HHS and MSF Japan have jointly designed a drone that can map areas not previously explored to add to MissingMaps.org.

The 3D-printed UAV drone, called LOCUS, began life as a student project and now the people behind the casual project are looking to make a prototype so they can begin pitching the idea to organisations including humanitarian aid.

The lightweight drone has a unique design to make it perfect for gliding over hard to reach places. 

Its battery can run for 90 minutes because of its 1.3kg frame and with a range of 8km sqm, it’s perfect for mapping small-ish areas rather than long distance surveying.

Because it’s 3D printed the cost can be kept down, while one of HHS and MSF Japan’s mission is to make it as user friendly as possible, so anyone can use it, whether they have drone expertise or not.

It’s also completely open source, so developers can easily contribute to the community, whether they want to introduce new use cases for LOCUS or need help from others who have already created the apps to help it achieve a greater range of tasks.

“[During our research], we experienced there was a very thin line between re-designing the drone and prejudicing its mechanics and quality,” Lucía Doran programmer n the project said. “Nonetheless, giving the drone a humanitarian purpose showcased its capabilities.”

The makers explained that off-the-shelf drones were too generic for the average user. Although they may be good for taking photos, mapping an area or general surveillance, they don’t allow much development outside that. But LOCUS aims to become the specialist in every area. It will transform into whatever the user needs it to be.

The LOCUS project is looking to raise $1000 to help create its prototype, with more funding planned for the future when it has proven its concept.