Duckietown Sky logo

Duckiedrone: how to fly a Raspberry Pi-based autonomous quadcopter

Boston, 20 October 2023: Duckietown Sky and the Duckietown drone, a Raspberry Pi-based autonomous quadcopter, are discussed with the Aerial ROS community, a group of experts working to define the future of software architectures for quadcopters.  

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Learning robot autonomy by flying with Duckietown Sky

Following an invitation to the Aerial ROS workgroup community meeting, Duckietown staff was delighted to present the Duckietown Sky initiative, the current Duckiedrone design, a DIY Raspberry Pi-based autonomous quadcopter, and future plans for both hardware and courseware development.

The goal of the ROS (Robotic Operating System) aerial robotics working group is to gather drone enthusiasts within the ROS community and facilitate the sharing of ideas and discussion of issues regarding autonomous robotic platforms operating in the air.

Duckietown Sky, a National Science Foundation-funded educational effort in collaboration with Brown University started in 2019, is an integral component of the Duckietown education vision, representing the commitment to fostering robot autonomy education in all its forms. Beyond self-driving cars (Duckiebots) and smart cities (Duckietowns), Duckietown highlights what is common despite the different applications of robot autonomy. From ground to sky, whether it drives, flies, or blinks, Duckietown is a platform to learn, explore and innovate when it comes to robot autonomy.

With the focus on quadcopters, Duckietown Sky offers MOOC-style learning experiences tailored for undergraduate and senior high school students. Flight is exciting! 

The program’s design criteria revolves around achieving state-of-the-art autonomy ground-up using off-the-shelf components, with a Raspberry Pi as core computational unit, for its wide-spread applications and large community.  Duckiedrones, now at the second hardware design iteration moving towards the third, aim to provide students with hands-on learning experiences covering from the basics, such as soldering, to pretty advanced algorithmic cornerstones of autonomy such an UKFs (Unscented Kalman Filters) and SLAM (Simultaneous Localization and Mapping). 

Aspiring engineers should however be prepared for preliminary requirements like soldering, have access to a laptop or base station, and an internet connection for setting the working environment up. 

From a box of parts to a Raspberry Pi-based autonomous quadcopter

Duckietown Duckiedrone model DD21 - happy yellow box
Duckietown Duckiedrone model DD21 - what's in the box?

The Duckietown Sky experience is an exciting journey that begins with a simple box of parts and culminates in the creation of an autonomously flying drone. In the Duckietown spirit of democratizing access to the science and technology of autonomy through accessible platforms, the happy-yellow Duckiebox includes almost everything needed to get flying. 

We encourage instructors, students and practitioners to check the development roadmaps for both our hardware design and courseware, outlined in our presentation, and reaching out without hesitation to provide comments or feedback! 

Building on the extensive experience of the Duckietown team in massive open online courses (check out the Self-Driving Cars with Duckietown MOOC: the world’s first robot autonomy MOOC with hardware), we look to prepare a series of short online courses. These courses will be led by Professors from Brown, as well as other universities, and will provide an ever broader audience with the opportunity to explore the fascinating world of robot autonomy: from the science and technology to the tools and workflows, to real-world applications presented by industry and academic leaders. 

Want to try the Duckietown Sky experience yourself, build a DYI Raspberry Pi-based autonomous quadcopter, or teach an aerial autonomy class at your high school or at university level? Follow the steps below to begin now.

Learn more about Duckietown

Duckietown enables state-of-the-art robotics and AI learning experiences. It is designed to help teach, learn, and do research: from exploring the fundamentals of computer science and automation to pushing the boundaries of human knowledge.

Three girls watching Duckiebot - Science museum

Duckietown to join the UK Permanent Science Museum Collection!

Boston, October 2023: several Duckietown objects officially joined the Science Museum Group permanent Collection: the United Kingdom’s national archive of science, technology, engineering, and medicine! 

Duckietown joins UK's Science Museum Group Collection

Duckietown is a trailblazer in providing accessible solutions for teaching and learning state-of-the-art autonomy, helping in the dissemination of the science and technology of modern robotics.

In 2019, the Science Museum of London picked up on the project and included Duckietown items: a Duckiebot (DB19), a segment of Duckietown, and a Duckietown traffic light, in their “Driverless: Who is in control?” exhibition.

Following the success of this exhibition, the Board of Directors of the Science Museum started considering including the DUckietown items in the permanent collection of their institution. 

We are proud to announce that, in August 2023, these Duckietown items have officially joined the Science Museum Group Collection – the UK’s national collection of science, technology, engineering and medicine.

Duckietown in the history books

Joining the permanent collection will:

 “ensure that the items – as rare and representative objects – are acquired, conserved, preserved and stored in order that they may be accessible to current and future generations for interpretation, loans to other institutions, research, education, and sometimes display in temporary or permanent exhibitions.

here are some details:



Duckiebot – small autonomous robot from Duckietown Project, 2018-2019



Traffic light kit from Duckietown Project, 2018-2019



City expansion pack from Duckietown Project, 2018-2019

Group photo of the Duckietown Duckiedrone Summer Academy at MassRobotics - 2023

Exploring the skies at the summer Duckiedrone academy

Boston, 7-11 July 2023: Congratulations to the fourth cohort of students of the Duckiedrone summer academy, hosted by Massrobotics, Brown University and Duckietown with the generous support of Amazon Robotics!

Exploring the skies at the summer Duckiedrone academy

As the sun shines high, the summer Duckiedrone academy, a program which sees the cooperation of Duckietown, Amazon Fulfillment Technology and Robotics, MassRobotics and Brown University, has attracted high school students from the greater Boston area to dive into the world of autonomous aerial vehicles.

Duckiedrone DD21

The Duckiedrone is a DIY, open, Raspberry Pi-based quadcopter kit designed for introducing learners to autonomous flight. Comes with a polished undergraduate-level course and the support of the Duckietown international community.

Students learned how to build, program, and fly a drone starting from a box of components, in addition to participating in workshops held by industry professionals such as Stephanie Tellex, Associate Professor of Computer Science at Brown University, and Andrea Francesco Daniele, Chief Technology Officer at Duckietown.

In recent years autonomous robots have started revolutionizing many industries, and drones are playing an important role in this ongoing trend with applications from agriculture to inspection, surveillance, and warehouse management. 

These versatile flying machines are a gateway to the fundamentals of robot autonomy, especially (but not only!) for younger learners. Seeing a machine fly on its own is exciting! 

The Duckiedrone comes with step-by-step instructions for assembly, calibration, manual and autonomous operations. Students learn from the basics of mechatronics, such as soldering and handling of electrical circuits, to elements of autonomy including sensor calibration, middlewares (ROS), PID control, online filtering and simultaneous localization and mapping (SLAM) using Python and interactive Jupyter notebooks. 

Learn more about Duckietown

The Duckietown platform enables state-of-the-art robotics and AI learning experiences.

It is designed to help teach, learn, and do research: from exploring the fundamentals of computer science and automation to pushing the boundaries of human knowledge.

Join the new “Self-Driving Cars with Duckietown” MOOC

Join the self-driving cars with Duckietown MOOC user-paced edition

Over 7200 learners engaged in a robotics and AI learning adventure with “Self-Driving Cars with Duckietown”, the first massive online open course (MOOC) on robot autonomy with hardware, hosted on the edX platform.

Kicking off on November 29th, this new edition is a user-paced course with rich and engaging modules offering a grand tour of real-world robotics, from computer vision to perception, planning, modeling, control, and machine learning, released all at once!

With simulation and real-world learning activities, learners can touch with hand the emergence of autonomy in their robotic agents with approaches of increasing complexity, from Brateinberg vehicles to deep learning applications.

We are thrilled to welcome you to the start of the second edition of Self-Driving Cars with Duckietown.

This is a new learning experience in many different ways, for both you and us. While the course is self-paced, the instructors and staff, as well as your peer learners and the community of those that came before you are standing behind, ready to intervene and support your efforts at any time.

Learn autonomy hands-on by making real robots take their own decisions and accomplish broadly defined tasks. Step by step from the theory, to the implementation, to the deployment in simulation as well as on Duckiebots.

Leverage the power of the NVIDIA Jetson Nano-powered Duckiebot to see your algorithms come to life!

MOOC Factsheet


What you will learn​

Designed for university-level students and professionals, this course is brought to you by the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich (ETHZ), in collaboration with the University of Montreal, the Duckietown Foundation, and the Toyota Technological Institute at Chicago.

Learning autonomy requires a fundamentally different approach when compared to other computer science and engineering disciplines. Autonomy is inherently multi-disciplinary, and mastering it requires expertise in domains ranging from fundamental mathematics to practical machine-learning skills.

The Duckietown robotic ecosystem was created at the MIT Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) in 2016 and is now used in over 175 universities worldwide.

“The Duckietown educational platform provides a hands-on, scaled-down, accessible version of real-world autonomous systems.” said Emilio Frazzoli, Professor of Dynamic Systems and Control, ETH Zurich, “Integrating NVIDIA’s Jetson Nano power in Duckietown enables unprecedented access to state-of-the-art compute solutions for learning autonomy.”

Enroll now and don’t miss the chance to join in the first vehicle autonomy MOOC with hands-on learning!

Prof. Liam Paull - University de Montrèal

When rubber duckies meet the road: an interview with Prof. Liam Paull

UdM, Montréal, May 5, 2022: Liam Paull, professor at the University of Montreal and one of Duckietown’s founders, talks about his role and experiences with Duckietown.

When rubber duckies meet the road: an interview with Prof. Liam Paull

Liam Paull, professor at the University of Montreal in Quebec, and one of the very founders of Duckietown, shares below his unique perspective about Duckietown’s journey and its origin.


Good morning, Liam.


Thank you very much for accepting to have this little chat.
Could you tell us something about you?

Sure. So my name is Liam Paull. I’m a professor at the University of Montreal in Quebec, Canada. I teach in the computer science Department, And I do research on robotics.

Ok and when was the first time you “came across” Duckietown?

Well, I’m actually one of the creators of Duckietown, So I didn’t come across it as much! The origin story of Duckietown is kind of interesting, But I probably forgot some of the details. It must have been about 2015. And myself, Andrea Censi, and a few others were interested to get more teaching experience. We were all postdocs or research scientists at MIT at the time. I guess we started brainstorming ideas, and then roughly around that time, I switched positions at MIT. I was previously a postdoc in John Leonard’s group working on marine robotics, and then I switched to become part of Danielle Lerous lab and lead an autonomous driving project. And so somehow the stars just aligned. That the right topic for this class that we would teach would be autonomous driving. Yeah, the Ducky thing is kind of a separate thing. Actually, Andrea had started this other thing that was making videos for people to publicize their work at a top robotics conference Called the international conference robotics automation, and somehow had the idea that every single video that was submitted should have a rubber Ducky in it. And this was for scale or something.
There was some kind of reason behind it I sort of forget. But anyway, so the branding kind of caught fire.
When we were building the class, we agreed the one constraint was that there should be duckies involved somehow, and the rest is kind of history!

What’s your relationship with Duckietown today? Like, do you use it in particular for some activities, your daily work or some project? Yeah, for sure. I guess I use it in a number of ways. Maybe the first way is that I teach a class every fall called autonomous vehicles, Where the Duckietown platform is the platform that we use for the experiments and labs in the class. So just like the original class, Every student gets a robot that they assemble, and then we learn about computer vision and autonomous driving and all the good stuff related to robotics. But I also use the platform for some amount of research. Also in my group, I believe that there’s a lot of interesting research directions that come from a kind of standardized, small scale, accessible autonomous driving platform like this. Recently, most of the work that we’ve been doing in terms of research has been about training agents in simulation and then deploying them in the real world. So this isa nice setup for that because we have a simulator that’s very easy, fast and lightweight to train in, and then we have the environment that’s also really accessible. So, yeah, so we’ve been doing some research on that front.
So would you recommend Duckieown to colleagues or students of yours? And if yes, why. Of course. I think that’s what’s nice. Going back to the original motivation behind building Duckietowng and some of the tenets: thee guiding principle for us was this idea that to learn robotics, you have to get your hands on a robot. And we are also very adamant that it should be that every student should have their own robot. With teams of robots or going into the lab and only being able to use the robot at certain hours. It’s something funny.
You don’t develop the same kind of personal relationship. It sounds weird, but it’s true. Like when you have your own thing that you’re working with every day, you have some kind of bond with that thing, and you develop some kind of love or hate or whatever the case may be depending on how things are going on that particular day. So I think that with this set up, we have a platform where we’ve scaled things down and made things cost effective, to be able to do that. We built an engaging, experimental platform where it’s totally, I think, reasonable for most University budgets to be able to get their hands on the hardware.

"I believe that there's a lot of interesting research directions that come from a standardized, small scale, accessible autonomous driving platform like Duckietown."

The other big piece is the actual teaching materials that we’ve developed. And I think that we have some good stuff. It could be better. Some stuff could be better, but that’s where we also need the community to come in. I mean, if we have this standardized platform and lots of people start using it and building educational experiences around the platform, then the entire thing just starts to get better and better for everybody. And it just grows into a very nice thing where you can also pick and choose the pieces that you want to include for your particular class, and you can customize the experience of what your class is going to look like using all of the resources that are out there. Also, the other part that I’ve really tried to cultivate, this is sort of a new thing. When we ran the first class at MIT, it was really an isolated thing. But in the subsequent iterations of the class, like myself and others have been in different places around the world, whether it’s Matt Walter at TTIC or Jacopo and Andrea at ETH. So we tried to turn the class into this kind of global experience, where you feel like you’re part of something that’s bigger than just the class that you’re taking at the specific University. And I think students really like that. We’ve experimented with different models where people do projects with other students from other universities or even just feeling part of the global community. I think it’s a very fun and engaging. Students are so connected these days. They’re so plugged in. They like this aspect of feeling like there’s a bit more of a broad social aspect, too. So I think these are some of the elements that this platform project experience brings to the table that I don’t see replicated and too many other setups.

Anything else you would like to add about Duckietown and it’s uses?

I didn’t mention specifically about the MOOC. One of the core missions of this project from the onset has been that it’s accessible. Both in terms of hardware but also in terms of software. And part of what that means to us Is that no matter where you are, no matter who you are, you should be able to get the hardware and you should be able to use the educational resources to learn. And part of the motivation for that Was that we saw that while we were at MIT. When you’re at a place like MIT you are extremely privileged and if you come from a background of less privilege, you see the discrepancy. In some sense, it’s palpable. Part of that, I guess, was that we don’t even necessarily want it to be a prerequisite that students should be enrolled in universities in order to be able to address the platform. So we built this massive online open source course through edx, which is also an open source provider Where people can, regardless of their background or regardless of their situation, they can sign up for this thing, and it’s a creative set of materials that also have exercises to interact with the robot that anybody can do, Regardless of whether they’re at a University or not.
I think this is the next step for us in making the platform accessible to all, and we’re going to continue to run iterations of this thing. But I also think that this is an exciting objective that very much fits in the mission of what we’re trying to do with this project.

This was great thank you for your time!

Awesome. Great. Thank you for your time. Bye.

Learn more about Duckietown

The Duckietown platform offers robotics and AI learning experiences.

Duckietown is modular, customizable and state-of-the-art. It is designed to teach, learn, and do research: from exploring the fundamentals of computer science and automation to pushing the boundaries of knowledge.

Tell us your story

Are you an instructor, learner, researcher or professional with a Duckietown story to tell? Reach out to us!

EdTech awards 2021: Duckietown finalist in 3 categories!

Duckietown reaches the finals in the EdTech Awards 2021

The EdTech awards are the largest and most competitive recognition program in all of education technology.

The competition, led by the EdTech digest, recognizes the biggest names in edtech – and those who soon will be, by identifying all over the world the products, services and people that bet promote education through the use of technology, for the benefit of learners.

The 2021 edition has brought a big surprise to Duckietown, as it was nominated as a finalist in 3 different categories:

  • Cool Tool Award: as robotics (for learning, education) solution;
  • Cool Tool Award: as higher education solution;
  • Trendsetter Award: as a product or service setting a trend in education technologies.

Although a final is just a starting point, we are proud of the hard work done by the team in this particularly difficult year of pandemic and lockdowns, and grateful to you all for the incredible support, constructive feedback and contributions!

To the future, and beyond!

(hidden) Want to learn more about us?

Duckietown and NVIDIA work together for accessible AI and robotics education: Meet the NVIDIA powered Duckiebot

Duckietown and NVIDIA partnership for accessible AI and robotics education

NVIDIA GTC, October 6, 2020: Duckietown and NVIDIA align efforts to push the boundaries of accessible, state-of-the-art higher-education in robotics and AI. The tangible outcome is a brand new “Founder’s edition” Duckiebot, which will be broadly available from January 2021, powered by the new NVIDIA Jetson Nano 2GB platform.

Read the full NVIDIA announcement here.

Meet the NVIDIA powered Duckiebot

Autonomy is already changing the world. Duckietown and NVIDIA recognize the importance of hands-on education in robotics and AI to empower everybody today to understand and design the next generations of autonomy.

The result of this collaboration is a new NVIDIA powered Duckiebot, using the novel Jetson Nano 2GB board, that will enable local execution of machine learning agents in the Duckietown ecosystem. 

To celebrate this special occasion, the Duckiebot has been redesigned to include: new sensors (time of flight, IMU, encoders), a new custom-designed battery providing real time diagnostics (state of charge, remaining autonomy and other health metrics), and fun accessories like a screen to visualize key metrics. All of this while keeping the price accessible for anyone willing to experience the challenges of a real-life robotic ecosystem. 

A great team

“The new NVIDIA Jetson Nano 2GB is the ultimate starter AI computer for educators and students to teach and learn AI at an incredibly affordable price.” said Deepu Talla, Vice President and General Manager of Edge Computing at NVIDIA. “Duckietown and its edX MOOC are leveraging Jetson to take hands-on experimentation and understanding of AI and autonomous machines to the next level.”

“The Duckietown educational platform provides a hands-on, scaled down, accessible version of real world autonomous systems.” said Emilio Frazzoli,  Professor of Dynamic Systems and Control, ETH Zurich, “Integrating NVIDIA’s Jetson Nano power in Duckietown enables unprecedented access to state-of-the-art compute solutions for learning autonomy.”

Learn more

To know more about the technical specifications of the new NVIDIA powered Duckiebot, or to pre-order yours, visit the Duckietown project shop here.

The new Duckiebot will be also used in the “Self-driving Cars with Duckietown” Massive Online Open Course (MOOC) that will be held in March 2021 on edX. You can find more information about the MOOC here.