Buckle up: Cambodian students build manned drone to help community


PHNOM PENH, Sept.21 (Reuters) – Inspired initially by a desire to defeat their city’s notorious traffic, a group of Cambodian students have designed a prototype drone that they hope could eventually be used to transport 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 you see it flying unmanned there is a lot of jerking but when I sit on it and fly … it becomes more stable and I feel so excited,” said Lonh Vannsith, 21 years, pilot of the drone.

“We wanted to solve some problems in our society by making a taxi drone and (…) a fire truck could not reach.

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

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The prototype can carry a pilot weighing up to 60 kg (132 pounds) and fly for about 10 minutes for a distance of 1 km (0.6 miles). It took three years of research and development and cost around $ 20,000 to build.

While the team is hoping it will eventually fly much higher, when manned, the drone currently only rises to 4 meters (13.1 feet).

The project suffered delays due to lockdowns during the COVID-19 pandemic and also because components such as the propellers and frame had to be ordered from abroad, said Sarin Sereyvatha, chief technology officer of the COVID-19. NPIC research and development.

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

“In principle, if we make a drone, the cost is expensive but if we make them to sell in the market, the cost will go down,” said Sarin Sereyvatha.

Reporting by Prak Chan Thul; Editing by Ed Davies and Christian Schmollinger

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