Codemash 2018: Drone Racing

AJThis year at Codemash I thought it’d be fun to do a “precompiler” session (aka an in-depth session before the conference gets started), despite the fact it may not specifically help in my software development area. But I hadn’t done any sort of embedded systems work since college and I thought this would be a great opportunity to get back into it.

As you may know, drone racing has been picking up a lot of steam lately. In fact, they’re even broadcasting it on ESPN these days. It’s actually very exciting to watch: Drones fly at impressive speeds through complex courses that require an amazing amount of maneuverability that takes nothing less than a wiz to handle.

For this course, the instructions are online here. They’re clear and straightforward enough that anybody could probably purchase the parts and build one. I’m pretty interested in doing this myself.

What I liked about this session:

  • The instructions were clear and concise.  There are pictures and details needed to create the drone.
  • The professors were always available to help with issues that we had.
  • Even with our issues, we had plenty of time to complete the drone and fly it around.
  • The instructions are online, so anybody could create a drone using them.
  • You get to build a drone!

What I thought could be improved on:

  • My only comment here is that I would’ve loved to be able to keep the drone I built.

Even with the instructions, we made a number of mistakes building the drone:

  • Put the main board on incorrectly (3 times)
  • Plugged in the motors backwards (3 times)
  • Placed the motors in the wrong spot
  • We ran into some issues with the main board once we finished our drone and the teacher had to re-flash the hardware

Even with all of our difficulties, we managed to have a working drone with more than a few hours left in the class (it’s a full day session).  We played with it until the class ended and regretfully handed it back to the instructor.  I really enjoyed this class, and I’m considering building my own drone (that I can keep!) just for the fun of it.

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