Aeronautical engineer Vivek Nelson, Thrissur-based aeroplane enthusiast M.R.K. Menon and veteran aero-modeller Vinod Madhavan have fashioned the UAV from everyday materials.

Kerala, it seems, is not to be left far behind when much of the developed world is increasingly relying on the use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) for a range of civilian purposes.

Three aero-modelling enthusiasts from the State have developed and tested a camera-equipped UAV, which, they say, can be used for an array of uses, including cost-effective maritime search and rescue operations, wildlife protection, land survey (3 D mapping), crop monitoring, traffic surveillance, and aerial reconnaissance of disaster zones.

Aeronautical engineer Vivek Nelson, Thrissur-based aeroplane enthusiast M.R.K. Menon and veteran aero-modeller Vinod Madhavan have fashioned the UAV from everyday materials, chiefly balsa wood and fibre reinforced plastic.

The remote controlled UAV has a twin-boom design with a “pusher propeller” (one fixed on the rear of the aircraft to provide thrust) powered by a 20 cc methanol fuelled four-stroke internal combustion engine. It has a wingspan of 66 inches and the fuselage is 42 inches long.

Vinod Madhavan says the design allows for long and steady flight at fixed altitudes.

Camera

The main feature of the UAV is a high resolution colour camera, which can relay still pictures and live video in real time to ground controllers. They can also zoom, pan, or tilt the camera at will.

The aircraft, which has a 250 ml fuel tank, has an endurance of 45 minutes.

It weighs 6 kg, can be launched from a portable inclined ramp and retrieved using a shuttle net.

It can be easily transported in parts to emergency spots and assembled in less than three hours.

The autopilot feature of the UAV enables ground controllers to focus more on working its onboard camera during flight.

Its camera is capable of maintaining an “unblinking watch” over an area of not less than 1 square km and its advanced onboard avionics enable the UAV to navigate its way home and fly in almost all weather conditions.

The project has cost the enthusiasts an estimated Rs.3.5 lakh. They say the UAV is a technology demonstrator, which is not for sale. However, they are willing to lend it for public use, if the situation warrants so.