May 11 - A Bolivian inventor is proving that one person's trash is another person's treasure, by taking cast-off materials and using them to make unmanned aerial vehicles. In developing countries like Bolivia, Alex Chipana says such innovative use of everyday materials could have a positive impact on the lives of millions. Tara Cleary reports.
Alex Chipana's drone was built on the cheap - a lot of it is made from recycled materials. But, it works … very well. It's capable of flying for some 20 minutes at speeds of up to 70 kilometres per hour, and at an altitude of 2 km. The motor, onboard camera and GPS system are imported … but the Bolivian inventor finds the rest of the parts at flea markets like this one in El Alto. SOUNDBITE: ALEX CHIPANA, DRONE INVENTOR, SAYING (Spanish): "The structure and all of this is my own design. The parts that I find in markets in El Alto are: the wood and parts of a pen, a cap from a deodorant or perfume bottle." Conventional drone technology is expensive and therefore, unavaliable to most people in this landlocked, low income country. But Chipana thinks drones could help Bolivia develop, through aerial crop management or for connecting isolated communities to the Internet. And he says cheap, recyclable materials are easy to find. SOUNDBITE: ALEX CHIPANA, DRONE INVENTOR, SAYING (Spanish): "You can find printers, refrigerators, photocopiers, motors and controllers - and they're all broken down into different parts. Loads of things you can use for a robot. With all of these available items the market is considered a paradise for roboticists and all these things are very cheap." Chipana's drone is attracting a lot of attention. He hopes his recycling, repurposing ideas take off to help break down the digital divide in one of Latin America's poorest nations.