It cost as little as the Romanian minimum wage.
Due to various technical fuck-ups, i.e., signal jamming, many erratic US reconnaissance drones have been self-destroying as of late. These American scouting robots, including land drones as well as aircraft drones cost somewhere between 7000 and 4,5 million dollars to the US economy. So you can imagine the price of their loss.
But a college student from Romania could well be the solution to the high production cost of these babies. For his term project at the Faculty of Physics in Bucharest, Andrei-Lucian Bogza singlehandedly built a multi-functional reconnaissance robot on a budget that is ten times less than the cost of the cheapest American drone. This guy found it so easy to build a robot using things he found around his apartment that he decided to give others a chance to give the drone-making craft a go so he uploaded a how-to page for it on his blog.
Apparently, at first Andrei wanted to build a solar-powered aerial drone. Unfortunately, in a country where only less than 1% of the budget goes into research funds, he couldn’t find anybody to sponsor his brilliant experiments.
VICE: How did you come up with the idea to build a recon drone ?
Andrei-Lucian Bogza: When I was in elementary school, I watched a documentary about robots that were built for the purpose of defusing bombs and I got very excited about the idea. With this project, I just tried to build a multifunctional one for the lowest cost possible.
How long did it take you to build it?
It only took me a day since I just made it with stuff I found around my apartment. I didn’t really need any extra part. Then, another extra day to calibrate it and to get used to the control panel. But, the design phase took me about a month. I had to plan how to tie everything together, create an interface, and control it from a distance. I built the first version using my laptop. Then I realised I could build it with an Android phone, which would make it simpler, robust, reducing the overall cost.
How much did it cost?
Well it was just the phone that cost me. The rest was just the parts of stuff lying around my dormroom – broken CD-Roms, a car toy, and two car stereo speakers. I think it all added up to about 160 dollars.
So what can this baby do besides looking up girls’ skirts ?
It can be controlled from anywhere on earth through 3G or FM waves. Because it’s small, it can squeeze through places people can’t get at, like pipes or archeological digs. It can send a real-time video feed through its incorporated camera. It can take pictures at a decent resolution, which can be tagged with their GPS location. It has a sensor for detecting magnetic fields and it can even detect large metal objects. It can be used as a compass too. In case it malfunctions or you can’t receive a signal from it, you cand send it a text message and it will respond instantly with its GPS position.
Could it be used for military purposes?
With a few minor modifications it can be used for military reconnaissance and espionage, but its main purpose is to serve the civilians. I would say it can be used in emergency situations (chemical disasters, irradiated areas, bomb threats etc.) or for inspecting pipes, and exploring hard-to-reach areas.
Under which circumstances would the robot malfunction?
Well, because it’s small, it has a weakness to large obstacles. The battery lasts about an hour when in motion and five or six hours for the other functions it has. Due to a lack of time, I didn’t weld it too well and it is a bit sensitive – a large shock would break it. Also the phone that controls it could malfunction just like any normal cell phone.
Has anybody in power shown any interest in your invention?
No. But I got the highest mark on my term paper and two professors offered me a job as a researcher in other fields.
We all have to start from somewhere. Thanks Andrei!