Drone races and patent: interview with MAI student

September 5, 2023

Eduard Sukharev, expert of the Aeromobility directorate, student of the Institute No. 1 “Aviation Technology”, spoke about what drone competitions are, what is the key to victory and what skills one needs to become a professional.

– Eduard, why are you so interested in UAV? How long have you been interested in drones?

I've been interested in drones since I was 10 years old. I assembled my first device at the age of 13, but I started participating in competitions at 14. During this time, I became a two-time champion of the championship of professional skills “Young Professionals” (Worldskills, Russia) in the competence “Operation of unmanned aircraft systems” in the junior and adult categories, was awarded in the nomination “Breakthrough of the Year”. In addition, I am engaged in project activities: I developed two copters - an agricultural one, with which I spoke at various conferences, and a SmartEduDrone training programmable copter with a methodological manual. In July I received a patent for it and plan to participate with it in the student competition “Your Move”.

– Is the development of copters part of the educational process at the institute?

No, this is my own initiative. After all, I have been passionate about this topic since school years, I have always been engaged in project work. And as a student of MAI, I participate in various competitions and conferences, for example, recently I won second place in the “Gagarin Readings” with a training quadcopter project.

– How did the idea of the copter come about?

I developed an agricultural copter at school: there was an idea to create a compact and simple quadcopter, accessible to everyone, with which you could spray fertilizers and pesticides at your dacha in hard-to-reach places. After all, industrial copters are huge, expensive and inaccessible to the average user.

But the idea of a training copter was born not so long ago. I teach students piloting, UAV design, prepare them for the championships “Masters”, “Professionals” (former WorldSkills). And the training copters that are on the market today are quite expensive. I wanted to create a copter that would be cheap, easy to repair, programmable, so that students could be taught on it and not depend on the manufacturer's components: print the necessary part on a printer, repair the device and continue to use it. During training, copters break down, and this is normal, you need access to spare parts, but they are expensive, because this copter has become an ideal solution.

– How do you plan to develop them further?

The agricultural copter will remain in a single copy for the time being. But I plan to develop the training copter further on and eventually enter the market with a series: now I am writing software for it, but we have to finalize, certify, promote, search for partners, equipment and materials for mass production.

– Did you work on it yourself?

Yes, I worked on both devices alone. But at this stage I plan to get a team: these will be students of MAI and Bauman Moscow State Technical University.

– One of your recent achievements is a victory in several disciplines at the “Archipelago-23” forum. What is it?

The Archipelago Forum is a grand event of the country level for everyone who is interested in unmanned aviation. It took place in the Novosibirsk region and included an exhibition of domestic drones, various competitions, conferences, educational events and master classes.

– In which disciplines did you participate and with which aircraft?

I participated with a personal self-assembled 5-inch freestyle copter and a self-assembled racing copter. In the individual competition, I participated in the disciplines “Freestyle on FPV”, “Dropping a projectile on a ground target” and “Oh, wait!”. And in the team he took part with the MAI team in the “Race of autonomous UAV”. In addition, I took part in the competitions “Technical simulator of drone racing” and “Delivery of Technogto Aero”.

– Tell us more about it.

I won the discipline “Freestyle on FPV” with my self-assembled device. Here it was necessary to fly the track in a limited time and demonstrate the maximum number of elements, while linking them into one beautiful picture.

So, freestyle pilots have elements of Flip, Powerloop (360-degree flip), Juicy flick, Vanny roll (flying backwards with aerobatics), Inverted yaw spin (180-degree turn in an inverted position). You can just make figures in the air, but from the outside it will not be spectacular. In freestyle, it is important to be able to use obstacles correctly. For example, I fly into the gate, then do a 360-degree flip, then fly backwards to the flag, fly around it, do a knife flight through the gap - it turns out effectively and beautifully: I go around obstacles and make difficult elements at the same time. The order of execution of the elements is not important, the main thing is to use them correctly.

In “Dropping a projectile on a ground target” I used the organizers' drone (it was a copter a little bigger, with different settings, speed, etc.) – it was necessary to take off, fly into the drop zone and hit the target as accurately as possible.

In “Oh, wait!” a radio-controlled mobile platform was driving around the landfill, it was necessary to take off, fly into the drop zone, find the platform, hit the target on it.

In the “Race of autonomous UAV” it was necessary to program the copter so that it autonomously flew the track in the shortest time. The circular trajectory route included several gates and flags: it was necessary that the copter could fly through all the gates and flags on its own and fly back without collisions. It was a team competition, and our team gained invaluable experience in drone programming.

In the “Technical simulator of drone racing” it was necessary to fly the track in acrobatic mode (fully manual control mode) and show the maximum result.

– What helps to achieve success in such competitions?

Stress resistance: after all, when you are worried, your hands are shaking, the flight turns out to be uneven – it's ugly, there is a chance of falling. Perseverance, self-confidence, quick reaction, dexterity, good coordinatio.

– What were the main difficulties?

The route was not known in advance: it was necessary to improvise and fly so that it looked beautiful and was understandable to the ordinary viewer.

– What was the level of participants?

High enough, professionals came there. In terms of points and level of piloting, we were very tight. In freestyle, only one element was decisive.

– Drone control: how quickly can you learn this?

A lot depends on a person's personal abilities and determination. Basic skills can be obtained in a week. But there is no limit to perfection: you need to constantly improve your level, gain experience not only in piloting, but also in programming, etc. Therefore, I would say a year or more. For example, based on my teaching experience, it takes about 100 hours for students to master piloting in Acro mode. But to go to the competition, you need to train much more, gain experience, not be afraid of different copters, calmly interact with them.

– What other competitions would you like to participate in?

Competitions are different: racing, programming, generally related to the profession of a drone operator. For students and schoolchildren there is a championship “Professionals” (formerly WorldSkills) - here they test knowledge and skills in a complex: the ability to assemble copters, configure, program, fly, etc. There are racing competitions held by the All-Russian Drone Racing League RDR and the official Russian drone Racing league Drone Sports Global.

I have already participated in many competitions. And I would like to continue to participate, in particular, in Drone Sports Global events.

– Does the control of a small drone differ from larger ones?

There is, for example, a shooting DJI, there is a racing one that flies along the track, and there is a large cargo one. So it's more difficult to control the racing — it's completely manual control in acrobatic mode. And large devices, as a rule, fly autonomously, if necessary, the operator can intercept control, and in terms of complexity it will be like controlling a conventional shooting drone.

– What participation in the forum was about for you?

The competitive part gives you the opportunity to show your skills and compare yourself with other participants, get a new experience of piloting and programming. The exhibition provides an opportunity to see the achievements of the industry. The educational part is new knowledge. In general, the forum provides an opportunity to meet new like-minded people who are passionate about unmanned aviation and exchange experiences.

– What are your future plans? Are you planning to connect your life with UAV?

Of course, I will continue to develop in the this area. My life is connected with the sky forever, and in the future I would like to create new UAV and share my experience with others.

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