East High School InvenTeam
Avalanches pose a safety threat in snowy regions across the world. Where snow abounds, skiers, snowboarders and snowmobilers are often caught off guard by avalanches and may become trapped underneath snow and ice.
The East High School InvenTeam created a remote-controlled helicopter to function as an avalanche search and survey robot. The helicopter not only searches for victims caught under the snow, but also features surveying and detonating technologies to test avalanche prone areas and break up snow and ice that could pose a threat.
The Avalanche Search and Survey Helicopter (MIT-3825) consists of five essential components: the helicopter, GPS flight system, camera, snow probe, and explosives deployment device. The helicopter is over 50 inches long and weighs 20 pounds. It can fly up to 30 minutes with a 16 oz. fuel tank and 10 pound payload, powered by a Zenoah G26 2-stroke gas engine.
Initially, the East High School InvenTeam researched the causes and effects of avalanches and gathered statistics on fatalities caused by avalanches. The team consulted local experts on avalanche safety, helicopters and GPS systems. They received a discount on a GPS system from Tom Gozer of GPS Flight. Upon receiving the GPS system, the team realized it did not have a power source or a method to keep a power source connected to the unit. To solve this problem, the team manually wired a high power source from their classroom. They found that the wires did not stay properly connected, so they used a PMW wire connector to solve the problem.
On the MIT-3825's first test flight, the team gradually added components such as the camera and explosives to ensure that it was not too heavy. At first, adding the explosives made the helicopter unbalanced. After making a few adjustments, the team was able to solve the problem during subsequent testing.