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User Research

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Stakeholder map

            As shown above, this is the outline of the stakeholder map. Going throughout the day the main user is the drone operator, who will start the drone, load it with supplies, and determine its flight path. Another main user are the undocumented migrants who will use these supplies (such as water and medical supplies) to help the group by rehydrating and healing injuries. The drone operator will then be able to guide the migrants through the nearby area and away from any “dead zones” where there is little water and no cover from sun exposure. The border agent will then meet the migrants and take them to the field medics/medic stations to ensure the migrants aren’t in critical condition. From here, any advanced aid is directed to hospitals who are also held liable by insurance companies in case of malpractice. The migrants are then sent to U.S. customs to be registered and held in processing facilities who are then given background checks. Should anything show up on their record, they are sent back to their respective nations. Should they be allowed to enter the U.S. they will go through the immigration offices as well as any state offices to allow transition. After the border agents collect the drone, it is handed off to the maintenance crew to handle inspection and repairs, any parts that are required will be ordered from component suppliers with insurance companies handling any liability issues. The specifications of the drone, as well as any no-fly zones in the local area are determined by the FAA, U.S. military and the Mexican Government.

U.S.-Mexico Border conditions [23][24]

            It is no surprise that the border between the U.S. and Mexico is incredibly perilous as the climate alternates between arid to tropical regions, that are both saturated with high temperatures, high sun exposure, and a very low amount of high foliage (trees, which can provide shade). This, in addition to the dry air in the more arid areas of the region, can lead to heat exhaustion/stroke and dehydration if one is not prepared. As well as with the addition of drones and other technology, undocumented immigrants are taking more dangerous routes in order to avoid detection and this can lead to severe injuries and, in some cases, death within the group. This is shown by the medical efforts done by border patrol which are annually practiced keeping agents prepared for these scenarios.

Dangers of crossing the boarder

  • Heat Stroke [11][12] – Heat stroke is when the body can no longer cool itself down, either due to dehydration or other causes for the body’s sweat glands to fail, and the body begins to heat up higher than its equilibrium temperature. Body temperatures are expected to exceed 106F, while only a small amount higher than the body’s equilibrium temperature (98-100F), this can lead to symptoms such as headaches, dizziness, confusion, or even unconsciousness. With the arid climate of Texas, in combination with the long distance these undocumented migrants need to travel in order to make it into the U.S., this presents a large risk of heatstroke due to the constant exposure to the elements. Once heat stroke occurs, the risk of death increases significantly as the brain is directly affected (fainting, confusion, etc.) as well as other organs such as the heart (change in pulse intensity, change in bpm)

  • Dehydration [10][13] – With Texas’ arid climate, its incredibly easy to experience the effects of dehydration. Dehydration is the medical term attributed to the body’s lack of water intake, or lack of water in general. With this lack of water comes multiple dangers such as:

    • Lack of sweat production and thus lack of cooling

    • Increased risk of heat exhaustion/stroke

    • Organ failure (kidney failure)

    • Seizures

        This can be prevented with proper water intake, but due to the surrounding area of the U.S.-Mexico Border, this can prove difficult as the                water is usually unfit for consumption due to foreign material (silt, sand, litter) as well as biological dangers (bacteria, viruses) that can                threaten an already dangerous journey.

  • Drug smugglers/Human traffickers/Cartel violence[24] – Since the paths used to cross into the U.S. are not monitored constantly, this provides the chance for drug smugglers/human traffickers the chance to not only cross over, but take advantage of traveling groups of migrants. This can range from being robbed of supplies to threats of violence.

  • Environmental Dangers [15][16] – With the arid climate in Texas, several resilient animals have made this area their home. Animals such as the Rattlesnake, who’s venom can cause pain, vomiting, as well as swelling, which can hinder a migrant’s ability to travel as well as survive as vomiting can cause dehydration. There is also the fact that in some areas there is little to no water in some areas, and this may increase the chances of dehydration should this path be chosen.

  • Lack of ability to carry proper supplies [27][19][28] – When thinking about how much supplies these people carry, one might think that they carry enough to last the journey or are properly supplied. Unfortunately, to better avoid detection, weight is cut down in order to increase speed, so while one might think they’re prepared for a long hike with extra food, extra water, and clothes they’re actually less prepared. Space and weight that could be used for medicine or a tent, is sacrificed for food and water.


Market Research

            The U.S. Government is offering grants not only for border patrol (Custom’s small drone program [2]), but drones in general due to cybersecurity concerns from possible compromises [25], as well as have a more “at-home” supply [26], which require a supply of cheap, reliable drones. Along with these concerns, it is rare to find a drone with an incorporated airfoil due to the additional manufacturing requirements as well as it being a relatively new concept [27], which shows the market is still fresh with new ideas.




Left: Snaptain S5C, Right: DEERC D20


Left: DJI Inspire 2 controller, Right: Matrice 300 RTK controller


Predator B drone control center [17]


Flying modes for the Skydio 2


            When comparing the different kinds of drones and their controllers, it can be inferred that a certain type of controller is more preferred over another. For example, in the consumer sector (such as the Snaptain S5C) it is shown that controllers that are similar to gaming controllers that the hand can grip easily tend to be used, when compared to the blockier controllers of more industrial-grade drones (such as the DJI Inspire 2 and Matrice 300 RTK). So, a controller that is similar in ergonomics to a gaming controller would be best suitable to operational use when compared to bigger, boxier controllers [31]. This can also be improved as an app can be made to function on the user’s phone, negating the weight and extra maintenance/programming of an external controller.

            Along with these traits, looking at many of the consumer drones, some are able to fold up and be put away into its container, which is small and compact. While looking at the current military drone, there is a specified landing site where these military drones land for refueling/maintenance. While both are considered to be extremes, they are both related in that they are a location where a drone can recharge/inspected. Products such as the Case Cruzer Drone charging station [29] as well as amazon’s new idea for having roaming charging/repair stations on motor vehicles [30], provide ideas on how a future recharging station may be produced/applied to current border patrol vehicles for our drone to land on and recharge. This would increase portability and range as now a truck can be used as a mobile drone center.


Ground Effect/AI landing



Over the weekend, we flew multiple types of drones of different sizes to check how accurate their landing features are and what we are dealing with accuracy wise. As shown in the chart, older drones (such as the 3DR Solo) with their older designs/programming capabilities have less accuracy than the most recently produced drones. Smaller drones are also more prone to inaccurate landing procedures, but have the failsafe of having programming to prevent landing on uneven/unsafe ground. A sports mode is also implemented to increase rpm and travel speed, but with the drawback of decreased landing accuracy.

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