KnightLight Drone Show

KnightLight is a club at the University of Central Florida (UCF) with the goal of developing both the hardware and software to create our own drone show to perform on campus and in the surrounding Orlando area. We started in September 2022 as a project that would involve multiple clubs working together, enabling collaboration from different majors. We expanded to become our own club this year and aim to provide students with the ability to apply knowledge to real-world applications and gain experience that would not be possible otherwise.

Our broader goal is to provide students with hands-on experience and valuable skills that they may use on their own projects or in future work. We want to make resources available to all students at UCF and students in the surrounding areas. Students at the university frequently create PCBs and have to assemble them; however, we would make our pick-and-place machine available for any student to use, saving them time and allowing for better-quality PCBs.

Our light-show drones will be made up of a lot of electronic components, some of which we intend to manufacture ourselves. These components include an LED module, an advanced battery management system, and a Wi-Fi module. For all of our developments, we like to follow an iterative design approach, validating along the way and improving the design as we go. Below shows our process when developing our prototype 1.0 LED module.

1. Breadboard Prototype (Proof of Concept)

2. Circuit Validation

3. Schematic Design

4. 3D Visualization

5. Prototype and Assembly

As you've seen, we validated our design along the way, making changes before creating the PCB and also learning a lot from this first prototype. Since then, we have developed a new schematic that is more efficient, and we have begun planning for a third prototype that uses surface-mount LED diodes. Our third prototype is also lower-cost and brighter than any of our previous versions.

Battery Management System (BMS)

We've begun the development of our smart battery management system (BMS), a device that will provide our drones with the safety our cells need and features to improve drone flight operations. Some of the key features of our BMS will include:

  • Remote on/off switch to preserve battery life during setup (something that existing light-show drones don't have)
  • Magnetic charging
  • Variable charging currents
  • Overcharge and overdischarge protection
  • Temperature sensors for each cell
  • Connection to our Wi-Fi module for constant communications
  • Full data logging with on-board storage

As mentioned above, our BMS will have advanced data collection as it relates to the battery pack. We intend to collect as much data as possible and make it publicly available, potentially offering data for research projects. We have already been contacted and have begun collaborating with two on-campus research projects to study battery degradation and estimate flight time for quadcopters. Not only will our data help this project, but we will take their results and implement changes to improve flight time and the battery pack's longevity.

Pick and Place Machine (Sponsorship)

KnightLight aspires to work with industry leaders, one of which is PCBWay. The ability to quickly and accurately produce prototype electronics enables us to follow an interactive development process, and we want to prepare for when we produce large quantities of these drones (hundreds). A pick-and-place machine will allow us to meet our internal demands and will offer students the ability to work with hardware that is used in the industry. We will also make this machine available to be used by other clubs and students at UCF, and one day by other students in the surrounding community. Students with senior design projects and other advanced electronic projects will have access to a machine that will improve their workflow and enable new designs and capabilities that are otherwise unavailable.

(Image courtesy of Opulo)

The support of PCBWay goes way beyond supporting just KnightLight's goals of electronic prototyping and manufacturing; it offers an essential tool to students that they currently don't have access to, improving their experience when working on their own projects, both for school and for their own pleasure. We want to make these tools accessible to all, and with the help of PCBWay, this is possible. Thank you for this opportunity.

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Feb 19,2024
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