Keeping your drone in the air

23 August 2018

Joseph Simblett is working on a smarter way to fly drones.

Love ‘em or hate ‘em, it looks like drones are here to stay. They’re now being used regularly for work and play.

University of Waikato Computer Science honours student Joseph Simblett says one of the problems with the technology is the size and limitations of the control, whether it be a remote control, mobile phone app, or a gesture-driven DJI Spark.

Joseph is trying to change that by developing a much smaller gesture control that fits in the palm of the hand, and he demonstrated his design at his faculty’s student research conference this week.

“Most controls need two hands,” Joseph says. “But I’m working on something that is nifty and cheap, with the smallest of sensors, using an android phone connected to Bluetooth, and an IOIO.”

The IOIO (pronounced yo-yo) is a very small board that provides a host phone the capability of interfacing with external hardware over a variety of commonly used protocols via USB, including an accelerometer and gyroscope sensor.

“First, I tested all the hardware components and made necessary adjustments,” Joseph says. “Then I worked on setting the gestures and getting them recognised and implemented into the android application.”

For example, for take off you flip your hand and raise it upwards, to stop the drone you flick your hand up, rotating your hand clockwise then moving your hand in one of six directions will dictate movement.

“I’ve still got some refining to do, and there are issues with accuracy at the moment, but I’m pretty pleased with the progress I’m making,” Joseph says.

Joseph, in his final year of his bachelors degree, won best project at this week’s student research conference. Chris Anderson, researching the visualisation of memory provenance, was runner up in the best project category, while best presentation went to Mitchell Grout with his project titled Automated searching for differential characteristics in SHA-2 (Secure Hash Algorithm 2).

There were 20 student presentations in total and University of Waikato Vice-Chancellor Professor Neil Quigley said the breadth of topics was an indication of the quality of student research being done in the Faculty of Computing and Mathematical Sciences. “There’s fantastic work going on here,” he said.

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