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Project feasibility? - launch - spin/scan - identify/lock on to clock face - read clock - output time


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Nov 1, 2018
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New to the forum.

I'm not a developer, but a 'packager' of technologies and tech concepts to explain and demonstrate what is possible. Usually for manager-types.

I'm looking for help understanding if my idea is feasible, and if yes, then possibly some (lightly funded) help making it real as a prototype.

Idea flow:
- Analog clock on wall about 10 feet up (time is... 3:46). It's on a shelf so you cannot see time from ground.
- Tello on the ground. in front of the clock, but camera facing away.

- Tello launches
- Either:
+ Goes up to pre-programmed height of 10ft
+ executes a corkscrew scanning manuever where it is spinning and rising "looking for clocks"
- At 10 ft, spins/scans for clock faces
- Locks on to clock face
+ if we get fancy it could move forward a little, or 'wiggle' to indicate it has locked on
- Image processing reads the clock face (perhaps using: Deep time (using Tensorflow to read clocks) · Felix Duvallet or some other ML/DL pre-train)
- Outputs the time e.g. 3:46
- Lands back at home

The purpose of the demo is to show that Ladder climbs can be avoided for certain inspection and data gathering tasks using 'low cost, off the shelf' stuff available now.

The ML part is simply to push the edge and allow a demo of integrating IOT (Tello) with 'mass' ML/DL/AI (Tensorflow, AWS, etc)


And thank you in advance.

Welcome. The answer your looking for is yes it could be possible, but if this would be your presentation to potential clients or just a sales pitch it's a poor choice
Your first problem is Time itself, your first hurdle is keeping the Tello charged and ready, "ready" in reference to powered on, and standing by for a IFTTT IOT command as an example. Problem is that when you have power connected to drone over micro USB, even if the Tello is powered on, a relay physical and or software kills power to flight board so the battery can be charged.
Solution would be a robotic arm that would detach the micro USB plug from Tello, and then release restraints as that USB connection is pretty firm. Then an actuator to cycle the power button. This all is super easy if put into action, the next step would be to have your custom mobile app launch on a phone and autoconnect to the Tello wifi, after which confirmation and then excecute auto flight to search for clock, all this is possible but the next hurdle is landing in the exact same spot it took off from which it has no GPS and it's optical posisitioning hold is not super exact. You'd have to some how calibrate that camera and have it keep a object center of camera FOV.
If I skip most what you wrote and focus on the true subject at hand is that you want to show that a $99 drone can do basic inspections since you'd still have a human drone operator at the controls, who if trained well and practices enough can master this little beast of a drone.

Your idea is sound and the focus should be setting up cameras to record a mock up inspection of an area that even a DJI spark couldn't do because of its size and prop wash. You could put the full cage on the Tello and get in some super tight areas.

Now onto the other part which you said was data gathering. That's a hard thing I'd say to get for now. the firmware has not been fully reengineered and unlocked to be able to get full access to features and Ryze/ DJI software o board it's flight board. Best you'd get is recording video and using external post processing to extract data from recording.
Sorry that was a lot to write and read, but that's how I feel about your question/ idea. I've done a few roof inspections with the Tello for family. It works great. I can get inches from corners and the roof itself and it doesn't crash or stop being stable.

But one last thing a BIG PROBLEM! The visual positioning system (bottom camera) has a big problem with low light conditions. If you could add high powered LED chips all over the Tello you might be able to fly in ducting and not crash but a dark room your screwed unless someone can improve the bottom camera
Excellent points.

However, this is by no means anything near a 'production' situation.

This exercise/demo would take place in a conference room.

Its purpose would be as an exercise that would provide a hands on demonstration (versus death by powerpoint) that the pieces are there. An 'art of the possible' situation.

Industrialization would be a $100k-$2M level project, at least. (very long list of things needed. e.g. intrinsically safe for hydrocarbon environments, regulatory in various countries, overhead approvals, etc not to mention that the 'lock and read' code would need to be custom built for 100's (?) of industrial meter types and situations.

Given this clarification - it's a conference room set-up...

I'm certain the flight portion can be programmed with DroidBlocks or similar.

It's more the image pieces:
- Can 'face tracking' be migrated to 'clock face tracking'? and how?
- Can the image stream from tello be fed to a ML like DeepClock to read and output time? and how?

Good counter points! Yes so face tracking is technically object identification and object lock. There is an app on the play store that is an alternative Tello app and it has face tracking, I'm able to activate the command and I can set down my phone and walk around as long as I stay close and not make sudden movements. So that portion is already possible.
Total realization, my bad, clarification is like this alternative app it's app based. Just like I input virtual joystick movement to control the Tello, the app replicates these same commands as code requested from the face tracking program running inside of the app.

What I'm saying is that it's not a question of modifying the Tello but building a mobile app whether it be Android or iOS that can act as a 2nd set of eyes looking at the same video feed, after obtaining the clocks time and it being logged, the program would release a command to parent app to return to home.

As far as Droid blocks goes those apps are rudenmentry and can't access video feed. If you can get in contact with the creater of the Tello app in this community they could possibly work with you on this project since they've already managed to add face tracking to an app. I'm not familiar with deepclock. I'll do research later. Sounds cool.

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