Two University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa students from two completely different disciplines are collaborating on a project that involves an unmanned aerial vehicle, also known as a UAV or drone.

Chuck Devaney, a graduate student in geography, is engaged on high resolution, aerial photography.

“To look at vegetation conditions in and around the island and also have a look at some of the archeological features,” said Devaney.

David Hummer is a PhD candidate in mechanical engineering and his focus in on building things.

“Being an engineer, if it’s not broken, then it doesn’t have enough features,” said Hummer.

High-resolution aerial imagery is expensive, especially for a graduate student. Before Devaney met Hummer, he had already taken to the skies in an attempt to make his life’s work more economical.

“Well, first we thought we were going to launch a rocket and tape a phone to it and that turned into the whole kite effort,” said Devaney.

But kites need wind, which isn’t always guaranteed. Eventually, a mutual colleague introduced Hummer to Devaney and the geography drone project took off and there is no telling where it may land.

“The UAV has given us a lot more flexibility in terms of the types of environments that we can fly in,” said Devaney. “The amount of area that we can cover, the stability and it is just lots of fun.”

They spent about $2,000 on materials—a frame, electronics and cameras. It would have been a lot more expensive if they did not build it themselves.

“The closest one we found was $50,000 for the package,” said Hummer. “So if we can fill that part of the market and make it cheaper then it seems like it would be a pretty good idea.”

It remains a work in progress. Both students continue to learn from their successes and failures while making advancements in their individual fields.

“You know all the mapping and stitching and analyzing the photos, if I took years of school I could do it but I would rather build the airplane and work on that, and Chuck focused on that part,” said Hummer. “And together we could so something that neither of us could do without each other,”