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DroneBlocks DEXI Drone: Education, Customization, and Compliance

April 22, 2024 — 5 minutes

The DEXI drone is engineered not just for technical prowess but also for educational utility. It serves as an invaluable tool for instructing students in the fundamentals of aerodynamics, robotics, and software development. This drone effectively closes the gap between theoretical knowledge and practical, real-world application, making it a versatile resource in both educational and developmental settings.

A Cutting-Edge Innovation in UAS Technology

The DroneBlocks DEXI drone is a significant advancement in the field of UAV technology, adeptly designed to meet the varied needs of educators, developers, and hobbyists. This drone is uniquely remarkable for its all-in-one mainboard that integrates the PX4 Autopilot Flight Controller, optical flow sensing, and a high-performance onboard computer module into a compact form factor.

1. Integrated PX4 Autopilot Flight Controller: The DEXI drone’s heart features the advanced PX4 Autopilot system. This integration not only simplifies the drone’s architecture but also boosts its flight management capabilities, ensuring stable and reliable performance in diverse operating conditions.

2. Precision Optical Flow Sensing: Among the standout functionalities of the DEXI drone is its optical flow sensing, which is critical for precise navigation, particularly in indoor environments or GPS-denied areas. This technology enhances the drone’s stability and maneuverability by detecting and analyzing surface textures below, facilitating exceptionally accurate positional control.

3. Powerful Onboard Computer Module: The drone incorporates a high-performance 64-bit Quad-core Cortex A72 processor within its onboard computer module. This powerful computing capability allows for advanced data processing and supports complex algorithms essential for sophisticated drone operations and applications.

4. Compact and Efficient Design: What makes the DEXI drone truly remarkable and unique is its small form factor that houses the PX4 Autopilot, optical flow sensors, and a robust computer module all in one integrated unit. This consolidation not only maximizes efficiency and performance but

Educational Insights Through Hands-On Building

By assembling the DEXI drone, students gain a deep understanding of the fundamental aspects of drone technology. This hands-on experience is crucial for grasping the complexities of how various drone components work together to achieve stable and controlled flight. The process involves engaging with every piece of the drone, from the frame assembly and motor configuration to the integration of electronic systems and flight controllers.

Customizable Drone Design

DEXI stands out with its customizable design, incorporating a Pi compute module that significantly enhances the drone’s utility and adaptability. This inclusion not only provides powerful computing capabilities onboard but also offers access to GPIO pins. These pins can be utilized for a myriad of tasks, including:

  • Controlling LED lights for visual feedback or added illumination during night operations.
  • Managing servo motors for dynamic components like camera gimbals for precise angle adjustments or mechanisms for releasing payloads.

Such customization options empower students and hobbyists to tailor their drones to specific functions or experiments, exploring the limits of what small unmanned aerial systems can do.

Payload Capacity

With a payload capacity of up to 0.5 lbs, DEXI can carry a variety of devices, making it ideal for both recreational and professional uses. This capability allows users to attach different payloads such as:

  • Cameras and sensors for photography or data collection.
  • Communication devices to extend operational range or functionalities.
  • Scientific instruments for educational or research purposes.

This feature is particularly beneficial in educational settings, where students can experiment with various scientific sensors and learn about the physical and engineering principles involved in real-world applications.

Programming and Software Integration

DEXI is not just a drone; it’s a platform for learning programming languages and software essential to modern robotics. It serves as an excellent tool for teaching block-coding with DroneBlocks, Python, ROS, and computer vision with OpenCV.

  • Python & ROS: Python is widely used for its simplicity and power in handling a variety of programming tasks. When combined with ROS (Robot Operating System), it provides a robust framework for developing sophisticated drone applications. ROS integration allows for advanced functionalities like autonomous navigation and interaction with the environment, which are vital for leveraging PX4 capabilities fully.
  • OpenCV: Utilizing OpenCV with the Pi Camera integrated into DEXI enables real-time processing of visual data. This capability is crucial for tasks such as object detection, tracking, and navigation, especially in environments where GPS might not be available. Techniques like color space conversion, edge detection, and employing deep learning models are just a few examples of how OpenCV can be utilized to enhance the drone’s visual processing abilities.

Compliance with NDAA

The DroneBlocks DEXI drone is compliant with the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) as outlined by Section 848 of the Fiscal Year 2020. This compliance is crucial for ensuring that the drone’s critical components—such as flight controllers, cameras, and data storage—are manufactured in the United States, adhering to stringent security and manufacturing standards.

Available Purchase Options for the DroneBlocks DEXI Drone: Educational and Professional Kits

The DroneBlocks DEXI drone comes in two specialized configurations, designed to suit the varying needs of educational settings and professional developers. These options include a classroom-oriented package for educational institutions and a fully-equipped, ready-to-fly model ideal for immediate use by PX4 developers.

1. DroneBlocks DEXI Educational Classroom Pack

Tailored for educational purposes, the DroneBlocks DEXI Educational Classroom Pack, also known as the Autonomous Drones – Level III program, is perfectly suited for integrating UAV technology into school curriculums. This package includes five comprehensive build kits, each containing all the necessary tools and components along with step-by-step instructions to guide students through building, programming, and piloting their drones.

Highlights of the Educational Classroom Pack:

  • Educational Enhancement: Each kit serves as a practical educational tool, delving into key concepts of aerodynamics, electronics, and drone autonomy.
  • Practical Application: Students engage in hands-on activities, assembling their drones from the ground up, which reinforces their learning and understanding of technical concepts.
  • Supports STEM Learning: These kits are designed to encourage interest in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM), providing students with the skills and knowledge to pursue future technological careers.

This classroom package not only aids in teaching complex subjects but also inspires creativity and problem-solving skills, laying a strong foundation for students interested in technology and engineering.

2. DroneBlocks DEXI Ready to Fly (RTF) Professional Bundle

For PX4 developers or drone tech professionals who need a plug-and-play solution, the DroneBlocks DEXI Ready to Fly (RTF) Professional Bundle is an excellent choice. This bundle delivers a drone that is fully assembled and pre-configured with the latest PX4 firmware, enabling users to start their projects without any setup delays.

Features of the RTF Professional Bundle:

  • Ready Out of the Box: This RTF bundle eliminates the assembly process, offering a drone that is ready for immediate flight, perfect for saving time and avoiding assembly complexities.
  • Updated with the Latest Firmware: With the drone equipped with the latest PX4 firmware, developers have access to cutting-edge flight control technologies and updates.
  • Ideal for Advanced Development: Specially configured for developers, this kit facilitates the rapid deployment and testing of custom applications and experimental features.

Each configuration of the DroneBlocks DEXI drone is crafted to meet the distinct needs of its target audience. The Educational Classroom Pack provides a robust learning platform that nurtures students’ curiosity and skills in drone technologies. In contrast, the RTF Professional Bundle offers developers a top-tier, performance-ready drone that can be used straight out of the box for immediate application testing and development. With these versatile options, DroneBlocks continues to provide quality, adaptable, and innovative drone solutions to both the educational and professional drone communities.

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