UAE Drones for Good award short-lists 39 contestants

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UAE Government-led initiative, the ‘UAE Drones for Good’ award has short-listed 39 contestants from over 800 applicants.

UAE Drones for Good award
The Drones for Good Award aims to harness the technology of unmanned aircraft to improve the lives of people, whether in the UAE or anywhere in the world.

Here is why you should change your perception towards drones. They are not just some annoying flying objects, but can do wonders in the fields of healthcare, safety, disaster relief and even agriculture.

The UAE government has always been on the forefront when it comes to adopting and adapting to the latest technologies to improve people’s lives – including implementing and announcing some big initiatives such as the e-Government, smart cities initiatives and the UAE Drones for Good award,

Very recently, drones got some bad publicity after recreational drones disrupted Dubai Airport operations for an hour. This has prompted calls for rules and regulations on the usage of drones in the UAE.

‘The UAE Drones for Good Award’, launched by the UAE Government in last February, attracted huge participation from all over the world with creative ideas aimed at making optimal use of technology to serve humanity and create happiness in the community.

Touted as one of the biggest of its kind the innovative contest offers prize money worth AED 4.67 million – US$1 million for International Competition and AED 1 million for National Competition.

From over 800 applicants, 39 contestants have now qualified to the semi-finals stage at the National, International and Government competitions of the award.

There are a total of 14 countries competing for US$1 million award in International Competition – with successful entries received from UAE, Saudi Arabia, Kenya, Sudan, Australia, Germany, Canada, USA, UK, Spain, New Zealand, Poland, Switzerland and Singapore.

Spain topped the list with 62 entries, followed by the United States with 47 and India with 34 entries.

The winners of the UAE Drones for Good Award will be announced on February 6 and 7, 2015, at a ceremony in Dubai Internet City with live demonstrations by the contestants in front of a panel of high profile international judges.

The projects offer innovative solutions in the provision of services that benefit humanity, especially in areas such as disaster relief, public health, agriculture, environment, town planning, and logistics.

Here’s some of the exciting projects short-listed and what they have to say on the UAE Drones for Good Award:

Tays Ferrer Gómez and her team from Spain have designed a drone that can transfer organs for transplantation from the donor centres to the receiver in the shortest period of time and as efficiently as possible, keeping the organ alive and reducing chances of rejection.

“All the logistics process involving the donation and transplantation is remodelled; coordinating the communication between hospitals and creating a digital database to collect and organize all the data, streamlining the process and reducing costs and possible document’ losses. Our project would go a step further in the medical system, saving more lives,” said Tays.

“The public perception about UAVs has not been very positive. This is because their use has been for most part been restricted to military or war situations. This competition has helped change the negative view about UAVs.” –Tays Ferrer Gómez

Marc Beltran from Spain has submitted a project that makes detection of landmines not only efficient but also safe.

“There are over 70 countries that have landmines buried in their soil, creating new victims to these deadly weapons every year. Current methods of landmine detection are slow and dangerous so we developed a method to detect mines from the air that doesn’t put people at risk,” said Marc.

“We would like to use the prize money for research and development to increase the reliability of our system and then work together with the demining agencies around the world to help reduce the threat posed by mines.” –Marc Beltran

Tomasz Marek Muszynski from Poland has combined observation, communication and rescue capabilities in one system to develop a drone that can detect drowning people, ensure their safety through wireless audio-video transmission system, and even help tow them to the coast at a speed controlled by a lifeguard.

“We have to use new technologies for improving people’s safety. I’m keen to work with everyone, sharing knowledge freely and selling components without charging for patent rights.” –Tomasz Marek Muszynski

Clinton Burchat from Australia has come up with a project that eliminates the need for a large yard for drones to make package deliveries.

“Current drone delivery methods require you to have a large yard. The delivery is usually done either by landing the drone in your yard or by dropping the package down on a string. Both these solutions pose danger to the recipient, including people, pets and children. The idea of my proposal is to not only make drone delivery accurate by the millimetre but to make it safer at the same time,” said Clinton.

“By organizing this competition, the UAE is helping expand the civil use of drone technology. The benefits of this competition will be seen for many years to come.” –Clinton Burchat

Florian Seibel and his team’s Quantum project combines the advantages of a helicopter with that of a fixed-wing plane to create a drone that can fly longer, further and safer.

According to Florian, due to its high payload capacity and the ability to travel more than 500 km, the Quantum drone can be deployed in a number of areas such as agriculture, humanitarian aid, disaster relief and logistic purposes. What makes the Quantum safe, effective and economical is that even in the event of total power-loss it can glide to a safe landing, said Florian.

“The rest of the world is stuck trying to find regulations and rules to operate civilian UAVs. The UAE has already stepped in to bring changes by encouraging technologies that will improve people’s lives and make this world a much better place.” –Florian Seibel

A team from Singapore has submitted a project to develop a UAV with “built-in fail-safe” and “sense-and-avoid” functions, making it capable of delivering cargos efficiently and safely.

Peidong Liu of the team commended the award initiative, describing it as a good platform for world-wide researchers and UAV experts to share their ideas and brainstorm on ways to improve people’s lives.

David Kiarie from Kenya, whose project uses UAV technology to help in town planning, said: “Government departments dealing with land allocation, human settlement and town planning will now be able to employ the UAV technology in mapping, physical planning and land surveying in urban areas, especially in the slums, with the aim of upgrading the settlements.”

“This initiative is an eye opener and a big opportunity for thousands of people, including manufacturers and resellers involved in the use of civilian applications of UAV technologies.” –David Kiarie

VIDEO: David Kiarie gives us the usage of drones with geographic information system to capture data – helping stakeholders to re-plan, develop or control development in slums.

Mouza Ahmed Al Shemaili and his team, also from the UAE, have developed a multi-copter brand, Ultimate-UAV, which eliminates fog from the atmosphere in an environmental friendly way.

“Our aim is to help drivers by reducing the dangers from low visibility on roads during foggy weather. In addition, the project will support civil aviation by helping avoid airport closures and flight delays, or flight maneuvering above airports, which increases pollution,” Mouza said.

Mouza added: “Taking creative initiatives that serve humanity is not new to UAE. The support of Khalifa University gives us a strong momentum to go forward. In addition, the support of the UAE is also one of the main reasons why we are considered as one of the happiest people among other leading countries. This is because UAE leaders are always thinking of new ways to improve the lives of their citizens.”

Jussi Ängeslevä and his team from Germany utilizes drones to provide bird-eye-view of large architectural structures, which are difficult to appreciate at the ground level. Explaining the way the drone project functions, Jussi said: “The flight path is pre-defined and autonomous, but the view that the audience gets is freely adjustable.”

“It’s a very refreshing new perspective. Instead of using the capabilities of the military or hackers or big corporations, the competition utilizes the creativity of wide field of disciplines to offer innovative uses for this emerging technology.” –Jussi Ängeslevä

Khaled Abdelgawad from Saudi Arabia, whose project uses drones to map and track disaster zones to assist effective rapid response to crisis situation, said: “Our technology provides first responders with situational awareness, mapped damage, established target areas for disaster relief, effective communication with coordinated response plan, and aid in search?and?rescue efforts to identify survivors and recover the lost.”

Khaled added: “We see this award initiative by the UAE as a major step towards using innovation in a positive way to help humanity. Additionally, it is another unique step to foster the UAE vision to be the oasis of technology and innovation in the new century.”

Marco Urs Wuethrich from New Zealand has devised a drone that is capable of providing aerial support to coastguard rescue vessels searching for people or boats in distress situations.

“The running cost of a rescue boat is at least NZ$500 [about US$393] per hour, this figure does not take into consideration maintenance and training costs. Flying a drone is significantly cheaper, making it very economical to operate compared to the existing available search and rescue options,” said Marco.

“The UAE is taking the initiative that many countries should be doing in the name of humanity. It is great to see that the initiative has been launched by the progressive thinking government, acknowledging the need of UAV applications today and in the future,” Marco added.

The Flyability team from Switzerland has developed Gimball, a drone that can enter confined spaces and fly safely close to humans, proving to be very effective in rescue missions. “Our game-changing drone is capable of colliding with obstacles without losing its stability and, is protected by a rotating cage around, making it possible to fly very close to humans,” said Patrick Thevoz, one of the members of the Flayability team.

“Drones for Good Award is a unique opportunity to push forward the drone technology further – far from their usual association with military purposes – to help people realize that these flying machines are capable of positively impacting society” –Patrick Thevoz.

Alex Ramirez-Serrano from Canada has come up with a highly maneuverable UAV that can help locate and rescue persons from buildings on fire, collapsed building, mines, or other urban and industrial entrapments.

“This UAV is able to autonomously maneuver in highly confined environments such as collapsed buildings, and under the tree canopy,” said Alex, adding that the UAV units can be customized to any size – from a show box size to a medium size unit. The drones will also be user friendly requiring minimal training to operate them.

“Many countries are slowly trying to put regulations in place restricting the use of drones in civil and commercial applications, which is preventing the development of drone technology. It is great to see the UAE take the initiative in this type of applications and promote the use and development of such devices. The UAE has the vision and is able to go where others can only imagine.” –Alex Ramirez-Serrano 

Andrew Bartos from Australia submitted a project that can play a crucial role in disaster relief. “The concept of our project is in its name, FRIENDS, the First Response Infrastructure Emergency Network Drone System. Our disaster relief drones would be able to transport small but vital amounts of food, medicine, water purification, solar power, lighting, communication equipment, temporary shelters, and other supplies to support small communities until permanent links can be re-established,” said Andrew.

Describing the UAE initiative as a forward thinking action that will help propel drones from novel or military applications to meaningful humanitarian ones, Andrew said: “We think it is a generous and visionary step to help push the technology to the next level, and in the process help benefit communities around the world.”

The BCE system of Lauren Fletcher from the UK uses emerging UAV technologies to replant deforested areas at significantly lower costs and higher planting rates than can currently be achieved.

“BCE’s system will revolutionize not only commodity planting activities in lumber and pulp and paper sector, but also help mining companies, NGOs and governments in rehabilitation efforts. Due to its modular nature, the system will empower not only large scale operators, but small groups and local communities as well,” said Lauren.

“The public’s imagination of UAV-based applications is focused on the destructive potential of drones and their associated machinery. The Drones for Good Award highlights the positive side of this technology that addresses the ever-more complex challenges facing our connected world.” –Lauren Fletcher

In another entry in the field of environment, Carlo Ratti and his team has developed Waterfly, an autonomous environmental sensing platform, designed to map the ecological health of water.

“Fleets of self-guided quadcopters – moving in hierarchical formations, transmitting data among them in real time – are deployed across lakes and rivers to gather unprecedented data on the patterns and behaviour of our surrounding waterborne ecologies. Equipped with a variety of onboard sensors, these flying robots work together as a swarm to gather high-resolution, spatiotemporal data on a range of environmental factors,” Carlo said.

“This safe and robust platform is able to conduct its operations on the water day-after-day, gathering invaluable data for further environmental research, said Carlo, adding that the Waterfly project will have a key role considering that water quality is one of the greatest challenges facing humanity in the years to come.

Commending the UAE effort to raise the discussion on new positive uses of unmanned aerial vehicles, Carlo said: “We are deeply committed to such an approach: testing new technologies in the public arena to generate a debate and ultimately foster human progress.”

Putting UAV technology into effective use in a unique area, Marcus Fritzsche from Germany has created a drone that can assist window-cleaners to increase their productivity and safety. The drone will also allow the creation of new architectural building designs which do not require facade elevators. In fact, the operational costs of drones will be much lesser than using facade-elevators or cranes, Marcus said.

“We believe that UAVs will have a key role in civilian applications in the near future. Therefore the launch of the award by the UAE is a far-sighted initiative that supports human needs and encourages potential use of civilian UAVs.”Marcus Fritzsche

Arnau Garcia Terrades from Spain, who is part of the Ranger Drone Project, said their effort was aimed at improving the services of natural parks using an economical, versatile and manageable fleet of UAVs.

“The Ranger Drone Project allows a better management of the natural park resources through improved surveillance to help combat poachers, control wildlife, study the risk of fire and perform search and rescue operations,” said Arnau.

“The award is great idea that will encourage sharing of knowledge and raise the possibility of using this highly advanced technology to improve people’s lives.” –Arnau Garcia Terrades

A project from Sudan uses an innovative airborne intelligent agricultural system with hovering capability to plant seeds and collect plant samples for further analysis. Called smart agriculture payload (SAP), the system supports precision agriculture to maximize food production, minimize environmental impact and reduce cost, said Mohamed Ahmed Abdul Aal, who is part of the SAP team.

Thanking the UAE Drones for Good team for launching the award, Mohamed said the initiative will help change the perception of the world towards drone technology and encourage its development for the good of mankind.

Over to you! what are your thoughts on the usage of drones for improving our lives? share with us in the comments below.

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