTDI Programmer
  • Buy an ESP32-CAM AI-Thinker with OV2640 Camera

Install the ESP32 Add-on

To program the ESP32-CAM board with Arduino IDE, you need to have Arduino IDE installed as well as the ESP32 add-on. Follow the next tutorial to install the ESP32 add-on, if you haven’t already:

Program ESP32-CAM (Upload Code with Arduino IDE)

To upload code to the ESP32-CAM (AI-Thinker) using Arduino IDE, follow the next exact steps.

Connect the ESP32-CAM board to your computer using an FTDI programmer. Follow the next schematic diagram

Note: the order of the FTDI pins on the diagram may not match yours. Make sure you check the silkscreen label next to each pin.

Many FTDI programmers have a jumper that allows you to select 3.3V or 5V. Make sure the jumper is in the right place to select 5V.

Important: GPIO 0 needs to be connected to GND so that you’re able to upload code.

ESP32-CAMFTDI Programmer
GNDGND
5VVCC (5V)
U0RTX
U0TRX
GPIO 0GND

To upload code to the ESP32-CAM using Arduino IDE, follow the next steps:

1) Go to Tools Board and select AI-Thinker ESP32-CAM. You must have the ESP32 add-on installed. Otherwise, this board won’t show up on the Boards menu.

2) Go to Tools Port and select the COM port the ESP32-CAM is connected to.

3) For demonstration purposes, you can upload a blank sketch to your board:

void setup() {
  // put your setup code here, to run once:
}

void loop() {
  // put your main code here, to run repeatedly:
}

4) Then, click the Upload button in your Arduino IDE.

5) When you start to see some dots on the debugging window, press the ESP32-CAM on-board RST button.

After a few seconds, the code should be successfully uploaded to your board.

6) When you see the “Done uploading” message, you need to remove GPIO 0 from GND and press the RST button to run your new code.

Common Errors and How to Fix Them

If you don’t follow the previous instructions exactly, you may get the following errors:

Failed to connect to ESP32: Timed out waiting for packet header

This error means that the ESP32-CAM is not in flashing mode or it is not connected properly to the FTDI programmer.

Brownout detector or Guru meditation error

When you open your Arduino IDE Serial Monitor and the error message “Brownout detector was triggered” is constantly being printed over and over again. It means that there’s some sort of hardware problem.

It’s often related to one of the following issues:

  • Poor quality USB cable;
  • USB cable is too long;
  • Board with some defect (bad solder joints);
  • Bad computer USB port;
  • Or not enough power provided by the computer USB port.

Solution: 

  • Try a different shorter USB cable (with data wires);
  • Use a different computer USB port or use a USB hub with an external power supply;
  • Some readers were using 3.3V and reported that when powering the ESP32-CAM with 5V, the issue was fixed.

Board at COMX is not available – COM Port not selected

If you get the following error or similar:

serial.serialutil.SerialException: could not open port 'COM8': WindowsError(2, 'The system cannot find the file specified.')
Failed to execute script esptool
the selected serial port Failed to execute script esptool
 does not exist or your board is not connected
Board at COM8 is not available

It means that you haven’t selected the COM port in the Tools menu. In your Arduino IDE, go to Tools Port and select the COM port the ESP32 is connected to.

It might also mean that the ESP32-CAM is not establishing a serial connection with your computer or it is not properly connected to the USB connector.

Other errors

For a more extensive list of the most common problems with the ESP32-CAM and how to fix them, read our ESP32-CAM Troubleshooting Guide.

Wrapping Up

We hope this guide helps you get started programming your ESP32-CAM AI-Thinker using Arduino IDE.

Check all our projects with the ESP32-CAM:

There are different models of ESP32 camera development boards that might be more suitable for your projects. So, you might also like reading:

  • ESP32 Camera Dev Boards Review and Comparison

Thanks for reading.

Published by Gnd_To_Vcc

Here to spread my knowledge . Knowledge should always be spread not stored.

4 thoughts on “How to Program / Upload Code to ESP32-CAM AI-Thinker (Arduino IDE)

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