Drones: what are they good for?

.Gov takes a look at the UAE Drones for Good initiative, which aimed to develop and promote how drones can be used for positive purposes.

Tags: DronesDubai Health AuthorityDubai Internet CityDubai PoliceFlyability (www.flyability.com/)United Arab Emirates
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Drones: what are they good for? The Drones For Good competition set out to showcase positive uses for drones. (ITP Images)
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By  Mark Sutton Published  March 26, 2015

The potential to use unmanned aerial drones for positive purposes has been highlighted by the finals of the first ever ‘Drones for Good’ competition, which took place at Dubai Internet City last month.

The competition, , which was launched at the 2014 Government Summit by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, was intended to encourage the development of positive humanitarian and economic uses of drones. Over 800 submissions were received from around the world for the competition, with 39 taking part in the finals which were held over the weekend on 8-9th February.

Majed Al Suwaidi, managing director, Dubai Internet City, explained: “The Drones for Good initiative was launched by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum at the UAE Government Summit in 2014, and seeks to promote technology to serve humanity and create happiness worldwide.

“Drones have become synonymous with airstrikes and violence over the past decade, and the competition looks at ways that drones and technology can be used for the good and service of people, and encourages innovation and creativity across the technology and ICT industry.”

The competition was split into three categories, with awards for International, National and UAE Government Entities. An international committee judged the entries on several criteria including safety, effectiveness, economic feasibility, and efficiency.

Among the many entries were solutions for search and rescue, environmental monitoring, farming and reforestation, ecological projects and government services.

“More than 800 submissions poured in from 57 countries, all of which presented a human need and proposed a solution. The criteria for entrants was that their solution must be progressive and utilise the most advanced civilian drones available, and they must be able to build working prototypes within three years,” said Al Suwaidi.

“I was extremely impressed by the innovative designs presented by all of the competitors, and the event was a true demonstration of creativity and talent.

The winner of the International award was Swiss company Flyability, which picked up a $1 million prize for its ‘Gimball’ drone. The drone has been designed for operations in confined spaces and to operate safely in close proximity to humans. The drone is protected by a rotating cage, which makes it capable of colliding with obstacles in challenging environments without losing its stability, the Gimball is said to be highly effective in rescue missions.

Flyability team lead Patrick Thevoz said: “We struggled to find funding to develop our search and rescue drone, but this UAE Government Summit initiative, Drones for Good, means we can commercially develop our project within a year, and with Flyability able to go where it is dangerous for rescuers, help save lives.

“The Drones for Good Award is the first of its kind. It is inspirational, because while there are many awards for academic research there aren’t many for the social application of new technology. It allows passionate teams like us to move forward and make this a reality. The Drones for Good Award is a unique opportunity to help people realise that these flying machines are capable of positively impacting society,” he added.

Other finalists in the international competition included drones for reforestation, urgent transportation of organs, delivery catchment systems and monitoring of crop conditions.

The five finalists in the International Competition were Flyability’s Collision Resistant Drone (Switzerland); Quantum – Transition UAV (Germany); BioCarbon Engineering’s ‘Drones for Planting 1 Billion Trees a Year’ (UK); Skynet’s Delivery Catchment System (Australia); and Innova’s Dronlife (Spain).

The winners of the UAE Government Entities Award and the National Competition were Etisalat and the Wadi Drones project respectively.

Etisalat’s drone is designed to enable or improve GSM coverage in situations such as disaster relief. By connecting to the Thuraya satellite network, the drone is able to extend coverage and allow users to stay in touch with their regular mobile phone, instead of requiring satellite phones or radio.

The Wadi drone project is helping to monitor flora and fauna in the UAE’s Wadi Wurayah National Park. The park, which includes quite inaccessible terrain, is covered by 120 camera traps which capture images of animals within the wadis. Because of the remote location, environment observers were only able to physically access all of the camera traps twice in a year, with helicopters required for some of the most difficult locations. The Wadi drone is able to fly over the camera traps, and wirelessly download photos from them. This enables monitors to collect from the traps once a month, vastly improving the monitoring of the park.

“The UAE Drones for Good Award is a tangible outcome of the vision of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum to make optimal use of innovation and technology for the service of humanity. The UAE Drones for Good award exemplifies our commitment to setting global benchmarks in this endeavour,” said His Excellency Mohammed Abdullah Al Gergawi, UAE Minister of Cabinet Affairs.

“I congratulate the winners of this great competition, which showed the amazing ways we can use drones for good. All the entries have the capability to transform the world to make it a better place to live in and we are optimistic that they will continue to inspire new breakthroughs,” he added.

554 days ago
Drone Free

I think the use of drones will primarily involve phodrography whether that is to take videos or phodros or just to get a view from that height. Regulation is important as it brings safety but also professionalism to an exciting technology.

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