By Wissam Mahmoud
When almost every circumstance seemed to lead to the airport, this internship gave us a glimpse of hope. Our ambitions are finally heard, and our engagement is sustained so we can become active agents of positive change rather than neutral observers. We now have the opportunity to fight for our future, for a better nation in which we can fulfill our potential and make our dreams come true. Withal, we are past just the protest phase, and in a stage where we set down a comprehensive vision and systematic plans to tackle multidisciplinary obstacles.
When we are asked what we actually do and reply with: “We are developers” or “software engineers”, the majority of people tend to associate our response with spending the entire day seated in front of a computer screen writing hundreds of bland lines of code that nobody can understand. Yet, it’s way beyond just that, our code is the structure bridging the gap between ideations and real development. And being able to be part of the Y4G program as devs. prove that our scripts and algorithms are the force revamping the Lebanese public sector, one line of code at a time.
But what are these lines doing?
In our project, these lines were setting the baseline for a fully unmanned, functional, and responsive indoor aerial vehicle (UAV). The motive behind this concept is the multidimensional capabilities and potentialities of a UAV (aiding the police in patrol, rescuing services in difficult conditions, assistance in medical emergencies, drones delivery services, helping firefighters, border surveillance, agricultural support, general monitoring, crowd safety, logistics and inventory management, and many other unlimited applications). Basically, our main focus was to pioneer a software for the DJI Tello Drone as a proof of working concept.
The first phase of our project consisted of learning more about the infrastructures and better understanding the basics from the ground up (How does a drone function? Why do most commercial UAVs use 4 propellers? How can a drone keep itself safe? What happens when it gets out of range? What kind of sensors it uses?) The more we dived deep, the more questions we had to find answers to. The next step was shifting focus to our entry-level programmable drone (DJI Tello), and holistically comprehending its Software Development Kit (SDK), its functionalities, behavior, limitations, and what we can do about it. In the following stage, our objective was to level up our prototype to get closer to our goal. We began proper development, writing snippets of code, debugging, logging, troubleshooting, exception handling, testing for errors, researching similar faults, experimenting control systems, and most importantly figuring out semi-hacky ways of getting around roadblocks, this is just a big part of the fun! 4 weeks into the internship, our drone was able to detect and track faces, be voice-activated, and self-drive totally unmanned! Although, having a custom drone kit could have ultimately given us the privilege of open customizations, unlocked potential, and sensor fusion, eliminating limitations related to third-party companies and their preset SDK, we were moving quite fast in our implementation, it was very entertaining to watch the drone fly around the office and move from one milestone to another. Most importantly, we are really proud that we got the chance to be part of the Y4G program and make a positive impact and contribute towards a higher purpose during our time here. One of the most important things we’ve learned along the technical and soft skills is that we must be ready for anything and continue moving forward, despite the obstacles we may face in pushing for change.