Drones for Humanitarian Aid

At the start of this year I was tasked, together with my team, to design and build a Drone for humanitarian aid. We decided to focus our efforts into designing a system that is capable of reliably, precisely and autonomously delivering packages. This might be used for everything from delivering emergency supplies to stranded people, to carrying precious blood samples across rough terrain for rapid testing.

We aimed to design a UAV with heavy-loading capability, that is still extremely compact and lightweight for maximum portability. We also wanted it to be completely modular so that any part could quickly and easily be replaced. The resulting system that we built is shown below:

Side view of UAV with empty payload bays
Front view of UAV

An X8 (Coaxial quadcopter) configuration was chosen to improve the maximum lift capability whilst maintaining compactness and to increase the reliability of the system (since it doesn't matter if any motor failed).

The resulting UAV weighs 4.3 kg without a payload (the same as a DJI Inspire Pro) and can comfortably lift a 6 kg payload. Endurance with a 2 kg payload is 16 minutes. As a system it completes fully automated missions including take-off, waypoint navigation, payload delivery and return home and land. Furthermore, from its folded, compact state (50 cm x 30 cm) as shown below, it can be ready to fly in under three minutes.

Folded UAV

Some additional points: The payload delivery bay has a modular design and so can easily be modified to carry alternative payloads (I recently went to Portugal and modified the UAV to carry thermal cameras required fro crop analysis). The entire airframe can be laser cut from a single piece. Ease of access to all major components has been achieved with lightening holes in the airframe also serving as point of access. The entire UAV can be manufactured for under £1000.

This platform has the capability required to complete a wide-range of humanitarian based missions. I would now love the opportunity to put this system to good use and test it in the field. In the meantime, if anybody needs a reliable, easily customizable and high performance test platform, don't hesitate to get in touch!

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