Students build manned drone to ease travel

Lonh Vannsith, a fourth-year student of the National Polytechnic Institute of Cambodia, and his teammates prepare their manned drone for flight in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, September 17, 2021. Picture taken September 17, 2021. REUTERS/Cindy Liu

Inspired at first by a desire to beat their city’s notorious traffic, a group of Cambodian students have designed a prototype drone that they hope can eventually be used to ferry people around Phnom Penh and even help fight fires.

With eight propellers and using a school chair for the pilot’s seat, the drone was developed by students at the National Polytechnic Institute of Cambodia (NPIC) on the outskirts of the capital.

“The drone, when we see it flying without a pilot, there is a lot of shaking but when I sit on it and fly... it becomes more stable and I feel so excited.

“We wanted to solve some problems for our society by making a taxi drone and... inventing drones for firefighters,” said the drone’s pilot Lonh Vannsith, 21.

He noted how, for example, they hoped it could reach the upper floors of a building to bring a hose where a fire truck could not reach.

The prototype can carry a pilot weighing up to 60kg and fly for about 10 minutes for a distance of 1km.

It took three years of research and development and cost around US$20,000 (RM83,800) to build.

The team hopes it will eventually fly far higher, as the manned the drone currently only rises to as much as 4m.

The project faced delays due to Covid-19 lockdowns and also because components such as the propellers and frame had to be ordered abroad, said Sarin Sereyvatha, NPIC’s head of research and development technology.

The team plans to improve the design to allow it to take more weight, as well as fly further and more stably at a higher level.

“In principle, if we make one drone, the cost is expensive but if we make them to sell on the market, the cost will go down,” he said. — Reuters

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