Prokura Innovations

A definitive guide to making a drone in Nepal

A definitive guide to making a drone in Nepal

PROKURA INNOVATIONS, NEPAL

Prologue

Designing a drone cannot be specific to the political boundary of Nepal for the principles of flight, evident by the availability of birds worldwide, are the same. However, the availability of materials, testing resources, and manufacturing tools can affect to a greater extent the final product you can develop. Nonetheless, it is possible to design and develop a drone using locally available products only. And, with some shops in Nepal selling advanced materials, and electronics and control equipment from overseas, you can make a fairly decent drone.

Drone Made in Nepal flying in the sky
Figure 1. Gauthali- drone made in Nepal by Prokura Innovations
In this article, we guide you to making a fixed-wing drone in Nepal. Follow the table placed below as you go through the article.
Type Source
MaterialsCarbon fiber tubeHimalayan Solution
Polyurethane foam/ styrofoamHim Electronics, Bhaktapur
Vie Tec Pvt Ltd, Teku
PlywoodPlywood shops
Remarks: 3mm Sagun ply at Kandevtastan, Kupondole
Propulsion and controlMotor, Propeller, Electric duct fan, Battery, Electronic speed controller, Flight controller hardware (autopilot), Radio transmitter, Telemetry receiver, GPS module, Airspeed sensor, Wires and connector, ServoHimalayan Solution, Red Doko, Smart House of Technology & Research Pvt.Ltd, Annapurna Electronics, Jyatha Marg, Ktm, ProjectroniXPvt.Ltd, Satdobato, Several shops at Asan
Remarks: May need to go to several shops fora complete list.
International delivery: Ali Express
May find vendors at: Entrepreneurs for Nepal
Flight SimulationFlightGear, FlyInside, Infinite Flight, Microsoft Flight, Simulator, X-Plane
Remarks: Find one that best suits your need and capacity
Design and AnalysisDesignSolid Works, CATIA,Autodesk
Preliminary analysisXFLR5, AVL, OpenVSP
CFDOpenFoam, ANSYS, SU2
Laser cuttingNational Innovation Center, Kirtipur
Himala Signage, Kupandole
3D printingProkura Innovations, Zener Technologies, Pro-Mech Minds
Hot wire foam cuttingDo it yourself
AdhesivesCarpenter shops, Hardware shops
Table 1. A help table for making drone in Nepal

1. Know about the type of drone you want to develop

Drones can come in many configurations: single rotor, multi-rotor, fixed-wing, and transition type. Know the type of drone that you want to develop because the process of development varies from one type to another. 

  • The mechanical parts are fairly simple to make with local materials. This means you can break them and still quickly and cheaply make another fly again. 
  • Only one motor-propeller is sufficient to make the drone fly although you will need some servos to move the control surfaces.
  • A manually flying fixed-wing drone doesn’t need a flight controller.

2. Research if works have been done previously on the type of drone you want to develop

It is highly likely that the work similar to what you are going to perform is already done. Read it. This is not meant to discourage you. Rather it should serve as a guide to walk you through the various phases of the development of your drone. If this is your first drone, it is okay even if you imitate the design because you are still going to do all the remaining work yourself. But be careful to understand the fundamentals behind what you are doing.

3. Connect with local drone developers

Along with research and study, it might be a great idea to join a community of local drone developers. They can help you get started on your project, understand the market, and many more. For example- National Innovation center provides a platform for enthusiasts in many fields including drones. Similarly, Prokura Innovations produces drones in Nepal for last-mile medical delivery.

4. Concurrently train yourself to fly the drone you are going to develop

There are great simulation softwares that can help you prepare for your first flight. Some of them are listed on the table. 

5. Know what structural, electrical and electronics parts  are available in Nepal and where

Based on your observation/research, you should have an idea about what parts will be necessary to build your drone. If you are doing this in Nepal, your choices of parts will be seriously limited. Thus be sure to know what parts you need and where you can get them. Refer to the table for the most common parts of the drone and where you can get them in Nepal.

6. Know what technology is available to manufacture the drone in Nepal and where

It might have occurred to you by now that not every part you want is available on the market. Still some parts-mainly aerodynamic and structural, are unique to your design and hence you should produce them on their own. You should know beforehand what kind of manufacturing methods are available. The table provides some of the methods of manufacturing and where you can get the service. 
You might also have to make a small in house manufacturing setup.

Hot wire setup for in house styrofoam shaping
Figure 2. Hot wire setup for in house styrofoam shaping

7. Develop a full design of the drone

Now you have a pretty good idea of what your drone is going to be like and what parts are necessary to build it and where and how you can acquire them . Then you should develop a  detailed design of your model. But do it step by step. First develop a rough sketch of how it should look, add parts-for example battery, motor, propeller, electronics, check whether you are still within your weight estimate, add features for connecting different components- for example your wing and fuselage and finally design for manufacturing. 

The table lists a few popular 3d modelling and analysis software.

Since the design process is a vast topic in inteself and requires a separate treatment, we are happy to refer to our Blue Print on fixed wing design. This separate Article will guide you on choosing motor and propeller for your design. 

8. Procure/ produce parts needed for your drone

After you are ready with your design, procure parts as necessary. Also produce parts -for example using 3d prints, laser cuts as you have conceived to do in previous steps.

9. Assemble

Now you are ready to put everything together. Contain your happiness as your design gradually comes to life!

Assembly of laser cut plywood parts to make a fuselage
Figure 3. Assembly of laser cut plywood parts to make a fuselage
Fuselage covered with foam shaped with hot wire
Figure 4. Fuselage covered with foam shaped with hot wire
Drone (Gauthali) ready to fly
Figure 5. Gauthali-ready to fly

10. Know the drone regulatory laws 

The drone rules and regulations are quite a vast topic in itself but here I will try to provide a brief overview of regulations both in Nepal and internationally. ICAO is the UN body that oversees the development, growth and safety of air transport. While ICAO recognizes the drone as UAS, only EASA and JARUS provide a concrete set of rules and regulations to fly in the European and African skies respectively. Both of them provide a thorough definition for what can fly in the sky and cover the wider spectrum of drones as UAS. 

In comparison Nepal has a very rudimentary set of laws governing UAS which can be clearly seen from the fact that it categorizes drones into A, B, C and D classes based on 250gm, 2kg, 25kg markers. It allows drones to fly no more than 300m horizontally and 100m vertically from your takeoff location which is very limiting to a fixed wing type of drone. The detailed study of the rules can be done in the link provided above. Also, an english version can be read from the CAAN website. CAAN provides the application for licensing the drones but also requires further permission from the ministry of home affairs, tourism and sometimes communication. Also further permit is required from the local government of the region where drone flight is intended. After all the bureaucratic hassle, you end up with a license that will only be valid for 3 months. All in all the scenario of drone rules and regulations is dreadful in Nepal and the drone community of Nepal should present a united front to coerce the government to improve the situation.

11. Know the testing locations

You cannot fly your drone anywhere you like otherwise you risk the safety of yourself and other people. Find yourself a wide open space and be sure that flying there doesn’t compromise safety to aviation as well. In Kathmandu, with permission from concerned authorities(Ward Administration and Local Police Administration) you may get to fly in Pulchowk campus ground, Khokana,etc. Check with your local administration before choosing a test spot. 

12. Fly your drone

Fly your drone! Or to put it realistically- fly it, break it, remake it and fly it again. 

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Description of Author

  • Bikash Kunwar is mechanical design engineer for drones at Prokura Innovations. He graduated from Pulchowk Campus with a degree in Mechanical Engineering. He was a member of the team that developed a search and rescue fixed wing UAV as their final year project. He is interested in interdisciplinary research concerning flying objects and using the technology to solve problems of the society. When he is not in the design room or slaving over a computer, Bikash can be found reading, travelling, or having fun with family and friends.

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