Ten years ago I decided that what I really wanted to do was build a UAV. I was fueled by my passion and started dragging my friends into a tiny little shed to help me cut wings out of foam using a hot wire cutter. My friends accepted the fact that I wanted to enclose them inside a tiny room and breathe burning plastics and stopped coming over.
Even as my enthusiasm turned towards reality, I wasn’t going to build a great UAV with a hot wire cutter and little experience, I became determined. I found ways to work with people building UAVs, attended demonstrations with Government agencies, and honed my skills as I continually designed, refined, and pushed myself towards where I wanted to go.
I think the highlight of my career, at least the highlight that helped shape what I wanted to build, and what the Techpod is today, came in 2007 when I was working for Peak Engineering. At that time, I had the opportunity to participate, informally, with the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) in an analysis of the usefulness of UAVs for assisting in such things as avalanche control.
The full WSDOT report for this study can be found here. Warning, this is a fairly good size PDF, so be patient if you click.
The bottom line, the WSDOT concluded UAVs might make very useful tools in the future, but not right at the moment. The crux of the problem was UAVs were fairly expensive. While considerably cheaper than a full blown aircraft to help assist in the WSDOT duties, UAVs have the potential to crash due to weather conditions, their relative size, and because of their weight. A good wind storm could easily knock a sophisticated UAV with electronics right out the air, losing thousands, even hundreds of thousands of dollars, in a single gust of wind.
It was then I realized the potential of a cheap UAV made out of polypropylene. A lightweight UAV which could easily be replaced, in whole, or in part, negating the risk factor involved.
Of course, the Techpod today isn’t quite ready to take on the task of avalanche control for a variety of reasons, it is the first real UAV, in my opinion, designed to resolve the shortcomings pointed out by the WSDOT in the study in conducted in 2007.
I certainly would love to hear back from you guys and learn what it is that inspires your interest in unmanned aerial vehicles, or field any questions you might have.