Nigerian students build agricultural drone

A group of four Nigerian students has come together to build a crop spraying drone that they think will be affordable to farmers across the continent.

Mr. Ihonosetale Oseghale, a (Ambrose Alli University), Oyeshile Oluwatobi (University of Ibadan), Obiora Odugu (University of Nigeria) and Eribo Richmond (University of Benin) are Mechanical Engineering graduates who built the agricultural drone as part global talent acquisition organisation Wonsulting’s Wonsulting Project 2020, in which students participate by proposing projects that they feel with benefit a particular industry, in the hope of gaining internship with relevant industry players.

Oseghale and his friends – all of whom are proficient in Computer-Aided Design (CAD) engineering – looked on the African agricultural landscape and decided that it needed improvement, especially in crop spraying and fertiliser application, where small scale farmers were losing out on crop yields because they could not afford the heavy machinery needed to take care of their crop.

“We understand that agriculture is one of the biggest industries in Sub-Saharan Africa,” said Oseghale, who just completed his studies. His friends are still in their final year at their respective learning institutions.

“But we also discovered that the traditional methods of fertiliser application in the region are increasingly poor and time consuming, leading to low productivity which adversely affects the continent’s agricultural economy.”

The undergraduate said this reality was especially sad, when stacked against the advanced spraying and application developments in Europe and Asia, where farmers were already benefiting from drone technology, which was far cheaper and could be used in the smaller fields of small holder farmers.  

“My team and I decided to look into reasons and shortcomings why agricultural drones are not yet popular in Sub-Saharan Africa, and we discovered that the responsibility lay with manufacturing firms, which are only keen to import drone components and assemble them locally, before selling them to farmers at exorbitant prices,” Oseghale said.

“So we came up with an alternative; our envisioned prototype of a locally developed octocopter drone capable of executing the needed tasks by performing proper material selection analysis on each part in 3D models, while considering materials that can be found within Africa to create an affordable innovative drone in enough numbers to serve all farmers who need it.”

Confined to the indoors because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the team brainstormed and conferred over virtual meetings, and worked on their pilot drone, discarding some ideas until they emerged with a proposal to build an eight-rotor drone with locally produced materials that included carbon fibre-reinforced composites, thermoplastics (such as polyester, nylon and polystyrene), aluminium and lithium ion batteries.

“These components were instrumental in the production of a light-weight drone that suited our requirements of 4kg stationary and 11kg take-off weight. The maximum fertiliser or pesticide payload would be 2,25kg, which, to our calculations would cover an area as wide as 1,130 square meters in a short time,” said Oseghale, adding that their drone had withstood the endurance test in all kinds of weather and climatic conditions.

The quartet is hoping for funding to further develop their project and launch it on the market where it can help with Africa’s efforts on food security for its 1.2 billion citizens.


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