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WA student claims cheaper drone than existing devices

A 19-year-old law student from The University of Western Australia claims to have invented a drone that can stay in the air five times as long as many drones on the market.

Tom Maclaurin, a student from City Beach, also claims that his invention can conduct aerial surveillance for a fraction of the cost of current manned aircraft.

The device is two metres long and weighs six kg.

In a statement from the university, Maclaurin said he had built the device initially as part of his hobby of building remote control planes at school.

“What I’ve built is a fixed-wing unmanned aerial vehicle that can be operated remotely,” he said.

Tom Maclaurin

“The device, named ‘Swift’, is capable of flying for more than six hours before its battery runs out and it can be used to monitor anything on the ground by picking up data from sensors, taking images or recording video.”

Maclaurin said the drone could be used for beach and shark surveillance or monitoring crop levels, dam levels, and cattle locations.

It could also be used by councils and government authorities to monitor particular areas of land.

“What I have created is not only far cheaper, but it can be operated remotely and is easy to use. It is lightweight and can glide safely to a stop should it lose power, instead of current drones which drop out of the sky when their battery runs out," he said.

Maclaurin is looking for investors to help him further develop the drone. He was recently awarded Student Start-up of the Year at the university's Innovation Quarter Awards for his invention.

Photos: Courtesy The University of Western Australia.

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Sam Varghese

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A professional journalist with decades of experience, Sam for nine years used DOS and then Windows, which led him to start experimenting with GNU/Linux in 1998. Since then he has written widely about the use of both free and open source software, and the people behind the code. His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.