Arie Nakhmani, Ph.D., and Ali Darwish in the School of Engineering’s Controls Lab
The fish that pulled Ali Darwish’s drone under water must have been a big one.
After all, his custom-built quadcopter — equipped with floats made from pink insulation foam he bought at Home Depot — had already lifted several fish out of Birmingham’s Oak Mountain Lake without any trouble.
The machine, and the bass, were unharmed. The drone is built to survive a complete dunking, with clever circuit placement and homemade coatings. Darwish, a Ph.D. candidate in the UAB Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, thinks his drone has a bright future in underwater research and surveying dams and pipelines. But as long as he was testing the machine on a lake, “I thought, I might as well add a hook!” Darwish said.
The fishing drone is just one of a whole fleet of robotic flying machines that Darwish is building in the School of Engineering’s Controls Lab. Working with his doctoral advisor, Arie Nakhmani, Ph.D., and a team at Stanford University, Darwish is also building a fixed-wing drone that can fly for hundreds of miles and carry a payload of several pounds. This one features insulation-foam wings, reinforced with used carbon-fiber golf clubs “that I picked up for a dollar apiece,” he said.