Drone Race


Designing a quadcopter obstacle course.

TYPE Product Design 

SCOPE 3 Weeks

PROCESS Concept design, UX design, product design, sound design, coding, fabrication, video production

TEAM Alex Frankel, Kinjal Shah, Azucena Romá

ADVISOR: Eric Foreman

3…2…1...Start! Deciding to have a bit of fun with our mid-term physical computing project, we decided to build a quadcopter obstacle course. We challenged the player to navigate through three stages in the shortest amount of time. The successful completion of each stage is announced to the player using visual and audio feedback and activating the subsequent stage. At the end stage users must press a buzzer to record their final time and end the game.



  • Arduino Uno

  • Mini Quadcopter (EACHINE E010 2.4G)

  • Balsa Wood Gates

  • Big Dome Push Button

  • Laser Diodes

  • Photo Resistors

  • Resistors (330 kΩ)

  • Transistors (NPN, 2222A)

  • RGB LED Strips

  • Single LEDs

  • 12V Battery

  • Jumper wires


The biggest challenge to prototyping our drone race was determining the types of sensors we would need in order to detect a moving object through air. Detecting a small, moving drone passing through a large gate was turning out to be difficult because the drone often passed a different spot each time it flew through. This meant that we needed to account for blind spots within the gate passing. To solve this problem we opted for testing a high risk, high impact solution. Using a laser diode, mirrors, and a receptor (photo resistor), we sought to multiply a beam of light by bouncing it off of the mirrors while still hitting a light receptor. This would create a complex mesh of beams that if interrupted, would cause the receptors value to change triggering a drone "pass through".



Be it the classic 8-bit music or the slot-machine like sounds of collecting coins, anyone who is a video game player knows that one of the most rewarding parts of a game is the feedback they receive. An important aspect after the race became functional for game play was determining the factors that encouraged the users and let them know once an action was completed. We decided that feedback components for the players would include visual, audio, physical and a time-based reward, .

Each gate began with a certain color lit up, letting the player know that the gate was active. Once a gate was completed by a player the surrounding LED strip signaled a successful passthrough by changing color. At the first gate encounter players are faced with the task of choosing to pass through a more challenging smaller gate or an adjacent larger gate which would earn them a 5 second bonus. In addition, all gates featured audio feedback after completion to encourage the player as well as serve the purpose of notifying them of a completed action. 

After passing the first gate, the user encounters the final gate crossing, if completed this gate will activated a large red dome buzzer. In order to finalize their score and complete the game, users must press the buzzer, triggering a display with their final time. To add in a bit of friendly competition with themselves or challengers, the game also keeps track of the highest finishing times as the “Time to Beat.”


Flying forward. 

Moving further with this project I've identified several arenas for improvement. The balsa wood used to fabricate the gates was not sturdy enough. We ran into problems with gates toppling and sustaining damage from high speed drone impact, causing the need for frequent adjustments to our lasers and photocell receptors.

Given more time to develop, we might facilitate a more interesting experience for the user by adding additional gates and feedback to the user. Additionally, to avoid the unpleasant looks and hazards of long wires, we would use wi-fi enabled device to transmit signals. Finally, in an effort to improve this post I would have come up with a great Star Wars drone pun to close this out with..