MobileArq Academy Teaches Students to Build, Fly Drones

Photo: Students learn soldering at MobileArq Academy. Photo Credit: MobileArq
Students learn soldering at MobileArq Academy. | MobileArq

The MobileArq Academy, a branch of the parent-teacher-organization (PTO) fundraising startup MobileArq, graduated its first batch of drone enthusiasts from its “Build a Quad” summer course for middle- and high-school students, which took place in Summit.

During the course, six students learned how to build and fly a carbon-fiber-frame, GPS-stabilized, camera-equipped, first-person-view quadcopter, according to Niru Mallavarupu, cofounder, CEO and CTO of MobileArq.

The do-it-yourself quadcopter is not built from a kit, Mallavarupu said. All of the parts, including the “motherboard” and printed circuit boards (PCBs), were individually selected by the MobileArq instructors, who have many years of experience building airplanes and drones. 

Photo: Students learn to fly with a simulator. Photo Credit: Mobile Arq
Students learn to fly with a simulator. | Mobile Arq

In the process of building the quadcopter, students acquired the necessary skill sets in soldering and electronics, Mallavarupu said. The soldering skills enabled the students to connect different circuit boards, a GPS and a camera onto the drone. The students then tested the circuits with a multimeter electronic measuring device to ensure a “closed circuit.”

In parallel with building the quadcopter, the students learned how to fly it, a critical skill that must be developed to ensure safe and successful flights. To help develop this skill, students initially learned to fly using a simulator. Once the controls were learned, the students then developed their hands-on flying skills with an off-the-shelf purchased mini quadcopter, Mallavarupu continued.

After passing a battery of flying tests (on hovering, bank turns, etc.), the students were ready to fly the quadcopter they had built.

A "buddy box" was used to help the novice drone flyers by linking their transmitters with the instructor's transmitter. This setup enabled the instructor to ensure the flight safety of the quadcopter (e.g., keeping the drone in sight and at a safe distance from its surroundings). 

The students thought that the course was very cool, and were excited to learn about drones and drone flying. Drones have become ubiquitous, so there is a lack of on-site classes for students on how to build and fly them, Mallavarupu said.  MobileArq Academy's aim was to take this specialized know-how to schools where there is great interest among the students.  

Photo: Student learns soldering in class Photo Credit: MobileArq
Student learns soldering in class | MobileArq

The course content and design was the brainchild of Abhishek Mhatre, a 14-year-old, self-taught drone enthusiast and a rising sophomore at Union County Vocational-Technical Schools, a magnet school in Union County. The syllabus and lessons were developed by Anand N. Mhatre, cofounder and COO of MobileArq. At the age of seven, Abhishek (along with his older brother, Vivek) developed an intense interest in building and flying remote-controlled planes, and he then transitioned to building tricopters and quadcopters, Mallavarupu said. 

This course was offered at MONDO Summit. “We are grateful for the support from Ms. Annette Dwyer, MONDO’s creator and owner,” Mallavarupu said.

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