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Students build drones in attempt to save lives

STILLWATER, Okla – Oklahoma has its share of famous aviators. Pilots like Wiley Post, astronauts like Owen Garriott and Gordon Cooper. All are men who made a name for themselves in history.

Now, a group of students from OSU are trying to make a name for themselves in the industry, developing aircraft which can fly themselves.

The unmanned planes are developed, not for any sort of government spying program, but in hopes of saving lives.

Out at their launch site Zac Zaloudek and Fred Keating are working on one of the planes.

Zac said, “With a little more testing, we’d be able to do an automatic take off, fly the mission plan, which is determined by a tablet or a phone, and then land autonomously all by itself, no pilot involved.”

The plane they are working on could someday help firefighters on the ground track a fast-moving fire. Hopefully, helping them get ahead of the flames or safely get out of a burning area.

Zac said, “There’s no reason, with the technology we have right here, we shouldnt be able to increase their odds of getting it under control quickly.”

Zac and Fred have been working in the lab for months. First designing and then building the plane.

They have been working on the first of several prototypes, made mostly of materials any hobbiest could buy.

Fred says the hope is this, “to make an airplane that is relatively cheap that rural fire departments can use.”

Alyssa Avery and Calvin Brown are working on similar projects. Alyssa’s still in the design phase.

She hopes to see her plane soar next to a tornado, closer than any manned aircraft could ever safely fly, taking in data to help understand more about how the masters form.

Alyssa said, “When a tornado is coming they only have about ten minutes to know it’s coming and we hope to extend that as much as we can.”

The planes fly a grid pattern designated by GPS locator set up by the person using the aircraft.

An app or laptop tells the plane when to take off and land. Cameras on board can even transmit live video or bring back a recording to help in surveying an area.