Pretty much everyone these days knows that some companies can launch thousands of drones in the air and perform a breathtaking show with light and moving animation. This is an incredible piece of engineering, but  in attempt to do something similar one should consider technological, personnel and logistical capabilities of a worldwide corporation.

At Geoscan ltd, we decided to create our own droneshow on a budget using our already developed platform called Pioneer. Originally this quadcopter kit was designed for educational purposes. It is distributed to schools and technical communities to get students familiar with this kind of robots. The platform itself is modular, programmable and easy to assemble and use. 1300 mAh battery gives it solid 8 minutes of flight time. Equipped with GPS and LED modules, it turns into a perfect unit to run any kind of airshow imaginable.

Firstly, the animation is designed in any 3D editor. After that it is converted into multiple Lua script, which are uploaded to each Pioneer before takeoff. Despite we don’t use some expensive tech like RTK, there’s never been any serious issues during the flight. In the air each drone acts independently according to its pre-loaded trajectory, using GPS coordinates for orientation and barometer for altitude control.  There’s also a safety mode, which allows switching the whole swarm in manual control mode and landing it in case something goes wrong.

The first test flights took place in august involving 5, later 10 drones. Two months later, ten dozens of buzzing lights performed a breathtaking show on the Black sea coast. Having main troubles sorted out, we are currently improving animation capabilities and hope to launch 200 drones simultaneously by the end of 2018. You can learn more on our webpage Feel free to contact us if you have any questions regarding Pioneer drone.

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Comment by Federico Rossi 4 hours ago

Hi, this looks amazing, congrats.

I have some questions on what regards to light shows.

What is the maximum number of Pioneers that can be used in an indoor light show? I understand the indoor positioning system uses ultrasound for drone positioning with a range of 10x10x4 m which would be the max size of the cube containing the drones. How many Pioneers that cube can contain safely? And what is the minimum distance between drones?

Are the shapes in the show, and the transition between shapes pre-programmed in the drones? Or are they controlled in real time by the computer in the ground?

Also, I understand the Pioneer can be programmed either graphically (blocks) or through full code. What is the language being used to program the Pioneer in full code? Does it allow other languages and which ones? Is there an SDK included with the Pioneer?

Finally, I saw the basic hardware can be extended through "shields". Does the Pioneer allow for developing custom shields in its factory design?

Thanks in advance for your attention.

Best regards.


Comment by Shevelev Ilya 2 hours ago

Thank you Federico!

Indoor positioning system is capable to provide precision of about 5 cm, so a safe distance between two drones is 10 cm. As for quantity, there is no strict limit, but keep in mind that ultrasonic signals should reach each drone from at least 3 corners, so there should not be any interference. We would not recommend using  more than 20 Pioneers at once.
All quads a programmed before the show using Lua, a lightweight cross-platform script language. We use PioneerStation - something ilke Betaflight configurator for Pioneer  - to update its firmware, upolad mission plans and change the flight parameters.  Operator controls the takeoff moment and can switch to manual control in case somethig goes wrong to safely land the swarm.
And you're perfectly right, a lot of different modules can be connected to Pioneer and work with it. The kit is designed for creators, so If you would like to develop your own extencion module, we could even provide thech support for you.

Comment by Federico Rossi 2 hours ago

Thanks for answering so quick.

Just a few more questions.

I saw the main light module is placed at the bottom of the Pioneer. Is it possible to include a second light module on top as a shield? What would be the impact in terms of consumption and duration of the show?

What is the wireless communication the Pioneer uses for communicating with the ground station in the indoor setup?

For outdoor setup it seems the Pioneer used a wireless m-bus chip, is this correct? Does the Pioneer have WiFi built-in too and which one (2.4GHz, 5GHz)?

I am passing along this information to my team today to discuss next steps.

Thanks again.

Best regards

Comment by Shevelev Ilya 1 hour ago

If you install any module on top of Pioneer it will dratically affect positioning accuracy, as the responsible module is also situated there. You can add some lights, but, of course, it will reduce the aereal time depending on its power consumption. The drone is fully autonomous,with flight plan uploaded it doesn't need ground station at all. The only connection is established with flysky FS-A8S (popular receiver for radio controlled vehicles), this is true bouth for indoor and outdoor flight.

Comment by Federico Rossi 1 hour ago

Got it. Thanks Ilya.


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