Gusto of Dron-e-ing

  • 03 Mar 2024
  • Text by Abhinava Bharadwaj Nookala, NTU Aerospace Society

Five teams, four drones, three hours of preparations, a two-part obstacle course, and one showdown! The evening of 20 October 2023 was like no other as the members of NTU Aerospace Society were juiced to host The Drone Coding workshop in collaboration with Residential Education (RE) at NTU. The overwhelming response in registration numbers created a frisson of excitement in everyone as we prepared our logistics and ardently waited for participants to arrive.

Within minutes, the room was filled with anticipation, mingling with the hum of conversations among participating drone enthusiasts. Without further ado, we kicked off our workshop with an engaging presentation on the DJI Tello drones, on their flight dynamics and Python programming. The participants’ jittery excitement was matched by our drone coding experts’ infectious enthusiasm, who introduced the participants to the suites of code that used functions and derivatives from OpenCV, Tello, and Flight Controller modules. After the presentation, the drone enthusiasts sent a frenzy across the hall as they eagerly armed themselves with their laptops to get their ideas flying.

It took a couple of hisses to configure the Python interpreter to their development environment. But soon after, the interpreters were already running hot, with teams zoning in and cueing on their codes. The room echoed with the punching of keys and energetic discussions, as the storms of thoughts found their way into a programming sequence. As that continued, our club representatives and drone coding experts moved around the tables, offering guidance to the participants. Mostly, they shared laughs over silly mistakes, raised eyebrows at complex code combinations, and pondered together, “Hmm, that’s weird. Why isn’t it working?” These interactions help eased the tension of the time crunch and fatigue of buggy codes for the participants, while serving as sportful yet code-piquing moments for us.

The timer announced itself after three hours, and the codes were ready to be put to the test. With a two-part obstacle course in place, participants were required to maneuver the drone through it using their codes. Quite literally, the ‘hard code.’ Most participants sent out a ‘whoa’ upon seeing the obstacle course, but it only convinced us that they were down for the challenge. In an instant, the hall fell silent, and the whizzing sound of the drone took over. While the drones obeyed the commands from the teams, our eyes obeyed the flight path of the drone. Trickling from side to side, hovering up over or down under, jerking back and forth; the drones moved like toddlers who had just started to walk. During the course of the next half hour, we saw every team’s code driving their drone home, and the weight of judging eventually fell prey to their efforts and enthusiasm, declaring everyone a winner.

As the event draws to a close, post-workshop conversations created insightful discussion among the participants, along with hilarious comments that burst into fits of laughter and the gentle and grateful goodbyes that cracked a smile on all faces. What lingered was an atmosphere of inspiration created by beginner hobbyists in their first drone experiences. A memorable experience driven by the participants’ enthusiasm and made possible by our dedicated organizing team.

The Drone Coding workshop this time sets up the whiz of drones in NTU, starting a buzz that would only grow bigger and louder as the droning continues!

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