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Engineering Department Drone Preview

The Oklahoma Christian University engineering department is currently working on a drone for Predisan Health Ministries which will fly medical supplies to different sites around Honduras.

The team consists of seven senior engineering majors: Caleb Mauck, Daniel Rutledge, Forrest Shaedel, Jonathan Ballard, Joshua Guill, Kamden Minor, and Nathan Stover.

Engineering professors Col. Bradley Buxton and Dr. Steve Maher serve as mentors for the team. Jelte Van Atten and Josh Longley act as assistants.

According to one team lead, Nathan Stover, heavy rains cause obstructions and traffic on the roads of Honduras. In the case of emergencies, travel takes too long or becomes impossible with blocked off paths and large debris.

“It can take a week for the roads to clear up enough for them to drive to these places,” Stover said.

Oklahoma Christian’s drone looks to bypass these harsh conditions by flying  necessary medical supplies from the main clinic in Catacamas to wherever it is needed. The drone is programmed to launch vertically, fly 30 miles and then land.

Col. Bradley Buxton said the goal of the project was to get medicinal supplies across the country quickly and efficiently. 

“The idea is, in good weather, we should be able to get medication somewhere in 45 minutes,”  Buxton said.

The drone is also being built to fly autonomously. The Oklahoma Christian computer engineers are designing parts to make the drone follow a path without being controlled.

Team lead Caleb Mauck explains how this technology works.

“The system is based off of a GPS,” Mauck said. “We developed a flight plan with specific waypoints for it to move between.”

This year’s drone project is a continuation of what the 2022 seniors started last year. After the success of their drone, the 2023 seniors planned to create another to make deliveries more efficient. 

Along with the engineering team, Oklahoma Christian’s Chief Academic Officer Jeff McCormack is the project sponsor and Predisan representative. With his experience working for Predisan and past trips to Honduras, McCormack said he wants the team to understand what the people of Honduras are in need of and how big of an impact the drone can have on their community. 

“For them to hear there is a team of engineers working on this project is such an encouragement,” McCormack said. “This drone could save lives.” 

In May of 2022, two members of this year’s team, Nathan Stover and Jonathan Ballard, joined last year’s team as they delivered the first drone to Honduras. Their job was to observe the culture, weather and habitat of Honduras in order to make the next drone the best they could. 

“I got to see first hand what Predisan’s mission is about,” Stover said. “It was very evident our drone could be helpful.” 

The drone is expected to be completed by May 2023. A test launch will be performed in the spring of 2023 before graduation. The date and time of the launch are still unknown.

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