Programming for drones -- how to get started

Image of man flying drone

With drones becoming such a large part of both our social norms and industrial needs.  Learning to develop the source and applied code that drives them is going to become a top skill to know.  Programming for drones is becoming a big topic.

Colleges are developing criteria now to teach both the concepts of drones and integrating robotic interfaces to make the drone autonomous.  If anyone has aspirations of being a software developer and working with new technologies.  Drones are a perfect match.

Popular Programming Languages

Many of the drones on the market use multiple different languages to expand the drones existing operating capabilities.  Having the skills to teach the drone to take off, fly, miss obstacles, and land all on its own is a huge part of many companies fighting to reach this plateau.

Blockly is a great language that helps new developers get used to thinking in terms of logic.  Many of the aspects that blockly covers is logical decision making – simple and complex if , if-then, if-then-else statements are the decision components.  Blockly also gives the ability to learn looping structures for having a task repeated until complete. 

After learning and getting comfortable with Blockly skills stepping up to Python is a very good next language.  Python is a fairly easy language to learn and there is a lot of material on the web to help on learn.  W3Schools.com has a great tutorial to teach the basics of Python programming.

The Python homepage on Python.org provides the location to down load the compiler that you will need to compile and run your programs written in the Python language.  Looking on their site are documentation and community assistance.  Not only will Python help you to program drones, but also Python is quickly becoming one of the top languages.  It is used heavily in the financial industry, scientific industry, robotic and drone industries, web applications, machine-learning applications, and Artificial Intelligence applications.  Just to name a few.

Next is Arduino, Java, and C++.  This is considerably more complicated but worth understanding.  Arduino has been in use for a while now and drives many small devices.  The technology starts with Arduino boards.  

These boards are small and contain the connectors that the device you are building will use.  Arduino is based in Java but C++ can be used within the downloaded IDE as well. 

Using Arduino gives a budding developer several options for programming languages to use.  It’s fun and expandable as your knowledge and skills grow.  There are so many projects that Arduino lends itself to making it a perfect project platform.  Many developers learn to code, but have troubles finding projects to work on that challenge and inspire them.

Learning to program is a skill that can directly impact your life and give you a new career path.  Our technology industry is always looking for developers that really understand both the language and its uses.  Starting with drones and robots helps those entering the new world of code development really fun and entertaining ways to learn.

Where to get a drone to start programming

For the beginner drone to learn the skills to develop autonomous flying capabilities is the CoDrone by RoboLink.  RoboLink has done a great job of developing a drone to teach both flying and programming a drone.  The drone can be programmed to follow you around as well as to carry out many tasks you program it to perform.image of CoDrone Pro Drone

The CoDrone is one of the drones that provides the ability to program in multiple languages.  RoboLink the manufacturers of the CoDrone have created a community to help each other learn and develop interesting tasks and games for the drone.

The BYRD by GDU is a good intermediate drone for learning to navigate distances.  It comes with an app to setup routes, Intelligent Orientation Control, Smart Return to Home feature, and a follow me feature. 

The BYRD is designed to handle some abuse.  It is made of military grade components.  Learning to fly and program with the BYRD by GDU provides a true drone experience.  It has more features than the CoDrone and doesn’t have the kids toy look.BYRD Premium

The BYRD is a well thought out designed product.  Using the Software Design Kit (SDK) allows for the ability to develop your own applications to control video, telemetry, controlling of the air craft, obstacle avoidance, controlling of the gimbal, and other customized flight needs.

This is a good drone to start building knowledge and experience towards real drone piloting.

Skills that translate to real projects

As already discussed using one of the above drones to both learn to fly and program provides skills that have value.  Today we see drones being used in all aspects of industry and they are here to stay. 

For the budding or even experienced programmer that wants a new project.  These drones are a lot of fun and once the skills are learned.  Can be used to carry into a new career field.  Learning new skills is always a great ambition and when used correctly can help society and you.

At first you may feel you are just learning a new hobby, but once you can control the drone and you can program it for different conditions.  You are now way above most drone pilots who just know how to takeoff, fly, grab a couple of pictures and then come back and land.

Having a full understanding of the drone technology will make you the go to person in your area when your skills are needed.  Basically you make your drone purchase an investment.  Learn the technology and then let people and organizations know what you can do.  This way you let your skills pay for your drone and much more.

Where to go from here

My suggestion is to check out one of my links to drones mentioned above.  Look into the links provided for programming and start learning how to put the two together.  Until you get started, you won’t know the fun and skills you will learn.

Learn your local codes and regulations for using drones in your area.  Then go and build the skills that you need to consider a career in a really fascinating technology.

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