If their innovation sees the light of the day, it has the potential to revolutionize light aircraft engineering in Nigeria. Apart from that, it will crash the high cost of training pilots in the few aviation schools in the country.
However, the lofty dream, as fascinating as it is, is plagued with a number of bottlenecks, chief among which is the funding needed to launch them, their university and the country at large into the global aircraft manufacturing map.
This is the story of Usman Abdulzahir Okinobanyi and Adeniyi Israel Oluwagbemi, both 500 level students of Aeronautical and Astronautical Engineering at the Kwara State University (KWASU) who shattered religion and ethnic barriers to team up and think out of the box to fabricate an ultra-light aircraft.
Okinobanyi, who hails from Kogi State, said the idea is to use it for aerial surveillance, agriculture and short distance travel and also to show that research and development has actually come to stay in Nigerian institutions.
On how realistic the project is, Okinobanyi said “We are sure of completing it 100 per cent and get it airborne like a real aircraft. Every step we took before we got to this point met international standards and requirements.
“Every material that goes into it is calculated and accounted for using engineering software to get it to this point. This means the integrity of the aircraft is 100 per cent in terms of flight performance and materials integrity among others.”
He said with adequate funding, they hope to complete the project in February 2022, adding it is now at 50 per cent completion stage.
He explained that they started building the ultra-light aircraft before they got admission into the university and that fate has brought them together again.
“We came in to get more knowledge about Aero Astro. What we did was to now come together and join our settings and ideas to get to this point.
“My colleague is in charge of the airframe, integrity of the materials and software while I am in charge of the power plant and also part of the airframe”.
He called on other students to continue to raise the bar and showcase the can-do spirit of Nigerian students by making a positive impact within and around their environments.
“The Department of Aeronautics is actually a very practical one, meaning that everything that we use is actually what we can find in the markets around us.
“So, in terms of research and development, I feel this is the responsibility of every Nigerian student to understand that we can actually do things like this here and also take the mantle,” he said.
On his part, Adeniyi Oluwagbemi solicited funding for them to enable them to complete the aircraft.
He said, “We have a lot of challenges getting up to this point especially on the issue of funding and we still need more funding to make progress.
“We have spent about N1.2 million and we currently need N6 million to complete it. Presently we have approached the university authorities to assist since they have also taken interest in it and I feel it will also be a good thing since not only them but Nigeria will benefit greatly from the success of this project.
“With the success of this project, short distance travel will be a lot safer and easier and it will ease the burden of road transport system.
“In advanced countries, they have private individuals who have aircraft of this size. In Nigeria, we can adopt this same style which will also help in reducing accidents on our roads.
“It will also make pilot training a lot cheaper. In the engineering society, it will encourage people to pick interest in this area of engineering and do more research.
“The advancement in aerospace engineering started with something less than this and today, we can all see the result. Technology advances and this is a good place to pick it from. This is just a single-seat aircraft.
“In case of landing, it has short-field capability and can land on any area of land. We don’t need a special or long runway to take off,” he noted.