Drones are now part of the World we live in, whether used for capturing beautiful Photography and Video footage, conservation work or in search-and-rescue operations.

The question is, how do we further the uses of Drones to benefit us as a species and the Planet we live on?

The UAE (United Arab Emirates) Drones for Good Award is a competition held in Dubai, inviting inventors and developers to present their Drone prototypes in the hope of winning a monetary prize to further their projects. The competition launched in 2014 by Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the United Arab Emirates and Ruler of Dubai and has seen incredible drone concepts from around the world.  October 1st 2014 was the submission deadline, with the technical proposal due December 1st 2014. Submissions for the competition must meet certain criteria; they must be looking to the future and use the most advanced civilian UAV technology available, they must describe the human need and suggest new ways of improving an existing service using drones. The Final award ceremony was February 8th 2015 and the winners were announced.

The competition is open to everyone around the world; individuals, teams or companies and consists of two major winners.

The International competition has a first prize of $1,000,000  (about £675 thousand) and rewards prototypes of Drone services that can benefit humanity within the next 3 years.

The winner of this competition was a collision resistant drone for search and rescue. Developed by Patrick Thevoz and his team of engineers, the ‘GimBall’ has the ability to fly into disaster zones to identify where victims are trapped. The unique feature of this Drone is its ability to squeeze into tight spaces, bounce off other objects and roll on floors or ceilings all while causing no harm to the victims that it identifies. Being the winner of this competition enables the team to develop their product. The next step for the Flyability team is to now develop the GimBall specifically for first responders, adding features such as infrared imaging for dark or smoky environments.

The other major award of AED 1Million is to the winner of the National competition category. Entries from the United Arab Emirates must meet slightly different criteria; submission must be; for a real government service in the UAE, be implementable within the next 12 months and be fully autonomous (Full criteria can be seen on their website).

The winner of this category was Matt Karau from the Environmental sector, who saw victory with his National Park drone prototype. Karau has developed a drone, which can fly for up to 40km around the Wadi Wurayah National Park collecting data about plants, and animals in the UAE’s first mountain protected National Park. The drone removes the risk for park rangers, Sami and Ali who hike up to the park to manually get data. The two rangers are exposed to extreme weather condition and temperatures that can reach 47 degrees Celsius during the peak of Summer.

Over the next 3 months, the Wadi Drone will be optimized ready for deployment in 9 months.

There were some incredible entries into the competition, and just because they did not win, does not mean their ideas won’t come to life. The UAE have announced an ‘AI and Robotics for Good’ award and winners will be selected in 2016 in Dubai.

With so many exciting developments, it’s great to see how modern technology can be used to enhance and protect our World.

Written by

Katherine Thomson