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Cambodian students reach for the skies with innovative drone project

Vannsith piloting the drone-helicopter style aircraft designed and built by a team of students at the National Polytechnic Institute of Cambodia. PHOTO SUPPLIED
Vannsith piloting the drone-helicopter style aircraft designed and built by a team of students at the National Polytechnic Institute of Cambodia. PHOTO SUPPLIED

Cambodian students reach for the skies with innovative drone project

The sky’s the limit for students at the National Polytechnic Institute of Cambodia (NPIC) who are engineering the future of transport with their cutting-edge project - the “Human Carrier Drone”.

Project leader, Lonh Vannsith, said that the drone is presently entering a redesign and modification phase to enhance its control system.

“We are currently developing a control system and making modifications to improve the Human Carrier Drone,” announced Vannsith.

Conceived and constructed by Lonh Vannsith and Chroay Sotheara, both mechanical engineering students, the ‘Human Carrier Drone’ intends to ease traffic congestion in Phnom Penh and boost emergency response efficiency.

This ambitious venture marks the second time these young Cambodian mechanical engineers have undertaken a project to enhance the intelligence of the drone’s control system.

For this iteration, the team aims to enhance the drone’s aesthetic appeal and transition from aluminium to carbon fibre frames, to provide superior strength and reduced weight.

While the prospect of a drone helicopter fleet soaring over Phnom Penh may still be a few years away, Vannsith and Sotheara remain confident in the project’s long-term viability.

They anticipate that future NPIC students will carry on their pioneering work, striving to surpass their accomplishments and ultimately, enable the ‘Human Carrier Drone’ to take flight.

However, the development of the drone presents substantial challenges for these engineering students, particularly with the constraints of a limited budget.

Srun Channareth, a lecturer and researcher at NPIC’s Faculty of Electronics, accentuated the need for financial investment from individuals or organisations willing to support local technological advancement.

“We need financial resources to advance the ‘Human Carrier Drone’ further. Investors who are willing to contribute to the growth of local technological products are warmly welcomed,” he stated.

Undeniably, the restricted budget has influenced the pace of development. Adequate funding is critical for procuring essential materials, accessing advanced technologies, and conducting thorough research and development.

With additional investment, these burgeoning engineers can quicken the pace of their work on the drone and conquer the financial barriers impeding their progress.

The drone, designed as an air-taxi capable of carrying a pilot and a passenger, made national and international headlines in 2021 thanks to its innovative nature.

The team envisages its use in emergency situations, such as ferrying fire fighters to the upper floors of burning buildings. According to Sotheara, rigorous testing preceded the drone’s inaugural manned flight.

After approximately 70 test flights, including 46 carrying loads under 60 kg, the team confirmed the drone’s flight capabilities.

As it stands, the aluminium-framed drone with double propellers on each arm can elevate cargo or individuals weighing up to 60 kg to a height of 5-6 meters and cover a distance of approximately 100 meters within 10 minutes.

Even though the current prototype remains in the development phase, the team remains steadfast in their pursuit of their ambitious objectives.

“One such use would involve testing it as a hose carrier, capable of extending the reach of fire trucks to higher floors that are inaccessible to ground-level hoses,” suggested Sotheara.

The project, supported by viral test flight videos shared on social media, has earned widespread recognition, both domestically and internationally.

The NPIC students’ ground-breaking efforts not only highlight their technical prowess but also establish them as trailblazers in Cambodia’s nascent drone aviation sector.

They are resolute in their commitment to innovation, despite the challenges of limited financial resources.

Believing that future generations of NPIC students will continue their work and exceed their achievements, they hold an optimistic outlook for the ‘Human Carrier Drone’.

Sotheara asserted: “As the project’s initial team leaders, we are obliged to act as mentors and share our knowledge and experiences with the younger students to help them keep propelling the project forward”.


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