LONGVIEW, TX (KLTV) - Nobody gets too excited when they see a drone these days, but a fixed wing drone is a little more uncommon. LeTourneau University offers a degree in Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems concentrating on fixed wing drones.
There are a few steps before students, like Henry Wooten, know all aspects of running a drone.
“We are going to be able to, once we leave here, be able to build one from the ground up, and to monitor it, manage all the paperwork, licenses, everything,” Wooten said.
They build a couple of cheaper, fixed wing drones first.
“It’s still $2500 dollars just for the plane but this is the one that we’re working on. The guys over there are working on the more expensive one which is about twelve to thirteen thousand dollars,” Wooten revealed.
First they fly the “cheap” ones by remote control, and then Instructor Ruedi Schubarth has them take the next step.
“They know how to program it and set up parameters, and now we’re going to put it in an airplane and let it loose in the wild to try to do it automatically,” Schubarth said.
“We’re just trying to get the autopilots in there. We just want them to fly automatically. And they will take pictures and we have a program that will stitch all the pictures together and they’ll be GPS tagged,” Wooten said.
After students make their mistakes which could lead to a crash, they graduate to the Albatross, the same drone used by:
“Fifty-five countries around the world, and government agencies far and wide,” Schubarth stated.
The class is broken into maintenance who build and repair, and pilots who fly the drones, but they all learn aspects of both. Wooten is content working on his Styrofoam drone for now since:
“That one is composite, fiberglass and carbon fiber and stuff like that so it’s more difficult, more expensive. This one right here; just a stick and glue gun and you’re good to go,” Wooten smiled.
None of them want the class motto of “Build, crash, repeat” to apply to the Albatross.
Student Henry Wooten spent two decades in the Army and working with drones will be his second career. He says the fixed wing drones are used for agriculture, search and rescue, oil refinery and power line inspection and even researching volcanoes and border patrol.