By Biplav Pageni, Nepal Flying Labs
Hem Bahadur Tamang, from Semjong, Dhading, has been working as an assistant pilot and drone mechanic in the Drone Optimized Therapy System (DrOTS) project, which aims to link community health workers to state of the art diagnostic tools via drones. When Hem was in primary school, his first introduction to drones came from a famous Bollywood movie about engineering students. He has been completely hooked ever since, learning as much as he can about drones. Hem is from an impoverished family from Semjong, a small village 100kms northwest of Kathmandu.
When his colleagues at Nepal Flying Labs asked him about his first experience with drones, he told them, “When I was in 5th grade, it was my birthday, and I wanted to make a drone with motors, a wooden propeller and run by a mobile charger. But it didn’t take off. Then I left it and started building a small motorboat and syringe excavators.” His mother always motivated him to build something of his own, which became his dream, too. This desire and passion for drones led him to buy parts to assemble a drone with a sum of money borrowed by his mom. He successfully built it, but it wasn’t flying, so he came to Kathmandu to find help.
“It was a struggle to make my drone and fly it,” Hem said. “As a beginner, I crashed it many times, breaking a few pairs of propeller blades, but I learned many things from it. My mother got sick and passed, so that drone was her last gift for me. Now, I want to build better drones and complete her dream.”
After completing secondary school education, Hem joined the temporary police for three months while completing his secondary education. Nepal Flying Labs found him through social media. His story and passion for drone technology were intriguing, and, now, he’s been working with the team for five months. In just three days, he completed Matrice 600 hardware maintenance training. “I am fortunate to be working on the DrOTS project, which is helping me build a career and complete one of my mom’s dreams.”
“I love flying drones every single day and am happy that my work aligns with my passion,” He said. “But there are days when birds attack the drone, and low battery disrupts the whole flight plan. I want to make better medical drones with improved battery and larger payloads.” Hem also wants to build various other types of drones for different purposes, like drones that can transport pints of blood for saving lives during emergencies and drones that can be used to aid farming.
Currently, Hem is flying two flights a day and learning the new Naza assistant software. He wants to improve his software skills and wishes to contribute to local capacity building in the future by teaching others what he has learned. Coming from an impoverished and humble background, all Hem wants are more growth opportunities, and Nepal Flying Labs plans to guide him well by providing better training to make his and his mom’s dream come true.
There are so many tech passionate individuals like Hem, living in remote places of Nepal, lacking the tools and right guidance. Like all other the other Flying Labs in 25+ countries, Nepal Flying Labs wants to find such individuals and support them through engaging programs and training. In this way, we can play our role in decolonizing technology for social good.