Swarm Patterns in Small Scale Drones

bitcraze crazyflie droneIn recent years, drones have dazzled thousands with displays like Intel’s 2018 Super Bowl drone show. Shows like Intel’s involved hundreds of drones equipped with LEDs moving in sync to create intricate designs. Small scale drones have exceptional agility in navigating three dimensional space, making them the perfect actors for such dazzling shows.

But problems quickly arise when the drones run into issues that are difficult to program for ahead of time – such as wind, or other unexpected obstacles. And simply ensuring that the drones do not fly into one another is easier said than done, because it is difficult to track a drone while in the air without an external positioning system. In this project, I hope to program a small swarm of five drones to perform choreographed designs in a climate controlled environment, and tackle the more advanced issues of wind and autonomous functionality as time provides.

The drones for this project will be the Bitcraze Crazyflie drones. These drones were chosen because their software and firmware is open source, and because they come outfitted with a number of useful sensors and spare parts. Each Crazyflie drone is equipped with an accelerometer, gyroscope, and pressure sensor for monitoring their movement and environment. Another useful feature is that the drones can be assembled without special tools or soldering, so developing with them can be done without the use of a sophisticated makerspace.


  1. teramage says:


    What a neat project idea — a fusion of technology and performance art! I’m an open source enthusiast myself, so I definitely understand that alone as enough reason to select the Bitcraze drones, but was there any other reason why you preferred open source software/firmware? Do you anticipate having to make any significant changes to the way that either works?

    Thank you so much!

  2. Hi! Sorry for the belated response – the open source software/firmware appealed to me because it meant I could make a bunch of changes if necessary, and also because many the drones have a small open source community that could help when I had questions / messed something up.
    I don’t think I’ll have to make significant changes to the firmware, but many changes to the software. Thanks for your questions!