Step aside, drone racing. Here comes the “anti-drone race.”
DroneClash, which takes place in the Netherlands tomorrow, challenges its players to destroy the opponent’s drone and knock it out of the sky. While the event certainly looks entertaining, it’s not just aimless destruction. The competition also hopes to advance anti-drone technology.
Delft University of Technology’s Micro Air Vehicle Lab, previously known for pioneering work in flapping-wing drones, came up with the event. The people behind DroneClash believe for drones to be truly safe, we must have a way to stop the inevitable rogue operators.
“Because there is not yet a perfect way of trapping, catching, and bringing down drones safely, we set up this competition,” Bart Remes, MAVLab project manager, told Popular Mechanics. “DroneClash will generate new ideas in order to encourage this process.”
The Rules Are There Are No Rules
The event includes eight teams in total. DroneClash will take place over two rounds, each involving four teams. The drones meet in the First Battle Area, where they attempt to take out as many of the competition as possible. Survivors then fly through the “Hallway of Doom, Death and Destruction,” trying to avoid a variety of counter-drone weapons.
Finally, they reach the Palace of the Four Queens. Each team has a “Queen” drone they must defend while destroying the other Queens. The winning team goes on to the next round.
Other drone competitions have a set of rules governing the size, weight, and power of the robot gladiators. Not DroneClash. The drones themselves may be multicopters, fixed wing, flapping wing, or any other type. The organizers are not even dictating how many drones a team can fly at a time.
“The arena will be indoors, and if you can navigate inside this space then everything is possible,” says Remes. “Brilliant minds will find ways of switching between multiple drones. We want the clever community to come up with cool ideas like drone swarms.”
Daniel Vernis leads one DroneClash team called “The Wand.” Some members of the team, like Vernis, have development experience working with the Internet of Things. But each person in the five-member team has a different role, whether that’s developing hardware, software, or testing drones.
“We started with a Parrot Bebop2 base,” Vernis told Popular Mechanics. “And we are slowly replacing hardware with home-printed and other lower cost alternative parts.”
Daniel suspects most teams will target propellers as they are drones’ most vulnerable feature. That may lead to a lot of shrouded or protected rotors, but the biggest design challenge will still be giving these gladiator drones enough power.
Because the drone needs to have a high level of intelligence, the on-board processing demands a lot of power. While adding new cameras and other sensors, the team removed non-essential components from the drone to reduce the energy demand from other systems.