3D Printed Air Gates for Drone Racing with HC-SR04
Blog Postcircuito teamJune 8, 2017

As a tech enthusiast, you've probably already heard about how Dubai wants to turn Drone racing into the next big spectator sport. Having a look at the coverage of their events it certainly looks quite thrilling and definitely off to a good start. If you're anything like us, after watching that video you're probably now harboring dreams of being a Pro drone racer yourself. And today's project is all about feeding those dreams. Using an Arduino paired to HC-SR04 Ultrasonic Proximity sensors we're going to show you how to create your very own drone racing track for you to practice your racing skills

Putting it together

The concept is pretty simple: each 'gate' is fitted with an HC-SR04 ultrasonic sensor which is in turn attached to an RGB LED. When a drone gets within range of the sensor, the LED on that gate changes from red to green.Check out our detailed project planning tool that will help you plan and spe out the air gates before you put them together. You can also use our tool to easily customize your build to add or modify functionality.

As you can see in the link provided above, each gate is comprised of an HC-SR04 sensor mounted onto an Arduino  (We used the Pro Mini but you can choose a platform that suits you best) which in turn is connected to the RGB LED.

But while the approach is fairly straightforward, there is a moderate amount of assembly and coding needed in order to put this project together.therefore, it’s ideally meant for those who already know their way around the basics and are ready to try something more complex.

Customize it

Now that you've got the basic setup together, you can go ahead and add your own modifications to the project. Maybe you could hook the system up to a timer that starts when you pass the first gate and stops once you cross the final gate to help you run more accurate time trials when you're racing against your friends.

since each gate is a self-contained unit, you can easily string together multiple gates into a large circuit to make the track as complex and challenging as you'd like. You could even go further and connect each 'air gate' on the track so that the LEDs change color depending on the number of times they have been passed so that each racer can tell by the gate color what position they are in.

While this project was originally intended to create racing tracks for mini-drones, if you've got the time and the right equipment, there's no reason to stop there. You can even create bigger gates with multiple sensors attached to each for greater coverage and use them outdoors to practice with your bigger drones that are too big or too fast to maneuver indoors.

Alternative Applications

While we put our HC-SR04 sensors to use today to create our drone racing circuit, these handy little ultrasonic range sensors are great at fulfilling a lot of tasks, some of which we may want to explore further with future projects.Since their range is limited they aren't suitable for long range movement detection but they can still be quite useful to create close range proximity detection, perhaps as a system that illuminates a switch panel when you enter a room or activates edge lighting on furniture when you get too close to them in the dark (your shins will thank you).

You could also use them to create a simple security system with sensors set up to detect movement at doors and windows and sound an alarm if they move while the system is 'armed'.

These sensors could also be used to create auto feeder systems for your pets or electronic locks for pet doors that would unlock when your pet approaches it from the inside and lock again as soon as your pet returns indoors.

Air gate casing

What will you create?

We love putting together these projects and we hope you enjoyed it too, let us know what you thought of this Arduino build. Did you try it out for yourself? Got an awesome drone racing track set up, some great modifications for this project or maybe a few interesting alternative applications for the HC-SR04 sensor that we featured with this build?  You’re welcome to share some images or videos of your work with the rest of the community in the comments.