Adapting 2363 operations to the realities of the coronavirus: Return to Flight

A few weeks ago Triple Helix began working on our plans for operating in the age of the coronavirus. Our overriding concern is that we continue to inspire our students while at the same time protecting our students and mentors from contracting the virus. We are proceeding with the conservative assumption that any student or mentor on the team may be an unknowing asymptomatic carrier.

The details of our concerns, and our plans for continuing operations are laid out in detail here:

In short, we are developing our own Tele-Operated Robotics Competition (TORC) using bots which can be built by students at home, with mentoring via teleconference. We looked at multiple options for the robot platform and went with the option the students were most excited about: FPV drones. The competition and some of the fabrication will take place in our STEM gym, which is large enough to host socially distanced small groups. The competition format will be FRC style matches, probably 2 on 2, with a scoring game using gamepieces manipulated by the robots. A 3" cinewoop quadcopter will serve as the base robot. This class of drone was developed to safely and controllably carry a gopro in close proximity to people, with the propellers shrouded by ducts. For competition, instead carrying a gopro, the drone payload will be scoring mechanisms that manipulate game pieces and perhaps field elements. It is currently undetermined if matches will include an autonomous task, but there will be a teleoperated period, and some sort of cooperative endgame.

Key features of this concept are:

  • The building task is cross discipline. It involves simple mechanical assembly, electrical assembly (including soldering), CAD design, and building light weight scoring mechanisms using 3D printing.
  • Students can build their drones and practice flying them at home, or in socially distanced practice sessions.
  • Mentoring, reporting on build progress, and collaborating on designs can all be done remotely, via videoconferencing.
  • Solo pilots can remain socially distanced during matches and during competitions.
  • Designing matches to incorporate coopertition encourages FRC style GP culture and design sharing.

Nothing would please us more than the development of a proven vaccine, which might enable a return to traditional FRC style competitions. Our 2020 robot is ready to compete in 2021, if it becomes possible to safely do so. In the meantime, while knowing that this option isn’t for everyone, we are sharing our plans with the FRC community in case there are other teams out there who might benefit from implementing something similar for themselves.


I’d highly recommend you avoid the TORC acronym.
It hasn’t ended well for previous parties.


This is absolutely amazing! It’s so cool to see a drone competition keeping students engaged during quarantine, especially on a fellow CHS team :slight_smile:

A quick question on programming: are the base drones programmable, or can they only be flown with the default teleop controls?

I really look forward to seeing how your competition plays out!

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No comment.

Well, the flight controller is capable of running the iNav firmware, which is supposedly designed for some level of autonomous operation. We haven’t gotten too far into those details yet. Starting FPV completely from scratch is daunting, to say the least. Just the level of programmability in the transmitter and the teleop flight controller is many layers deep. There are people who have created multipart youtube video series just on the many programming features of the transmitter, which runs the OpenSky open source operating system.

We’ve received our shipment of transmitters (Radiomaster TX16s) and are looking at getting our students into flight training on one of the FPV drone flight simulators. The rest of the quad hardware is due from China in about 3 weeks. Hopefully they can get in some amount of simulator training so the quads aren’t immediately destroyed. It’s going to be a wild ride!


I should also mention that we are working with a US based RC equipment vendor/distributer which is providing discount pricing. They are creating a program especially for STEM groups/teams to help them afford the initial investment in equipment. Basically, STEM teams are eligible for dealer pricing, which has saved us many hundreds of dollars. I can’t mention the vendor yet, because they haven’t publicly announced the details of the program. But, if any teams are interested, message me and I’ll put you in touch.


Thanks for Sharing! here is our teams COVID offseason project which similarly focuses on robots built at home while trying to do some FRC type projects using mostly VEX parts.


Game Manual

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That is certainly a project I’d like to cover :slight_smile:

This sounds really intriguing! Sounds like a good deal.

This, again, sounds like an awesome quarantine project. I’ll see if our team has any use for these items, and I guess someone from our leadership or something will message you if we’re interested. I’m not part of the team’s leadership, though, so I can’t really speak for the team lol.
Again, really looking forward to seeing what this brings!

Would you be able to explain this?

I hope no on on 2363 is on the board for FIRST Chesapeake /s

This joke is a callback to another thread for those that don’t get it.


Not that much to explain.
2137 was named TORC (previously RoboCats) since at least 2011 (and probably 2010).
My understanding is a company called TORC sent them a C&D letter and the school was not willing to fight it.

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As this is just the name of an internal project within Triple Helix, we don’t expect to receive any C&Ds. Or be ousted from leadership positions. :pray:


The Triple Helix quad program is coming along. We have 11 FAA registered drone operators (recreational) and have distributed kits of parts. People are working on soldering skills, and the first team drone is up and flying.

The 2020 practice field elements are going to make great obstacles to fly around and through, when our goggle order is delivered.

Here are some clips from our first evening flying drones with FPV goggles. FPV is “first person view”. A tiny camera in the nose of the quadcopter transmits live video back to the pilot’s goggles, so the pilot sees what someone would see if they were onboard the drone. Everyone improved noticeably with just one evening’s worth of practice.


Some other teams have expressed interest in the status of this project, so we’ll give an update. To date we have 17 participants, with 3 quads completed, and more under construction. The actual cost per participant came in under our $750 budget at $647. This was largely due to cost savings from participating in the BuddyRC STEM team program. BuddyRC supplied the highest cost items (transmitter, goggles) at a great price and waived shipping costs. Final list of parts and supplies here: TORC Program Description.

To make this more technically challenging than simply assembling a kit, we used the electronics and motors from one kit and mounted them in a different frame. This requires soldering skills developed by building a battery pack for the goggles, and several battery charging cables. Video guide for making the battery pack is on our YouTube channel. There is also a drone build guide to help the students through the process of building the drone, programming the transmitter, and initial drone firmware initialization.

And, just for fun, here’s my drone, all tricked out with Triple Helix colors.

Our transmitter.

Our goggles.


This is all extremely cool. How hard/easy was it to get students registered to operate? The FAA website makes it look like you just fill out a few fields, pay between $15 and $38.98 and you’re done. That’s it? No training required? Seems like a silly $38.98 charge for no good reason.

For recreational flyers it’s $5. It takes like 10 minutes. The reason is to assign you a number you are required to put on your quad. If your quad is involved in an incident, the government knows who you are and how to find you so you can be prosecuted. Just like putting a license plate on your car, but way cheaper.

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