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Design students at Cal State Long Beach are working to overcome the stigma attached to drone aircraft by designing an affordable and simple unmanned aerial vehicle for use in research, emergency services and entertainment.

The Geospatial Research and Mapping project, or GRAM, is a venture of an industrial design senior studio class in collaboration with the geography and anthropology departments.

More than 30 students and staff are midway through designing a prototype of an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) that, unlike other drone models available in the market, is cheap, easy to assemble and can be customized for whatever purpose the user desires, according to senior industrial design student Scott Lee.

Angela Wang, director of publications for the project, said GRAM’s goal is to create a middle ground between very expensive drones and the cheap and ineffective hobbyist models.

 According to Max Beach, who teaches the senior studio class, the project originated after the geography and anthropology departments expressed a wish for an affordable and simple remote aircraft for mapping and surveying purposes.

Beach said he took the idea to his class and the students then expanded the scope of the project so that it could be used to film sporting events, help in search-and-rescue missions, survey forest fires and assist in news media coverage of dangerous or remote areas.

Despite that the prototype is still in its early design phase, Beach said such a product would have a myriad of real-world applications and benefits across many areas.



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