9 Mar - Latest Tech

Entering the Drone Zone: When Passion Meets Persistence

For many, drones are more than just a hobby. They are an exciting extension of one’s body. A way to see the world in a fresh light and an ability to travel to exhilarating new heights. For Zaid Fakhruddin of Naperville, IL, drones open up a world of possibilities. And that world is his for the taking.

“I first got into drones through racing. It made it competitive and more than just a hobby. But it takes practice,” said Zaid. “Actually, I broke my first drone on my first time out.” That didn’t stop young Zaid, who attends Neuqua Valley High School. Though flying a drone is difficult, Zaid perfected his skills and began to share his racing experiences with others via his Instagram account.

But where some see drones as a simple pastime, Zaid saw his drone as an opportunity to help the world. Leveraging his passion for all things technology, Zaid pursued an AWS Solutions Architect certification. With a lot of long nights of balancing school and hobbies, he studied for four months to learn Python and ultimately received his certification at age 17.

“I wanted a way to control my DJI by using my voice, but I couldn’t find an existing or suitable Alexa Skill,” he continued. “So I went about creating one through Python so that I could verbally control my drone. There are a lot of use cases and practical examples of where this could be helpful.” Zaid leveraged his certification and what he learned and came up with a concept to marry his DJI drone with Amazon Alexa through Raspberry Pi.

First, Zaid built the Skill to trigger AWS Lambda. With the simple phrase of “drone controller”, the DJI becomes active and responsive to a simple command set. This occurs as the action is sent through Amazon Simple Queue Service (SQS) which sends messages to the Raspberry Pi, which subscribes to AWS Lambda. But then Zaid thought of a different approach: IoT.

“AWS IoT Core is a much safer route than using SQS,” Zaid added. “It must be registered to Raspberry Pi for verification. From there, AWS Lambda sends messages to MQTT and the Alexa Topic.” A rules engine analyzes the publish-subscribe pattern to take certain examples. In Zaid’s mind, this application can be used for agriculture.

Using this method, not only can a farmer deploy the drone via Alexa to check crop levels, but they can also receive images sent via SMS by leveraging Amazon S3 for simple storage. Moving forward to further scale the project, Zaid wants to include AWS IoT Greengrass for edge computing and build a Machine Learning (ML) algorithm to automatically detect the crop level. FreeRTOS over the air could also be used for scalability to enable the farmer to send out a fleet of drones at once.

What does the future hold for the talented Zaid?

“Over the next few months, I am going to continue to study, learn, and grow. I’m already registered for the Amazon Certified Developer exam,” Zaid commented. “I want to learn Java and have plans to develop a Machine Learning algorithm that will work in conjunction with Raspberry Pi Zero, and place sensors in my garage in order to generate data that can sense when people are coming home and automatically open the door.”

Today’s youths tend to be at the forefront of technological advancements being made every day. Productive Edge applauds Zaid for his ingenuity and pursuit of learning. We encourage anyone interested to find ways to get plugged into the tech community...at any age. Productive Edge is always looking to bring in the most creative minds to further develop and advance the world. Check out our careers page for more information on positions and internships.


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Entering the Drone Zone: When Passion Meets Persistence