About Blue Jay
Longterm Vision & Mission
We strive for a future where drones serve as intelligent companions capable of empowering and assisting people in their daily lives. Our mission is to expand the boundaries of intelligent systems through innovation and user-centered design, developing drones capable of assisting you and me in indoor settings in a manner that is safe, autonomous, interactive, and helpful.
Goal of Blue Jay 7 (2021-2022): Pushing drones to the next level
The goal of this year is to develop new and innovative drone technologies that will make sure that drones can be implemented more easily in the future for Urban Air Mobility. As a lot of technical obstacles are currently preventing drones to be implemented more in real life, Blue Jay tries to overcome these difficulties.
The drone of this year can be used as a basis for future projects of Blue Jay. Flying autonomously using Lidar technology is still one of the hardest technical challenges and has not been implemented in real life yet, it is important that we first focus on the most important features. Starting right away designing an end product without the basic features finished in the first place, will lead to an unhealthy design process. We think that Blue Jay can get the most out of our team developing the technologies that are highly demanded and deficient in the community of drones, rather than meeting the expectations of a specific use case.
Currently, only experienced pilots are able to control drones which limits the variety of problems that drones can solve. Drones are widely used for photography, videography, and monitoring hard-to-reach places. To break the barrier of solving more problems with drones, a big improvement is necessary for the intelligence of the drone and human-drone interaction.
Additionally, the flight time of drones is a widely known limitation to tackle problems of large duration. Novel solutions are necessary to overcome this problem and allow for more solutions in urban air mobility.
This year Blue Jay focuses on creating innovations to overcome the problems mentioned above. To allow safe and precise flight without a pilot the team will create a framework that will make the drone able to fly autonomously. This means the drone can navigate outdoor, indoor, and following paths all while avoiding unexpected obstacles in real-time. Next to autonomous flight, Blue Jay will decrease the gap between humans and drones by creating new ways to interact with the device. Gesture control is one of the new ways we think will improve the possibility of people controlling drones. This allows for users to naturally wave, move and point to or around a drone to instruct it an action. In order to make drones more user-friendly, Blue Jay will research the possibility of active noise-canceling.
A limited flight time is one of the biggest difficulties for implementing drones in real life. Technologies to improve the flight time are being developed constantly, however, this will always stay a hurdle. To overcome this problem, Blue Jay will create platforms on which our drone can autonomously charge itself using contact-based charging. This will eliminate the requirement for an operator to change batteries, improving the autonomy of drones.
History of Blue Jay
The student team Blue Jay Eindhoven was originally founded in 2015 to organize the world’s first Drone Café in honor of the 60th anniversary of the Eindhoven University of Technology (TU/e). The increasing popularity of drones and the innovation possibilities with this technology sparked the effort to begin our student team. During the launch of the café in 2016, drones took guests’ orders and served drinks. The concept was playful, but with a strong message: drones can be safe, helpful, autonomous, and interactive.
In the subsequent 4 years, each new team discovered a new way in which drones can be applied:
- Team 1: 2015-2016
- A Blue Jay drone can be used for serving drinks in the first drone-café
- Team 2: 2016-2017
- A Blue Jay drone can be used to bring bags with medicines around a hospital
- Team 3: 2017-2018
- A Blue Jay drone can be used to detect and rescue drowning swimmers in a swimming pool.
- Team 4: 2018-2019
- A Blue Jay drone can be used to assist in safety and security in the Philips Stadium (e.g. through recognizing when a spectator has fallen on the ground)
- Team 5: 2019-2020
- A Blue Jay drone can be used to guide residents of a nursing home out of the building during an fire evacuation
- Team 6: 2020-2021
- Continuation of the project of team 5
- Team 7: 2021-2022
- Pushing drones to the next level
The idea which Team 5 started is also the focus of the team 6. Therefore, you can find a more elaborate explanation below.
The problem we are going to solve
We are working on a drone which can be used to guide residents of a nursing home out of the building during an fire evacuation. There is a major shortage of nurse personnel, especially in smaller nursing homes. Due to this, there is often only one nurse in the building, especially during night or weekend shifts. If there is only one nurse and a fire would get started, that particular nurse has to rescue him/herself first by leaving the building. This leaves no one available to guide the residents out of the building. It usually takes 15-20 minutes before the fire brigade arrives at the building, which means these residents can quickly be in a hostile situation without any help.
The drone we are developing will solve this problem. As soon as the fire starts, a fire alarm will go off. Our drone will be connected to this alarm and will autonomously fly towards that room. If the drone senses (through heat detectors) that it is safe to enter the room, it will do so. Then, it will detect whether a person is in the room. If that is not the case, the drone will go to the next room to check whether a person is present. If the drone recognizes the presence of a person, it will react to that person. Through the use of LEDs and the screen, it will assure that the resident will follow the drone. Then it guides the resident towards the rendezvous point, where the nurse will wait. Once the drone has arrived there, the nurse will take care of the resident, and the drone will head back into the building to rescue more people! This process will continue until the fire brigade arrives.
Aside of rescuing people inside the building, it will also provide the fire brigade and nurse useful information through the use of an app. This app will show aspects such as the location of the drone within the building, as well as a live-stream of what is happening around the drone. Additionally, nurses can change the color of the LEDs and the eyes by using the app.
Currently, our drone is still in technical progress. In 2020, the first proof of concept was given, which showed that the concept can contribute a lot to society. Also, the first technical steps were taken, which we are further developing. Additionally, we are starting with new additions to the drone. Below, you can find a short summary of the progress of each sub-team.
Each year, we develop two fully functional drones: one for the interim event and one for the end event. These drones are fully functional, yet they can always be improved. The three main focus points are:
Safety: The drone will be in close contact with human beings and should therefore be extremely safe to use. The main way in which we improved this is by make a safe 3D printed exterior ring. Another way we improved this is by making use of six propellers, rather than four. If there are more propellers, a single propeller failure will not lower the chance of an immediate crash.
Flying time: Currently, the flying time is approximately 10 minutes if it is fully active. As said, it takes 15-20 minutes before the fire brigade arrives and thus significant improvement is needed. We are mainly trying to do this by reducing the weight of the drone and increasing the efficiency of the propellers.
Noise: Our drone is designed to help human beings, not hurt them. Therefore, a drone with a very high dB level is not beneficial. We have managed to lower the noise level by using aspects such as ducts. However, we believe it is still possible to reduce this even more. So we are always looking for other ways to lower the amount of noise created.
Currently, the drone is able to autonomously fly in small circles. Yet, this requires significantly more progress. Therefore, we are currently working on mapping an area through the use of a 360 Lidar. We want to combine this map with our own path planning algorithm. This algorithm assures that the drone will search for the quickest route to its destination, even if the area changes (e.g. a chair which gets moved). Then, the drone will follow this route. These two concepts work separately of each other, yet they have not been combined. This will happen in the upcoming months. Stable manual flight (through the use of a controller) is already possible, which is used for testing other aspects of the drone.
Additionally, we worked on connecting multiple drones to each other (drone-to-drone communication), which was possible. Drone 1 was able to send information to Drone 2 and vice versa. This concept will be useful in a further stage when multiple drones will search through a large building. However, at this stage it is more important for us to connect our drone to another device: the fire alarm. We have started collaborating with Mansveld, a company specialized in fire alarms. By doing this, we hope to extend the drone-to-drone communication principle to the fire alarm. Then, once the fire alarm goes off, it will send a message to start up the drone. This project has recently got started.
Currently, the app is connected with the LEDs and the eyes on the drone. This means that by pressing a single button on your phone, you can control the entire appeal of the drone.
Soon, we will get started by working on the live-stream and the emotion detection. As aforementioned, the live-stream will be shown in the app, so that the fire brigade and the nurses can see what is happening inside the building. Emotion detection is a concept whereby the drone can (through the use of a camera) look at the body/face of the resident and see how that person is feeling. This knowledge is crucial for the drone to respond appropriately to that resident. An adequate response will assure that the resident will follow the drone outside. The basics of this algorithm were laid out previous year, yet further development is needed.
Get in touch
We are located in the automotive building Momentum at the campus of the TU Eindhoven. You are welcome to visit for a cup of coffee! For questions you can also send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Then we can answer all your questions you have via mail or plan a meeting if that is preferred. In case you are interested in our general development, you can subscribe to our monthly newsletter below!