DropCopter Automates Pollination of Orchard Crops

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BlocklyProp is an interesting combination – a fun, colorful high-level programming interface customized for the very capable Propeller 1 Multicore Microcontroller. Students may first notice similarities with MIT’s screen-programming tool Scratch, but quickly see they have many commands for controlling electronic circuits and physical hardware. Experienced product developers are taking BlocklyProp more seriously and it’s appearing in product designs. Parallax attended the recent Google’s Blockly Developers Summit 2019 and learned that they’re also enthused about the other uses of Blockly – from business software to controlling heavy machinery. Why not? We agree that Blockly (BlocklyProp) can be useful in commercial applications, especially if it saves developer time, provides more maintainable code with a visual representation, and fits the needs of the job.

DropCopter is using BlocklyProp in their Unmanned Aerial System (UAS) precision pollinator to improve crop yield of apples, almonds, pears and walnuts. By dispersing synthesized pollen they are able to help the bees get to the orchard and do their job.

DropCopter replaced a single-threaded microcontroller with the Propeller 1 (in a Propeller FLiP Multicore Microcontroller format) to control a user interface (buttons), an auger driver (stepper motor), and the pollinator “slinger” (brushless motor with ESC), in parallel with pilot activation from an R/C receiver. DropCopter’s Matt Koball told us “The BlocklyProp system has been invaluable. We worked on this part for three years before we found Parallax, and in three hours we had a working system!”

Below is an excerpt from their BlocklyProp code. You’ll notice they’re using multiple processors of the Propeller 1, functions, and arrays. These code blocks correspond to physical hardware in the picture above.

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BlocklyProp lets new users get right to work. So simple and fun to use – and never worry about syntax mistakes. It occurs to me that the DropCopter’s blades blow the pollen down to the orchard, too!

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