AutoDrone… The day is here. Timed nicely to crash with exams across our team, some had to focus on those, some could spare the time to postpone the practice. This is one of our first major milestones.
AutoDrone 2023 started their day 0 on the 30th of May. This was set as a testing day in preparation. It included time to work, but also served as a meet & greet, including general information for the camp and competition. Nice tents were set up, serving lunch and keeping the participants hydrated, an important function in the bright sun.
Day 1 of the competition was a mix of emotions. A great sense of pride to arrive with something we could believe in, something we had accomplished, and something that just might work well enough to win. Could we win? The uncertainty and tension for the competitors. Would their programs run better and faster? We had discussed using a stereo camera for our drone for quite some time, but here, all the competitors had it. After all the hurdles cleared, would we land flat or rise to the top? The sun was high, winds low, waters calm, the stage set.
The schedule was set to having three competitors going first, before us. The first group asked for some extra time so we were shuffled first. We might as well. For a cleared challenge to be counted, the drone needed to pass twice during our 30 minute slot, and hopefully with a good time. It started strong with nice speed, had to slow and process a little through the gates, but made quick work of the course. Twice, and cleared in 55 seconds. We had done it. Now what about the others?
This is the part we want to say we had fierce competition and we truly beat them in a proper competition. One team broke parts of their thruster as they were transporting the drone and duct tape wasn’t good enough to make a safe run. Another team could clear the first gate, but wouldn’t detect the 2nd buoy as it was too far away from the first gate. The final team had similar problems with autonomy.
This story could be told for each of the other challenges. In some ways, we felt somewhat sad for the others, as well as a loss of pride for not meeting much resistance. At the same time, this also goes to show how much needs to be in place for completion, fast or not. We had done rigorous tests under real conditions, not just simulations or detection on parking lots. Regardless of the opposition, we did clear every challenge, we did beat the AutoDrone challenge and we did accomplish our goal we set six months ago.
Next, there's the Njord challenge.
Also: NRK interviewed some of us. You can see the program here.