Namche Bazaar, June 9
A drone flight test was successfully conducted at Windhorse and Guardian of Kala Patthar (5638.8 metre) near Mt Everest this week.
Michael Kronmiller, convener of the Kanjirowa-Bullis STEM project, said the drone flight test mission began with all members feeling fatigued due to low blood oxygen levels at the altitude. “The drone is equipped with a thermal camera and visual First Person View camera for navigation and observation,” Kronmiller, who designed the drone in the US, said.
The drone is called ‘Lotus’ and its weight is under 0.5 kg. “It is a fully modular 3D printer design to allow low cost and easy maintenance for drone parts showing a high rate of failure in high altitude conditions,” he added.
It took five minutes to set up the drone, ground station and transmitter, he said. “Unfortunately it was discovered that the 360-degree Nikon was left on board the helicopter, which had departed so that perspective is missing while the Nikon D3S, D500, and GoPro were present.” Drone flight is still a challenge though improvements made to the quad’s design allowed it to fly regardless of the technical problems it faced, he shared.
The first flight was attempted on Lotus with the flip attached to it, the drone could not achieve flight at 100% throttle, he said, adding that it eventually flipped and snapped the props off one of the motors after fighting to drone.
“When advisers were consulted after the mission, they said that if I had used carbon fibre propellers I would’ve been able to achieve the lift with less power and also have my sensors on top. Regardless of that, I feel as though quality of life changes will need to be made to this design to allow for even simpler repair,” he added.
To reduce weight the FLIR and the top of the drone were removed, as the drone received lift, the motor tore out away from the arm, according to him. It was discovered that the bolts attached the motors became warm and melted the plastic, he explained.
Overall, the mission was a great success, allowing both myself and my friends at Kanjirowa School in Kathmandu to learn from the problems that arose during the test, while also celebrating the success of the design as a whole, he said. “We achieved what we came to do, I look forward to the fruits of the experiment,” he concluded.
According to him drones can be used in extreme environmental as well as man-made conditions. The sensor-equipped, unmanned aircraft was previously used to locate avalanche victims and assist in wildlife conservation projects in Nepal, according to former US Envoy Theodore Kronmiller who accompanied his son Michaele from Virginia to Kala Patthar.
A version of this article appears in print on June 10, 2017 of The Himalayan Times.