CSCE 496/896: Robotics: Unmanned Aerial Systems
Fall 2020 (COVID-19 Edition)


Dr. Carrick Detweiler
Computer Science and Engineering
220 Schorr Center
carrick _at_
Office Hours: and by appointment.

Course Information

Lecture: M 2:30pm - 4:20pm in Avery 110
Lab: W 2:30pm - 4:20pm in Avery 110
Online on Canvas

Mondays: Lecture in class and live on zoom. Recordings of classes will also be available on Canvas if you are unable to attend. If you do not attend in person, you will need to submit a response paper or video to receive participation credit.

Wednesdays: Hands-on lab session where only half the class attends each week. We will learn to fly, solder/assemble drones, and other hands-on (socially distant) stuff for as long as COVID-19 allows us to meet in person. If you cannot attend these for whatever reason, there will be alternative activities for you to perform.

Canvas Learning: Additional materials and lectures will be posted online to supplement learning due to the reduced class and lab time due to COVID-19.

For detailed information on this course please see the syllabus.

This website is largely for archival purposes. For real-time information see Canvas.

Course Description

Unmanned Aerial Systems (UASs or drones) are increasingly being used for everything from agriculture to atmospheric science and have been proposed for uses such as delivering packages and locating survivors in burning buildings. This class will be focused on solving a real-world challenge with drones that cannot be solved by off-the-shelf systems or algorithms. We will start with class, lab, and homeworks to ensure that everyone has a common baseline. Then we will move onto the main project.

The main project in the class will be for us to create an autonomous drone "Quidditch" league. We will split into small groups and each group will focus on developing systems (e.g. grippers/etc) and algorithms (e.g. detect balls/other drones/etc) to act as the chasers, beaters, keepers, and seekers. And of course one team will need to program the snitch. There will also be a team dedicated to creating a simulation environment and rules for this, but we will also do work at the real Nimbus Quidditch Pitch as we can.


See Canvas for details.

Course Survey
Homework 1
Homework 2
Sim Camera Guide
Ball Detector Code

Course Schedule

Below is an approximate schedule of course topics. These are subject to change, assignments will be announced on Canvas.

Week Lecture Topic Lab Topic Key Deadlines
Week 1: Aug 17 Syllabus and Course Overview Class Survey
Week 2: Aug 24 ROS Group A: Soldering or Flying (weather pending) HW1 Out
Week 3: Aug 31 ROS Group B: Soldering or Flying (weather pending)
Week 4: Sept 7 Overview of Key UAS Components Group A: Soldering or Flying (weather pending) HW1 Due
Week 5: Sept 14 Basic Computer Vision Group B: Soldering or Flying (weather pending) HW2 Out
Week 6: Sept 21 Flight Controllers and IMU Group A: Soldering or Flying (weather pending) Start Project (groups finalized)
Week 7: Sept 28 Project Work Week Project Work Week HW2 Due
Week 8: Oct 5 Autonomy Group A: Sensors and Actuators
Week 9: Oct 12 Group Meetings with Instructor Group Meetings with Instructor
Week 10: Oct 19 Project Work Week Group B: Sensors and Actuators
Week 11: Oct 26 Project Status Report Presentation Project Work Time Project Status Report Due
Week 12: Nov 2 Low Level Motors and Motor Control Project Work Time Peer Feedback Due
Week 13: Nov 9 FAA Part 107 Project Work Time
Week 14: Nov 16 Final Project Presentations Final Project Presentations Final Project Due, Peer Feedback Due