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Two ESTACA teams at the ISAE Group schools’ drone challenge

8 December 2022

The ISAE Group (ISAE-SUPAERO, ISAE-ENSMA, ISAE-SUPMECA, Ecole de l’Air et de l’Espace, ENAC and ESTACA) organized its very first Drone Challenge at the end of November in partnership with GIFAS. The event enabled students from member schools to meet, exchange and compete in a drone race.

Developing an autonomous drone

Each school enters two teams in the competition. In July, all registered participants received a link to access the drone racing simulator developed by Pierre-Yves Brulin, a doctoral student at ESTACA’LAB, and the PYTHON basic code (programming language) to control the drone developed by Fouad Khenfri, a teacher-researcher at ESTACA’LAB. Some teams also used SIMULINK code (a model-based development tool for engineering systems) to control the drone.

The code provided works for simple scenarios and routes. The students taking part in the competition had to learn this code and develop its functions to make the drone autonomous and fast. First, the students developed the algorithm on a simulator by exploring different routes. In October, each team received a drone (Tello EDU) to test the algorithm and configure it on a real drone.

The teams improved their program so that the drone could cover the route autonomously with different trajectories, passing through doors and arches and doing turns during the race, to finish the course as quickly as possible.

Competing and exchanging with other ISAE Group schools

Following manual piloting and calibration tests of the algorithm, the participants only discovered the course at the final moment. The 10 teams were judged on the speed of the drone with a time trial to determine the winning team.

The event was also an opportunity to discuss drones in general within the group. Alban Galabert, head of ESTACA’s aeronautics program, spoke about the insertion of drones in airspace. Pierre-Yves BRULIN, a 2019 ESTACA graduate, presented his research thesis at ESTACA’LAB entitled “Design and optimization of an intelligent and scalable modular drone” in collaboration with the company Hexadrone, as part of CIFRE (Industrial Conventions for Training through Research) funding.

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