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JROTC students create homemade drone

By Jim Conrad, jconrad@wcyb.com
Published On: Feb 10 2014 04:30:39 PM CST
Updated On: Feb 10 2014 05:39:04 PM CST

Junior ROTC students at Greeneville High have created their own helicopter drone from scratch.

GREENEVILLE, Tenn. -

Nothing can stop a group of ambitious high school students with an idea and the means to accomplish it, not even a government shutdown.

That's how the Junior ROTC unit at Greeneville High School saw it, and after overcoming many obstacles, they created two helicopter drones using different parts and cutting corners.

Greeneville High School senior Mark Patrick had built lots of remote-controlled planes before he got to high school, but his quad helicopter is his most ambitious. "I came to the high school and I found out they had an RC club. I learned how to fly and it escalated quickly after that. I don't even want to know how much money and time I put into RC planes," Mark laughed.

The helicopter he created is not from a kit; it's totally homemade in order to make it economically feasible for the JROTC unit. "In order to save money we had to purchase all the stuff separately, it's not as a kit. It's all just different parts. Some of them work together, some don't want to work together. You have to problem solve to figure out ways to make this stuff come together to something that actually flies and works like you want it to," he said.

All of this planning was going on just as the government shut down and cut funding for all of the JROTC programs nationwide, but they had an understanding benefactor -- TVETS, a Greeneville-based company. "The government basically shut down, so a lot of the funding got halted. We went back to TVETS and asked if we could use the money to keep our unit going while this sequestration is going on, and they agreed," Aerospace Science instructor Lt. Col. Galen Kirchmeier said.

That got straightened out, and now it was time to train pilots for the quad copter, which wasn't as easy as it sounds. "With prior time and knowledge in RC flying, it took me around five hours of simulator time and actual quad copter flying time to actually get a little knowledge and understanding of how to fly these," sophomore Dennis Smith said.

The flying video platform is a perfect tool to let younger students know just how much learning and fun is going on in their unit.

The students are going to use the flying machine to video sporting events and projects the unit does in Greene County.