Flying is hard. Using a complicated radio controller which has several joysticks and switches for controlling a drone is a hard task. We wanted to simplify the process of flying a drone to make it less intimidating to a beginner. Gesture control also allows for fine control of the drone's movements.

What it does

Simpli-Fly enables users to directly interact with the movement of their drone through hand gestures and motions. No more twiddling your thumbs with the hope that the drone goes where you want it to go. Instead, tilt your hand in different directions, and with our software, the drone will mimic the tilt of your hand. Rise and lower your palm, and the drone will follow in a similar manner. This range of mobility, combined with the easy and straightforward to use Leap Motion controller, will make it difficult for you to go back to the old days of joysticks and buttons.

How we built it

Simpli-Fly is primarily built upon the Leap Motion controller and it's communication through Bluetooth with an Arduino attached onto the drone. In true hackathon style, the hardware was a mix and mash of equipment brought from home, borrowed, or even salvaged from the ground in the soldering room. Featuring one of a kind custom made parts, we truly hacked both the hardware and software for Simpli-Fly. In terms of software, the majority of the software is written in Python 2.7, using the Leap Motion Standard Development Kit to integrate the Leap Motion Controller into our Python.

Challenges we ran into

  • Due to this hack requiring many miscellaneous parts, many pieces we needed were either out of stock at Hardware Rental, or impossible to obtain using other methods.
  • The only working battery that we had for our drone was an unstable and bloated one. A known problem with LiPo batteries is that they are known to explode when not handled with the utmost care, especially when they have become round from use.
  • As is the nature of a hardware hack, there were many occurrences where the parts we had did not work as they were supposed to, with the only fix being constant restarts that somehow resolved the problem.
  • The drone we used was the personal property of one of our group members, however it was disassembled when it first arrived at Hack the North. Putting together a drone without an instruction manual proved to be extraordinarily difficult.
  • While soldering and attempting to create custom parts, we realized too late that many of the soldering irons were not hot enough to actually melt the solder. This caused us to rotate the one iron that was hot enough between multiple pieces that needed to be soldered together.

Accomplishments that we're proud of

  • Due to all of us having a more software orientated background, we all shared an esteemed sense of pride at the fact that we were able to do something with hardware that could potentially change the world, one flight at a time.
  • Building a drone with custom parts from scratch.
  • The entire group averaged 2-3 hours of sleep per night for Hack the North, a record we hope to break next year!

What we learned

  • Learned how to use Leap Motion and integrate it with Python and Unity/C#
  • Learned how to use PySerial in order to use serial communication within Python
  • Working with HARDware is HARD!
  • Hansson: Personally, I knew almost nothing about Python, C#, or drone hardware before this hack. As you can see, those are almost all of the technologies we used for Simpli-Fly! Now, I am quite well versed in Python, having been involved in the writing process of the software, as well as knowing a deal more about the hardware and Arduino interactions than I had previously known. I am so glad I came to Hack the North 2018, and I do not regret a second of it, except the lineups.

What's next for Simpli-Fly

This is just the beginning of hands-on drone control. As one can see from the included simulator, this technology can also be used for training purposes. Not only that, recreational drones are not the only type of drone used around the globe. Camera/mapping drones, military drones, and other kinds can also be controlled with this technology. With the right training from simulators such as ours, someday we may live in a world were air travel is quite literally at our finger tips. Simpli-Fly has just finished it's maiden flight.

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