[TriEmbed] Student robotics and running code aboard the ISS

Charles West crwest at ncsu.edu
Mon Jun 28 21:13:50 CDT 2021


I'm talking with Nanoracks about putting some free flying drones in a
compartment on the ISS.  One of the big uncertainties is whether or not
people would be willing to pay for being able to fly something there.
There's been some fairly popular free (but restricted access) programs with
free flying drones on the ISS (SPHERES, Astrobee) so I am hoping that there
would be sufficient interest to at least break even.

The latency is fairly high (500-1000 milliseconds), so direct control
probably wouldn't be that fun.  That said, I was thinking it might be a fun
thing for student coding competitions.  My current idea for pricing is that
it would be $50 for a 10 minute slot, with student code running on a
virtual machine on the drone.  Users would also have access to a simulation
of the environment and get video recording/tracking of the drone as it
performed their code.  It would also be possible to rent out multiple
drones for a higher rate, if you wanted to do something fancier or get a
discount if other drones were able to operate at the same time.

Overall, it would be pretty cheap for a "do something cool using code" sort
of thing since the cost for a slot is roughly on par with an arduino kit.

If I may ask, what do you think?  Would it be popular?  Would you do it?
Any idea how I could get proof one way or the other?


The drones would have to fly in an opaque compartment, since NASA is really
weird about anything taking pictures of astronauts.
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