Monday, April 15, 2013

Beware the killer drone

There are clubs in Toronto to cater to every possible interest, sport and hobby. Some are mostly for day-dreaming (Alpine Club of Canada) or weird fringe sports (underwater hockey). I joined a bunch of programming-related groups last year, but hadn't gotten around to going - they've either not been presenting something that interests me, or the travel time just seemed overly onerous.

However, a couple of weeks ago, I got an email saying that the Toronto Javascript group was holding a presentation centered around quadcopters. Cool! And, it was in the MaRS Commons offices, in the same floor of my building! Perfect!

Funny coincidence - the two gents giving the talk, Taz and Josh, were actually guys I met when I hot-desked at the Uniiverse offices. They gave a really entertaining talk about how they were discussing how to take over the world, came up with a few options, but settled on using flying machines that they could potentially attach lasers to. hehe Cue the Terminator2 powerpoint slide. :)

Their first attempt was to buy an assemble-yourself Arduino-controlled metal beast, but decided the soldering, programming their own network protocol, and writing code to sync the four rotor blades all sounded just a weeee bit overly complex! so they replaced it with a consumer version that came equipped with wifi out of the box. People in the audience checked their laptops - sure enough, there was a network called quadcopter123 or something - neat. That left them with the job of connecting to quadcopter via firmware API, and writing a client. They chose to create a Chrome app in Javascript, used AngularJS framework for it's MVC functionality, and came up with a pretty neat solution in a matter of weeks. By making it available on github, I was able to fork the repo and load it on my own machine without leaving my seat. Voila! Once they disconnected and I connected, I had control of a killer drone in the atrium of MaRS!

The star of the show posing for the paparazzi

Creators and presenters, Taz and Josh

Drawing a crowd

I have the power!! Muahahah!