Support for drone software development

A drone delivery startup needed help with further app development and bug fixes. What was the technology integration process? How did we prepare the project to present it to investors? What technologies did we use?

Table of contents
  • The Brief / Challenges
  • Our Solution
  • Results
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Client
Dronistics
Team Size
3 people
Project Duration
1 year
Technologies used
Java, Tomcat, Mavlink-router, AirMap, PostgreSQL, AWS, Windguru, OpenStreetMap, Jetson Nano Companion Computer, Pixhawk 4 Autopilot, PX4 Simulator
Technologies:
Services provided:

THE BRIEF / CHALLENGES

Dronistics is a startup that designs task delivery drones and the necessary software for last-mile delivery. Dronistics' primary customers are hospitals and medical entities that could benefit from the rapid delivery of medications. In addition, it is a great solution during the Covid-19 pandemic where there is no need to see the patient directly to deliver the medication. Drones are ideal for delivering medicines to people in difficult conditions, such as in inaccessible areas after earthquakes and other natural disasters. They are also an extremely efficient tool in logistics.

It turns out that the use of drones contributes to faster analysis of a patient's condition and savings for medical facilities. The drone has a range of about 3-4 km, flies at speeds up to 40km / h, is light and stable, so it is suitable for rapid transport. Studies show that the cost of the courier company and delivery of medicines is about $25,000 per year, or the ability to cover the route two or three times a day. The cost of a drone is similar; however, it can perform dozens of courses per day, provide fast receipt of research, avoid obstacles such as rivers, traffic jams, etc.

How does the drone app work?

The drone application is about a direct relationship between the sender and the receiver. The sender is the owner of the drone. The recipients report to him if they need to transport a shipment. The demand (delivery) information appears in the sender’s panel, together with the specific GPS coordinates. Knowing that he has several different drones, the sender selects a particular drone, which flies to a specific person, assigning it to the recipient.

Then the application calculates the entire route (paths between these points are set by the institutions that allow the flight, taking into account the free space for flight). Before accepting and sending this drone, the sender checks weather conditions based on the integrated data system. If it turns out that the strength of the wind is too high, the flight may not take place.

After the route is assigned and checked, the moment comes when someone goes and realistically puts something into that drone by clicking "START ."The drone flies to a given place, lands there. The moment it arrives, the receiver sees that the drone has already physically landed and can approach it in his application. The recipient’s app gives the necessary instructions on inserting something into the drone and then checking off the drone's ready for flight. Then the drone lifts off, calculates its route back, and flies to the sender's base.

How did the cooperation with Order Group begin?

The startup's founders wanted to accelerate the development process, which involved cleaning up the code structure of an existing web application, fixing bugs, and adding new features to the software. The application development process was made possible by development grants. The project involved the cooperation with EPFL - Ecole Polytechnic Federal de Lausanne and participation of The University of Arizona, University of Cambridge, startups Suind and Volaly,

The startup Dronistics needed an experienced team of programmers, and he knew the founders' team from their college days. Przemysław Kornatowski " I knew they were good at what they do and that their services fit our needs."

Challenge

Software for drones was created as MVP. It was critical to deliver it quickly so that potential users/investors could see it in action. For this reason, the project required sorting out the quality of the code to make it ready for further development. At this stage, our task was to remove the technical debt and clean up the code so that the application would work reliably in real-time. The next step was to move the application to other servers and run it.

We were not terrified. We have experience in taking over projects from other companies, so we could enter the project at any stage and rebuild it. Therefore, we focused on making the product work coherently as a PoC (Proof of Concept) and prepared for further stable development according to the client's needs.

Customer - 2022 57

OUR SOLUTION

The first thing was to put the code structure in order. According to Pawel Zielinski, tech leader for this project, "It was largely a matter of sorting out what's there, getting it up and running, moving it to AWS servers, and making a ton of changes, fixes, enhancements."

The OG team also helped integrate features from the systems of other startups, SUIND and Volley. The goal of the application was to make it suitable for running on lightweight computing drone hardware without losing its power." Besides, our specialists integrated software developed by Volaly start-up which allows controlling the drone by hand pointing to a specific location in 3-D space using gestures registered by mobile devices - smartphones.

With the implementation of integration with other software functionalities, we made it possible to test more drone features. These include tests related to the possibility of landing the drone on balconies or in-hands of people. If the drone approached a building, it communicated with the person who was the recipient by phone, and that person made gestures that allowed the drone to know the direction in which to fly.

In addition, we improved integrations of the Dronisitcs logistic software with the AirMap system, which controls the airspace to avoid collisions with other flying objects. We also simplified presenting photo tutorials in the logistic software to guide the user through the entire process of delivering small things by drone. Lastly, we migrated the middleware to a much more powerful system.

Application features

  • Flight from point A to point B (e.g., from a pharmacy to a nursing home resident),
  • Ability to transport packages up to 0.5kg, an option to remotely control the drone from the web app level
  • Drones are connected to the internet via a 4G modem, and control is via an app available on any device, e.g., smartphone, tablet, or laptop.
  • Delivery is fully autonomous using GPS and vision-based algorithms.
  • The software has many safety checks to ensure the safety of people during flight and while unloading the shipment.
Project Gallery - 2022 57

RESULTS

Currently, the software works as a web application that functions on any mobile device to use drones to deliver packages. You can remotely issue commands to deliver the cargo to the recipient's location and monitor all its resources, such as battery level and drone position.

At the moment, it is an ideal product to show the principle of operation (MVP). Still, there are many features to develop, modules that can be optimized and adapted to specific customers. In addition to further development in UX, UI we have planned to rewrite the whole project from Java to Python. The Dronistics project is in the phase of seeking more investors, and luckily, there is great interest in it; hence much further work on the project is planned. However, the project has a lot of potentials, as Przemysław Kornatowski points out: "We plan to develop additional functions and present the drone more widely on European markets. We are thinking about the growing importance of drones, further development of the application so that it also reaches other campuses and places around the world."

Project success

By working with the developers’ team, the client gained a partner who helped identify the needs and flaws in the system. With full knowledge of the project, we were able to tell them what was working in the system, what needed changing, and why. It was an exciting project because we could adapt to the client's realities and test our ability to adapt to conditions flexibly.

"I was surprised how smoothly the entire collaboration was, and that we had no problems."
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Przemyslaw Kornatowski
CEO, Dronistics