Bolaji Fatai has never set foot in an airplane, but that hasn’t stopped him from building his own remote-controlled model aircraft from trash and sending it soaring over the sprawl and chaos of Lagos, Nigeria’s commercial capital.
On a recent cloudy day, the single-propeller plane withstood cross-winds high above a sandy football field and swooped low over the heads of onlookers in Oworonshoki, the poor neighborhood where Fatai lives in the east of the city.
He bought the propeller and remote control in a shop but constructed the body, wings, tail, and fin from pieces of recycled styrofoam gathered at dump sites and held together with sticky tape. The wingspan is about one meter.
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“I started this when I was seven. I started picking things around and making some little projects,” the 21-year-old said.
“Whenever I see an airplane flying, it gives me a very overwhelming joy.”
Fatai’s labour of love is now propelling his dreams: a tech company gave him an internship after he was spotted piloting the plane—an important first step towards his goal of becoming an aeronautical engineer.
“As our country is an underdeveloped country, I hope to be a part of the people that will develop the country using this drone technology,” he said.