Racing Lounge

Best practices and teamwork for student competitions

Flying Drones Using Simulink

Today’s guest post is by Maitreyee Mordekar. Maitreyee is in charge of the MathWorks student drone competitions. She’ll be sharing first hand experience from an event where students were progamming the Parrot Mambo Minidrone using Simulink.

You like using Simulink? –  or need an opportunity to learn the software better? You love working with hardware such as the Parrot Mambo Minidrone? Then this is a post you should not miss reading.

Simulink and the Minidrones

Simulink has a readily available environment to program a Parrot Mambo Minidrone. What’s cool is the workflow:

  • you can design your algorithms,
  • check the behavior in the virtual environment in Simulink 3D, and
  • deploy the logic on the hardware.

Following these steps ensures that the algorithm performs exactly how you would expect. In other words, you can be certain that the drone is not going to crash on you.

You can program the Minidrone using the Simulink® Support Package for Parrot® Minidrones. You  can access onboard sensors—such as the ultra sonic, accelerometer, gyroscope, and air pressure sensors—as well as the downward facing camera. Thus, you can design your algorithm, simulate your model and deploy the same on the hardware without writing any other line of code.

You can build anything from making the drone autonomously follow certain waypoints to entirely changing the controller.  The following video shows a demonstration where the drone traverses through four specified points autonomously.

Also, this webinar will help you to quickly get started with it.

Droning Away at IROS Conference

Saying this, MathWorks is hosting its very own student competition based on the Parrot Mambo Hardware. We had our first pilot of the Competition hosted at IROS 2018 held in Madrid on 3rd and 4th October 2018. The participating teams were working on an autonomous line follower algorithm using the Minidrone.  Sounds easy but not until you know that you get the hardware only on the day of the competition.

The teams received their hardware on the same day and started working with it right away. Calibrating, simulating, flying! The teams were fully engrossed until they got the drones to fly. Certainly, working with hardware is tough, but the satisfaction when seeing the algorithm work is incomparable. This video is the winning entry by team UNL-IIITD. 

Here’s a quote from one of the winning teams:  “Coolest competition ever participated and a perfect platform to show the abilities of using Simulink. Thank you MathWorks !”

What’s next?

Go ahead and get started. The documentation contains all the details of how you can start working with the hardware. The MATLAB Answers forum has a list of frequently observed issues and steps to troubleshoot them.

We will have this competition at a few more places in the coming year. Feel free to reply in the comments section if you would be interested in participating in this competition.

By the way, did you all know that we  have a Simulink Student Challenge  where you can win 1000 USD by sharing a video of any cool projects that you have implemented using Simulink?

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