Drona Aviation – the team behind the Pluto Nano-Drone organised a Drone Hack as a part of the MakerFest India in Ahmedabad. Almost 20 teams participated in the event.
Pluto is a compact, programmable, lightweight drone which can withstand impacts of falling on the ground and collisions. It is easy to add sensors to it so that it can be made more autonomous and capable of performing tasks, including obstacle avoidance while flying. The drone can be controlled via a smartphone.
The Drone Hackathon or the Dronathon had multiple challenges in which the teams could participate. We participated in the Lava Wall Challenge which had the objective of letting the drone autonomously navigate a lava wall using sensors fitted atop the drone.
For the benefit of the participants, the Dronathon started with a 3 hours workshop on how to fly and control the Pluto drone. Each team was given a drone kit and mini tasks to perform during the workshop to develop familiarity with the product. Organising a hardware hackathon is not an easy one and a Drone Hackathon is an even more difficult task as ample space is needed to fly a drone. But the Dronathon organisers did an excellent job by providing space, training, and drone kits so that the teams could have a quick start.
As this was our first drone hack, it took us several hours to understand how the drones fly, and how one can change their roll, lift and yaw by changing the speed of different motors. It also takes skills to fly a drone to test if the code we have uploaded to it is performing well.
Programming a drone is very different from terrestrial robots as drones need to navigate in 3-Dimensional space which means more equations and situations to account for. We used a distance sensor to give a slight roll to the Drone when it sensed an obstacle in the plane it was flying.
It was a very enjoyable experience for us. The Drone Aviation company has been incubated at the Indian Institute of Technology (Mumbai) and is run by IIT Mumbai graduates. The mentors and team members knew the Pluto drone inside out and provided excellent coding and technical support to the participants during the Drone Hack.