When will we finally have to accept flying as a valid type of locomotion for FRC?

At some point some sponsor may come along with big money, or the DOD will decide they need a fleet of Drone programmers, whatever the reason. How far out does the community feel we are from having some sort of flying game? I mean robots having to hover for a sustainable period as part of end game or something of the like. Or is this never going to happen due to the safety needs now requiring a ceiling and cover over the field?

Will we ever have a drone game? Will robots that can safely hover or fly be valid? Would it even be of benefit to a team to fly versus drive? Battery & payload v.s. speed advantage, etc is an interesting engineering challenge that would put everyone on a rookie level of knowledge. Everyone would be struggling to get to terms with aerodynamics and everything we know about swerve/tank/Omni/butterfly and traditional mechanism design would change drastically to focus on weight reduction versus strength.



It’ll be hard, but it’ll be cool.

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Hardest fun you’ll ever have!

What if DOD needs submarines before drones, or drones going underwater?


I could see a flying minibot endgame for sure. Hobbyists have been making their own drones for ages and you can get small, cheap drone motors for relatively cheap compared to FRC robots nowadays. Hovering one for a couple seconds would be a difficult, but imo achievable goal for most teams, especially considering how fast new FRC code resources seem to pop up. The biggest problems I see would be how fragile drones are (by necessity since they have to be light) and how potentially dangerous they could be.

Full flying robots, I couldn’t see. Especially considering FIRST would have to redesign robot rules to allow them, and they wouldn’t be accessible to all teams, so they would have to make a game that is somehow balanced for flying and driving robots. And programming for drones is way harder than for driving robots. I work on a competition robotic submarine and even figuring out what direction we’re facing is a challenge, and controlling three dimensions of motion is harder than just two. Until they’re (relatively) cheap and easy to use for everyone, I can’t full drone games (outside of those collegiate level drone test games FIRST had a while back).


A tethered minbot drone would be cool, maybe you have to use it to drop down a rope that your bot will climb on.


We’d need a significant redesign of the FRC COTS control/motion system. I also think a mini bot would be much more likely unless you are only flying and have very light game pieces as even just lifting a drivetrain would be difficult.

One possibility might be a rule that robots just have to get off the ground at some point between t=5 and t=0. This would allow for a larger variety of things including flight, jumping, and hovercraft. You could also include a jump ramp which would let teams score with just a drivetrain at the expense of having to have a robot that can survive the drop.


I have a hard time seeing a full flying game be viable with six bots/drones on the field. In endgame, maaaaybe, but like others have said would require some pretty huge changes to the FRC ecosystems. Bell Helicopter has a vertical robotics competition that I’ve found to be pretty interesting, but it’s one team working essentially against the field itself, rather than directly competing against other teams.

My friend and I fly FPV drones quite often.

Once, his radio cut out 80m off the ground and the drone fell onto a
grassy field. After replacing a propeller and tightening a few bolts the
drone took off again

Another time he miscalculated a dive and fell from 30m. His drone
bounced off the field and he was able to maintain control.

These drones weigh about 500g, are made of 2mm carbon fiber, and can
pull 120A @ 15v.

I wouldn’t say that drones are inherently fragile, it is just another
engineering challenge.

Also, on another note, it would be cool if a few teams would turn their
pits into a tinywhoop race.


The other consideration that hasn’t been mentioned yet is the redesign to the fields that would be necessary. I’m not so much referring to game elements (though those would obviously be different if they’re interacting with drones, even small ones) as I am to the field itself. The risks involved in flying robots would be exponentially greater than for driving ones. A simple field perimeter like we use now would be useless to contain a flying robot or even a small endgame drone (especially a free-flying one, but even tethered ones could present problems.) Imagine a robot flying out into the audience rather than a relatively light game piece and remember that heavy game pieces have been restricted in the past to prevent shooting them for exactly the reason that they not end up flying out into the audience (hatch panels in 2019, for instance.) You’d need a fully enclosing field perimeter that could withstand impact by a flying robot and ensure that it wouldn’t escape to be a danger. Even with small drones, you’d need a barrier like a net or screen. Even at the small size of many racing drones (only 1/2 a kilo or so) they’d still be dangerous to the audience if they got out of control, as sooner or later one inevitably would for any of a host of reasons. All this barrier or screening is logistically difficult at best and (in a lot of locations) essentially impossible, especially in the kind of time-frames that events have to set up and tear down.

So, even leaving aside the other problems so well detailed in the comments above, the use of flying robots or even small drones just presents too many difficulties and outright dangers. I seriously doubt we’ll be seeing this any time soon, even as a tethered drone in endgame.

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You could have the drones only be allowed to fly in an area near the center of the field and require power to the drone go through a tether that’s short enough to prevent the drone getting particularly close to the edge. (For a mini-bot drone)

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Durability is not the issue, as turtle mode can quickly get you recovered after a crash. How much experience do you have flying FPV in a netted 27ftx54ft floor? When we do drone combat we use double that size, and most of our heats end with the drones caught in the nets. Even in the Battlebots arena the vast majority of drones fly LOS (this past season we did FPV for the first time in the Battlebox, with micro drones).

Granted an LOS drone minibot would be a ton of fun, particularly if there was a game objective that could incorporate deployment of cinewhoop sized drones. FRC would have to get over their fear of LiPos and start allowing 2.4Ghz transmitters direct to drone, as latency through an FMS would be significantly harder to deal with

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i personally believe flying might possibly become legal but not required, just due to the fact that teams with a lot of funding will be much better equipped to make a flying bot than teams with less funding

Currently, there are no rules explicitly prohibiting flying robots.

There are a number of rules on safety and staying attached, and bumper zone. But, there are no current rules saying “thou shalt not fly”.


We have a precedent for netting from the 2013 game (frisbees can cause similar “disruption” to the viewing audience.
If the requirements are well established — prop guards/ducts, weight limits, standardization of batteries, prop size, and motor kV, I could definitely see ways to incorporate drones into robotics competitions (as I said earlier, assuming we can start permitting use of LiPo batteries and RF devices that don’t send all control data through FMS)

All submarines are stealth submarines.


Drones would be cool. Give FTAs tennis racquets to swat any that try to leave the field.


Net guns like Kari Byron had on White Rabbit Project

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Or a rake


How much experience do you have flying FPV in a netted 27ftx54ft floor

I have flown a little bit indoors, but I know that this will add another layer of difficulty for anyone learning how to drive. Air mode is known for being scary to learn

Granted an LOS drone minibot would be a ton of fun

This. I want to quad race people, even if it is just a tinywhoop race inside a repurposed pit

cinewhoop sized drones

cinewhoops would probably be ideal, but tinywhoops are more likely

FRC would have to get over their fear of LiPos

I can imagine plenty of issues with this and fires.

latency through an FMS would be significantly harder to deal with

oh. yikes. I can imagine that >10ms ping. yikes

Also I would be praying that no team decided to make their drone out of aluminum