Arduino Craft & Design Robotics
Making Drones in Tijuana

Recently, I was invited to speak at Tijuana Innovadora, a regional conference/expo. Mark Hatch of TechShop, Jason Short, an industrial designer by day and Drone programmer by night, as well as David Cuartielles of the Arduino team also came to speak on an open source hardware panel. I must say that crossing the border into Mexico on foot the night before was an unexpected highlight of the trip. (The line leading in the opposite direction was unimaginably long.)

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Our host for the event was Guillermo Romero of Udrones.com, a Mexican company owned by 3D Robotics and run by Jordi Munoz and Chris Anderson. 3D Robotics is the business side of DIY Drones and sells the ArduPilot controller along with planes and quadcopters. It has a design and engineering center in San Diego and now does most of its manufacturing is in Tijuana, with plans to move all of it there eventually.

In the evening, after a tasty dinner at a Tijuana cevicheria, we visited the small manufacturing facility of Udrones nearby where Guillermo said they had been for six months, after starting in his apartment. An electrical engineer, Guillermo is a childhood friend of Jordi Munoz, who is also from Tijuana and talked his friend into starting up this facility. They manufacture ArduPilot boards, cut body parts out on two CNC machines, and then assemble and test the quadcopters and ship them internationally.

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The team at Udrones.com (from left to right, above) is Jesus Cain, Manuel Arriaga, Jose Guillermo Romero, Oscar Nunez, and Raul Montoya. Not shown is Lissana Lozano, who helped us find our way around the conference and the city. Raul and Jesus are also students at the university. They said it takes them about a half-hour to assemble a quadcopter.

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Jason Short checks out a special black ArduPilot board.

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One of the questions Guillermo asked me was why there weren’t more signs of the maker movement in Spanish-speaking countries, particularly in Central and South America. He noted that there had not been a mini Maker Faire in those regions. There aren’t many hacker spaces either, although at World Maker Faire in NYC I met Tiburcio de la Carcova who had opened a makerspace in Santiago, Chile. I don’t have a good answer for Guillermo. David Cuartielles, who is Spanish, thought that the delays in translating technical information into Spanish is largely responsible. (MAKE is not published in a Spanish edition.) I would like to think that the example of Guillermo and his team might inspire others to see what’s possible.

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DALE DOUGHERTY is the leading advocate of the Maker Movement. He founded Make: Magazine 2005, which first used the term “makers” to describe people who enjoyed “hands-on” work and play. He started Maker Faire in the San Francisco Bay Area in 2006, and this event has spread to nearly 200 locations in 40 countries, with over 1.5M attendees annually. He is President of Make:Community, which produces Make: and Maker Faire.

In 2011 Dougherty was honored at the White House as a “Champion of Change” through an initiative that honors Americans who are “doing extraordinary things in their communities to out-innovate, out-educate and out-build the rest of the world.” At the 2014 White House Maker Faire he was introduced by President Obama as an American innovator making significant contributions to the fields of education and business. He believes that the Maker Movement has the potential to transform the educational experience of students and introduce them to the practice of innovation through play and tinkering.

Dougherty is the author of “Free to Make: How the Maker Movement Is Changing our Jobs, Schools and Minds” with Adriane Conrad. He is co-author of "Maker City: A Practical Guide for Reinventing American Cities" with Peter Hirshberg and Marcia Kadanoff.

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