What is Smart Bird?
Smart Bird is a student group that unites the most passionate students from all disciplines in order to realize the future’s aerial vehicle: The drone. Smart Bird’s Drone must have an integrated artificial intelligence that makes it able to take-off, navigate in the air, record and analyse and image stream so the vehicle can automatically detect targets on the ground and then return to base and land automatically. This challenge helps students from Polytechnique Montreal learn and make use of their knowledge.
Smart Bird’s Drone is composed of three different but essential sections: the plane’s structure, the autopilot and the detection system. Each of these is crucial to the project and has its own dedicated team. They all communicate and interact with each other and the team’s administration in order to create an optimal work flow and mixed learned skills. These teams are:
A drone is an airplane without a pilot and therefore, undergoes the same forces and constraints as any other aircraft. It’s structure must be light enough to fly as much as possible but stiff and resistant enough to survive the aerodynamic forces and pressures its mission inflicts upon it. The mechanical team must ensure the well being of the structure and also has the mandate of creating a new prototype for future competitions that will help the team’s performances.
The autopilot is one the centrepieces of the aircraft: it’s the heart and brain of the vehicle. It controls every minute movement the aircraft does in flight, analyses the commands sent to him and ensures a perfect detection and flight plan management throughout the whole mission. For example, the operator of the autopilot may dictate waypoints though which the airplane must fly and the autopilot must be able to generate the new flight plan necessary to reach those GPS coordinates without ever leaving the restricted zone in which the drone flies. This challenge is the electrical team’s duty and is required in order to fly at any of the student group’s competitions.
Once in flight, the drone must accomplish many tasks. Being a very civil focused student group, Smart Bird’s drone has the duty to capture and transmit a real time video of the terrain being flown over. This video is then analyzed to quantify and position some points of interest. The detection team therefore uses mainly electrical and computer science notions. But even more than these, since the aircraft must take a video, we need to be able to choose the optimal camera and the best lenses to put inside the drone for the competition and the mission. One caught, the video must then be streamed to the ground station in order to be processed. This action requires advanced knowledge and skills in antennas and telecommunications. Once the video is on the ground, automatic detection software must be run in order to recognize shapes, volumes, colors and anything else the competitions require.
In short, whether it’s for the electrical, mechanical, aeronautics or computer aspect of the project, you will always find a place within the team which is determined to learn by the gathering and sharing of all the information they know in order to compete and perform in national and international competitions.