June 21, 2021 — 4 minutes
One of the most exciting things for DroneBlocks has been our work towards accessing drone sensor information, as well actuating sensors. This has now become a reality with Tello Talent educational drone, also referred to as Robomaster TT. Our philosophy is that drones continue to serve as a platform to perform various tasks in the real world, and gather sensor information for further analysis, all in a programmable way. The launch of Tello Talent now makes this possible with the ESP32 add-on that not only had an LED array built into it, but also a breakout board to attach various sensors. Think of being able to measure temperature at various altitudes or take a barometric reading every foot above ground up to 90 ft!
In this blog post we’ll cover the Tello Talent ESP32 board and LED control. DroneBlocks now has support to change the color of the main drone LED, pulse its color (aka blink), and alternate the LED between two different colors. DroneBlocks can also access the LED matrix and do all sorts of fun stuff like scroll text, draw 8×8 emojis, and even animate them with the matrix LED block. The video below gives a quick demonstration of the possibilities.
The following screenshot shows several of the blocks we’re releasing in this initial version. Now you’ll be able to create all sorts of cool visual effects while your Tello Talent drone is in the air!
Currently Tello Talent’s main LED has the ability to support all sorts of different RGB colors. For example, if you want to program your drone LED to turn blue you can simply use the “set color” block, or you can set the RGB values to R: 0, G: 0, B: 255. Both of these approaches achieve the same goal, but the RGB approach does give you some flexibility where you can cycle through different LED colors with a variable and a loop. In the screenshot below you’ll see an example of looping through a blue color from 0 to 250 and change the blue component of Robomaster TT’s LED. Keep in mind that each RGB value can only go up to 255. Therefore R: 255 G: 255 B: 255 represents white while R:0, G:0, B:0 represents black. In the case of black it’s not possible to actually have a black LED, so it will turn the LED off.
Tello Talent’s LED matrix provides even more interesting control options! The LED matrix is 8×8 (64 total LEDs) and is internally connected to an ESP32 microcontroller. This provides some exciting programming opportunities in the future, such as being able to program the microcontroller using the Arduino IDE. DroneBlocks provides the ability to change each one of these LEDs by clicking on them directly as you can see in the screenshot below. Tello Talent’s LED matrix colors are limited to red, blue, purple, and off (black).
While being able to click and color Tello Talent’s matrix LED is fun, it’s even more interesting to be able to address each LED programmatically! That’s why we’ve provided a block that lets you access the specific row and column position of the drone’s LED matrix. The following code example comes from the video above where we demonstrate how to animate drawing a heart on the matrix LED with DroneBlocks.
You can see there are infinite possibilities of using block code to program the LEDs of Tello Talent. One block that gets us really excited is the “scroll text” block. You can specify a string value of up to 70 characters and have it scroll in up, down, left, or right. In the example above we used “Hello From DroneBlocks!” but feel free to experiment and customize it to your needs. Think of coding a drone mission that does a countdown before Tello Talent does a flip. Or we’ve even dreamed of having a standard Tello drone with Python/OpenCV read commands from Tello Talent’s display. The list goes on and on!
We truly hope you enjoy the new LED display capabilities of Tello Talent as much as we enjoyed developing and testing it. The future is bright for STEAM enthusiasts that not only want to program autonomous drone missions, but control LEDs during the process. The ESP32 with LED matrix really opens up the world of creative applications for drone programming. We are working on several courses that will be included in the DroneBlocks membership centered around Tello Talent’s ESP32 module. Not to mention that all of these new blocks will be available in DroneBlocks for Chrome, iOS, and Android. We hope you enjoy this exciting new drone programming capability and please share your creations in our drone community forums and in our Facebook group!
The Tello Talent with ESP32 LED and sensor module bundle is available in the DroneBlocks store.
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