I had an interest in remote control helicopters for a long time, what kid didnt like the idea of flying a helicopter around. Also, like any kid, I loved the idea of having a robot. I would imagine a small remote control robot bringing me drinks as I sat on the couch watching TV. The problem had always been pocket money. As a kid I could never afford these things so they remained a dream until I grew up and got a job. Finally I had enough money but my hopes for what these things could do for me had grown and I was also old enough to realise that making them do complex tasks was beyond my ability. It wasnt until 2012, with the help from a new (very inteligent friend) that I plucked up the courage to buy what was becoming a mesh between two things, robots and helicopters, a drone.
My first drone was a 3DR hexcopter. Back then in 2012 drones were not the out of the box experience that you get today. The drone came in very basic parts. I even had to learn how to solder, which I am still not that good at today. I managed to get it in the air and fly it around. I began to explore how it could navigate with GPS and I could set way points. The dream of this robot bringing me drinks was starting to come back. It did not take very long before I started to discuss with my friend how drones could be used in logistics. I remember drawing on the white board at work, the best designs to incorporate fixed wing technology with rotary wing tech.
Time went by and even though my drone spent more time sitting on the work bench than it ever did flying, the thought of how to complete drone deliveries never went away. I knew that landing in some ones yard was never going to be a good idea. I knew that the GPS that came with my drone was only accurate up to 5 meters. This would mean anyone wanting to accept drone deliveries would have to have a clear space of 10m x 10m minimum! Not to mention landing in some ones yard was dangerous to pets and small children. To me the drone had to drop the deliveries in to a net. However the net would have to be 10m x 10m. This was simply not practical. I began to think that this was going to be a tough problem that I was porbably not capable of solving. However I could not kick the though of how this problem woudl be solved. I subscribed to all the drone newsletters and twitter feeds I could find waiting for some one to solve the problem. Then I would be able to say (like so many other people) "I thought of that first". Many months went by.
As it turned out the Drones For Good competition run by the UAE government came up on my twitter feed. A 1 million dollar prize. I thought to myself. No one has come up with a solution yet maybe I should investigate further. Maybe there was some one out there that could solve the problem. Through a mutal friend, I got introduced to Grant Bajema (www.BajTech.com.au). I explained to him the problem I wanted to solve. He quickly drew up some ideas on a scrap of paper. I asked him "do you think you can build that?" he said "should be able to" I said "I'll let you know" and left to go and submit my entry for the competition. Three weeks later I got an email saying that my entry had been selected to go through to the finals. The finals meant presenting the working drone in Dubai. I went back to see Grant and said "guess what, we got in to the finals! Do you still think you can build it?" he was suddenly not so sure but wanted to give it a go. It turned out to be a lot harder and much more expensive than we both thought.
The story of how we went in the comptition is something I will save for another blog