After two years of research, nine students from the Flying Object Research Center (FORCE) at Gadjah Mada Univesity (UGM) in Yogyakarta launched on Wednesday a prototype of what they called an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV).
The launch of the prototype, which they have named the Camar Biru (Blue Seagull), was marked by a 10-minute tryout at the university’s Graha Sabha Pramana building.
The small aircraft, which is 120 centimeters in length and weighs four kilograms, flew autonomously without the help of a remote control device.
“A remote control is only used to take off and land,” Damar Satria Guntoro, one of the nine research team members, said on the sidelines of the tryout on Wednesday.
In developing the UAV prototype, the group spent Rp 25 million (US$2,200).
The team initially used fiberglass to build the prototype, but they later discovered that the material was too heavy, making it hard for the aircraft to fly. So in their second year, they replaced the fiberglass with a mixture of composite and wet wood.
So as to ensure flight safety, the propellers were not placed on the front of the plane but in the middle, facing the tail of the craft.
“This positioning doesn’t cause any disturbance to the balance of the craft,” said Damar, who is a student of UGM’s mechanical engineering department.
Another advantage of placing the propellers in the middle of the craft, according to Damar, was that if the craft crashed, its motor would not be damaged.
“The position of the propellers also does not disrupt the plane during a dropped payload or on the operation of the aircraft’s camera,” he added.
Damar said that all the prototype’s electronic components, including the remote control device, had been imported. “However, we developed the software on our own,” he said.
For the software, which they call the UGM mission planner, they used Microsoft visual C++, which is capable of monitoring the position and orientation of the aircraft as well as the condition of the battery.
The system is operated using censors following the flight path according to GPS coordinates.
The project’s supervisor, Gesang Nugroho, said the aircraft came with a remote control, censor and telemetry system.
The prototype, he said, was capable of flying for up to 8 kilometers at a speed of up to 60 km per hour.
The aircraft also comes with a camera that is capable of recording live video footage and a space map from a photo mosaic, and dropping a payload on a particular location.
“The unmanned aircraft is to be further developed to make it useful for monitoring traffic, disaster areas, volcanoes and plantations, and for patrolling borders and maritime areas,” he said.
Similar technology was previously developed to monitor the volcanic activity in Mount Merapi, one of the world’s most active volcanoes situated on the border between Yogyakarta and Central Java provinces, following the major eruptions in 2010.
Thanks to the unmanned aircraft, which was jointly developed by UGM and the National Aeronautics and Space Institute (LAPAN), the current state of Mt. Merapi can be presented in high resolution