Interested in organizing your own NodeCopter event? Read this page to find out how.
- Core Values
- Setup The Drones
- Setup The Venue
The following material was written to serve as guidelines for organizing your own NodeCopter event. These are experiences from past NodeCopter events - abiding by these guidelines should put you in a good position to host an event that your attendees and you yourself will like.
However, you are free to organize your event any way you like. There are only a few qualifications that you must abide by.
In order to organize an event using the NodeCopter name and brand for the first time, you should follow these steps:
- If you can, get one person with experience organizing events to help you, ideally someone who has already attended or organized a NodeCopter event. However, this is optional.
- Read all the information on this page.
- Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss your event before announcing it.
Anybody organizing a NodeCopter event should agree with this:
- NodeCopter is a community event (affordable & inclusive).
- NodeCopter is non-profit (all money goes into the events).
- NodeCopter is about learning, sharing, fun and being nice to each other.
There are essentially four big items that you need to budget for:
- Venue (0 - 5000 USD)
- Drinks and lunch (25 - 50 USD / person)
- Drones and parts (~500 USD / drone)
- Travel and lodging (0 - 5000 USD)
Additionally you should add an extra ~15% to your budget for overhead:
- Unexpected problems
- Power splitters
- Shipping drones to drone sponsors
- Extra drinks for visitors in the evening
If you want a quick estimate, check our example budget.
Ideally you can find a local company to provide a nice venue for free.
If you cannot find a free venue, you should:
- Look at different venues and compare prices
- Be prepared to spend some money (100 - 5000 USD is usually enough)
- Try to get a discount for doing something amazing
Some venues may also like the idea of people taking photos & videos of their venue from positions & angles that are only reachable with the drones.
If you need money to pay for your venue, you need to find sponsors.
To let people focus on programming the drones, you should provide drinks (water, soft drinks, maybe beer in the evening) and lunch.
You can do this in one of two ways:
- Buy food & drinks from the venue: This will most likely be more expensive, but easier to coordinate and some venues will require it.
- Recommended: Buy drinks & order delivery food yourself. This is cheaper and more flexible, but requires a little more work.
Your ticket price should be set to exactly cover the drinks and food. Make sure you keep VAT / sales tax in mind when calculating this.
In order to have a great day, you will want to ensure there are enough batteries, chargers and repair parts to provide a smooth experience.
For this reason you want to have:
- 2 extra chargers & batteries per drone
- A few backup drones (20% extra drones is a good number)
- Repair parts
While Parrot is selling all drone parts that are required to build a drone from scratch, you should only buy these parts:
- Propellers (buy 1 pack for every ~3 drones)
- Gears & Shafts (buy 1 pack for every ~3 drones)
- Adhesive kit (buy 1 pack for every ~3 drones)
- Motors (buy 1 for every ~10 drones)
- Central Cross (buy 1 for every ~10 drones)
- Screws (buy 1 pack total)
- Mounting Tools (buy 2 total)
You can also buy other parts, but please consider:
- The other parts are very expensive. Building a drone from parts costs almost twice as much as buying an assembled one.
- In our experience only the parts listed above break frequently.
Please refer to the purchase section regarding tips for buying your drones and parts.
To give you an idea of what the total budget for an event could look like, here is an example for a NodeCopter with 30 people:
- Lunch: 30 x 15 USD = 450 USD
- Drinks: 42 x 15 USD = 630 USD (including 12 visitors)
- Drones: 8 x 300 USD = 2400 USD (+4 existing drones)
- Extra Batteries: 24 x 40 USD = 960 USD
- Extra Chargers: 24 x 40 USD = 960 USD
- Repair Parts: 1 x 200 USD = 200 USD
Total: 5600 USD (hard costs) + 990 USD (15% overhead) = 6590 USD
This is just an example, but 2500 USD - 10000 USD is a reasonable ball bark for most NodeCopter events.
But don’t be scared, just read the financing part of this page to see how you can pull this off.
As you have seen in the example budget, putting on a NodeCopter event will typically cost 2500 - 10000 USD.
Here is how you can raise money for your event:
Ask local (or not-so-local) tech companies if they want to sponsor your event. Try to offer them attractive sponsoring packages so they can get some value from sponsoring a NodeCopter event. Packages may look like the following:
- Sponsor a drone that you will receive after the event. The drone will have your name and sticker on it during the event.
- Sponsor the venue! If you have a large office with high ceilings it would be great to use it for a NodeCopter event!
- Sponsor more than a drone and get your name and logo on the event specific website, your banner put up at the venue and some free swag for every attendee.
Ask around in your local tech scene (or attendees!) if someone already has an AR.Drone they can provide for the event. This way you can lower the amount of drones that you have to buy. Make sure to also buy spare parts and batteries for drones that other people bring, because breaking and not fixing someone else’s drone is not cool.
A venue for a NodeCopter event should ideally meet the following requirements:
Stable WiFi: This one is very important as it can ruin your event. On average every attendee has two WiFi-capable devices (computer, phone, tablet, …). Be sure your venue’s WiFi can handle this! Every drone will also open its own wi-fi, so there might be a lot of Wifi-interference, causing them to not work properly. You should have a big enough room to accommodate for your amount of drones.
Floor: This one is also very important, as it affects the way drones fly. Your floor should have a clear texture. If it hasn’t, drones cannot analyze how high they are, etc. If you have a very homogenous floor, use tape (e.g. masking tape) to give it a texture. Ideally there shouldn’t be a carpet, as they usually have a bad impact on the ultrasonic sensors the drones use.
Flying area: A separate flying area is great to play around with drones, try out the programs and should prevent drones from crashing into people.
High ceiling: A flying area with a low ceiling doesn’t make a lot of sense when there are programmed NodeCopters flying around. Ideal would be a minimum height of 4 meters (13 feet).
Great hacking space: Attendees are going to program their drones, so be sure to provide an area where they can sit down and hack.
Electricity: Make sure there are enough power sockets and power splitters. People need to recharge their computers and their phones, and you need to hook up the rechargers for the batteries somewhere. You don’t want to run out of fully charged batteries when people are doing crazy stuff with their drones!
Projector and screen: For the introductory talk at the beginning of a NodeCopter event a projector and a screen are really great. And when it’s time for the demos most attendees will need a projector to show off what they built.
In general it’s recommended to bring your drone to the venue beforehand and do some test flights.
- The abandoned public swimming baths were huge! There was plenty of space to fly around!
- The hacking area was totally separated from the flying area: attendees were sitting besides the empty pool in which the drones where flying.
The electricity in that old building wasn’t the best. We essentially had a couple of power sockets and needed loads of power splitters to make this work.
It was cold since it takes a lot of time and effort to heat up such a huge hall at the beginning of October.
The hacking spaces were really comfortable: you had a choice between working at a normal desk or sitting on a couch.
Separate flying and hacking areas.
- Even though the venue had high ceilings it also had some metal bars on the ceilings, which a lot of NodeCopters hit eventually.
Since NodeCopter events are events for the community and not for profit the ticket prices for an event should be used to cover the costs only.
Try to get sponsors and other financing first and then set the ticket price so you can cover the rest of the costs (food and drinks).
Most NodeCopter events charge 25 - 50 USD for a ticket, depending on the size of the event. That’s a good range for ticket prices and doesn’t harm the community spirit of NodeCopter.
We can recommend using tito.io for selling the tickets to your NodeCopter event.
The easiest way to purchase drones is by using Amazon in your country. They should have the drones and spare parts in stock.
An even better option would be to search for local distributors of AR.Drones and see if you can buy some drones for non-retail prices. Make sure to tell them that the drones are not intended for resale and used for a non-profit community event!
Before having your NodeCopter event, you should follow these few steps to set up the drones:
- install the FreeFlight app on iOS or Android device
- Unbox every drone, check for damages
- Turn on the drone by putting the battery in
- Connect to the drone’s WiFi with your smartphone
- open up the FreeFlight app
- See if “AR.DRONE UPDATE” background is dark grey. If so, press it and upgrade the firmware of the drone
- Wait for the restart and see if all four LEDs are green
- Go to “PILOTING”
- Go to settings (the little cog next to the battery status)
- Change WiFi name to something meaningful
- Turn the drone off
- Put a sticker/label on the bottom of the drone with the WiFi name
Some tips on setting up the venue:
Set a table aside which you’ll use a battery charging station, repair station and question station. That way you have one place where the attendees can get fresh batteries, repair the drones and ask questions.
In order to prevent accidents create a separate flying area. That way you won’t have drones crashing into humans or laptops.
Setup the tables in a way that a team of 3 to 4 hackers has enough space to have a drone on the table and their laptops. Have enough power sockets available for each table, since every attendee probably has one laptop and one mobile device that need recharging. Don’t separate teams too much, because sharing and exchange is a big part of a successful NodeCopter event.
Make sure you know your way around the venue, so you can answer organizational questions like where drinks, toilets and the smoking area are.
After organizing several NodeCopter events, we found it works best to follow a rough schedule to make a NodeCopter day as much fun as possible.
The following is a suggested example schedule:
Let the attendees in so they can setup their workstations and find teams.
As an organizer it’s wise to give a short presentation (10-15min) about NodeCopter and what’s going to happen today. Experience has shown, that the following bullet points should be explained in the presentation, so everybody can have fun:
- What is NodeCopter?
- What is an AR.Drone and how can I program it?
- How do I use the ar-drone module and get started?
- What’s the schedule for the day? When is demo time?
- Links to the NodeCopter hack guides
- Show what’s possible and already been done by pointing out the modules page
- Show the list of ideas we’ve collected to give people some food for thought
Ask the attendees to form teams of 3-4 people. Help people without a team to join an existing team.
Maybe offer suggestions as to what the teams could hack on, which modules already solved problems some teams are going to face, ask already formed teams if they already have an idea of what they will do and maybe get attendees without a team interested.
Hand out the drones to the teams and let the hacking begin!
Time to offer a break between all the hacking and the flying robots. Check out the Drinks And Lunch part to see how to pull this off.
Tell the teams that the day is coming to a close. If a team wants to demonstrate what they were working on that day, they have the stage and can show off what crazy stuff their drone can do!
Experience has shown that it’s best to only allow visitors for the demo time. Having visitors before that usually interrupts the focus of the hacking groups.
If you want to organize a NodeCopter event as fast a possible, or are lacking the qualifications to put on a full event, you should consider doing a MiniNodeCopter.
A MiniNodeCopter is just like a full NodeCopter event, except smaller. The maximum size is for a MiniNodeCopter is:
- 5 teams with a total of 15 people (visitors not counted)
- 5 drones (you can have spare drones)
You still need to register your event with email@example.com, and you should have attended a previous NodeCopter event.
Another advantage of doing a MiniNodeCopter is that you will need to spend significantly less time on raising money, promoting the event, finding a venue and putting the whole thing together.