Makers who do a lot of research and development should be familiar with the situation where the project is put on hold due to inexperience in the key procedure, or the lack of the equipment that is required for the R&D, when there is a machine available at a certain school or factory, but you don’t know if you are allowed use it, and because of limited usage the equipment is also collecting dust.
Article and images by Yuxiang Ou
On September 9, the Day 1 event “Maker Movement Is Technological Revolution, and Resource Sharing” of the open-source series “Connecting Your Maker Needs” took place at the Taipei Innovation City Convention Center. Drone expert Donglin Zhang (張東琳) and equipment sharing platform airTMD founder Professor Ping-Hei Chen were both invited to share with the makers the knowledge of drones and their visions for shared resources.
The event gathered dozens of makers. People were already excited to go to the booths before the official opening. There was Zhang’s drone booth on one side, with drones of different models and sizes , and there was the airTMD and Dream Seeker Lab booth on other side, where they tried to get people into sharing. The main goal of the event was to connect all makers, startup teams and manufacturers, and combine their strengths to help even more makers.
At the start of the event, Donglin Zhang (張東琳) of ArkLab, explained the basics and application of drones. Zhang is still a graduate student, who owns a company that develops different drone applications and offers courses at ArkLab, to help makers who are interested in flying enter the world of drones. They also lowered the entry threshold by making their source code and hardware open-source.
Zhang has a unique understanding of drones. He said: “Drones should be called flying robots, because only when you start treating them as flying robots that are free from surface restrictions, can you make better use of them.” He also pointed out that people who believe “drones are just aerial photography machines” fail to understand the many uses of drones. ArkLab has successfully used drones to monitor river pollution, and they can also be used in telecommunication, photogrammetry and disaster response.
He mentioned that drones are closely associated with the technology of GPS, which includes navigation, automatic control and autonomous cars. Drones are similar to IoT as well, as in they both run on platforms, are connected to the Internet and upload data. Drones can also be used as part of the cloud, as contacts for different areas to help extending platforms.
On top of that, he also mentioned how drones were used in telecommunication in the recent Sichuan earthquake, where the optical fiber and the base station were damaged. It was the drone high-altitude base station that helped to secure communication between rescue teams and the victims in time. Zhang said that drones are getting more and more popular in many places for different purposes.
Meanwhile, the safety standards of drones still require attention. A drone can fly out of your control, fall from the sky and hit someone, which is why he is researching an electric fence that restricts the flight range of drones, to prevent “kamikaze” accidents. He and his team have also been working on technologies like drone monitoring and fall protection. “This is how you commercialize drones.”
Besides doing R&D and making improvements, Zhang’s team also offer various courses at ArkLab to help new makers. There are drone and aerospace courses, heavy lift drone DIY courses and aircraft design courses, tailored for both adults and children. The purpose of making everything open-source is to try to benefit as many people as possible.
Besides Donglin Zhang, equipment sharing platform airTMD founder Professor Ping-Hei Chen was also invited to tell us his ideas and visions. He said: “I want to integrate all of Taiwan’s idle equipment, and form the world’s biggest virtual factory, helping makers in small-volume large-variety productions.” He hopes that this factory will one day surpass Foxconn in terms of market value, so that nobody will ever have to spend money on equipment.
Chen believes that the airTMD is a sharing economy, which inspires creation, innovation and entrepreneurship. It’s more than a consumer behavior. “When makers are in a sharing society, they will become the main force of innovation and entrepreneurship.” Knowledge and talents can be shared too, not just the equipment.
As for Zhang, he has always wanted to build a maker community that moves forward. There are a lot of makerspaces with equipment out there, but not fully activated. Every detail in the production process requires interaction, and the true meaning of the makerspace is when all its members are committed to it.