Duncan Crawford and Tim Squires brought the dream of the EESA drone project to inspire Lancing Prep pupils in Year 7. It’s a dream fast becoming a reality as the team make progress to create a world record for the highest altitude for level drone flight.
With jumbo jets flying at a maximum altitude of some 12 km and NASA operating at around 30 km, the ambition for EESA is to achieve level flight at a target altitude of at least 20 km above the surface. The aim is to launch a balloon to take the drone and its parachute up to a height of 36 km. At this altitude, the vastly reduced atmospheric pressure causes the balloon to expand enormously and eventually to burst. The trick is to work out at what height to release the drone from the balloon, to give it time to fall and reach the velocity of 500 mph that its on-board computer requires to kick in to fly it independently and achieve level flight. It might sound simple but it has taken a huge amount of creative thought and experimentation to bring the idea to life.
The pupils were amazed to discover just how much has been achieved at relatively modest costs and about the potential commercial uses that might spring forth from the project. They were fascinated to learn how different specialisms work together to create collaborative solutions: hardware specialists and software programmers have all worked together with their problem-solving skills to develop better prototype versions that eventually will lead to the world record being set.
Duncan spoke of how technology can help us to think in different ways and how important it is, to create the skills base for technological advances in the future that pupils today, girls and boys alike, engage with STEM subjects and immerse themselves in the myriad possibilities that Mathematics, the Sciences, Engineering and Computer Science can offer. Whether developing hi-tech 3D computer simulations to perfect pioneering medical procedures or flying a drone at over 30 km from the surface of the world, the sky really is the limit!
Tim brought along with him a variety of drones, from one of the early prototype versions to the testing model currently being developed and the much larger, but lightweight, craft that will eventually be used in the world record attempt. He had also brought along an ex-BBC drone used on Top Gear to show the pupils. Following the talk, Tim took one of the drones out into the school fields and Year 7 cheered and waved as it hovered over the campus to give a real bird’s eye view of Lancing Prep Hove.
To view more images and a brief clip of the drone footage please visit the gallery