Collision-proof drone wins $1 million UAE innovation prize

Flyability co-founder and CTO Adrien Briod helped engineer an unmanned aircraft system that survives collisions and which won the international "UAE Drones for Good" competition. (Image: Flyability.com)

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A team of engineers from Switzerland who developed a collision-proof drone took the grand prize, worth $1 million, in an international “Drones for Good” contest sponsored by the United Arab Emirates government.

The winning design, developed by Flyability, suspends the propeller platform of a flying drone in a rotating gimbal frame protected by a light-weight roll cage. The device can maneuver indoors or through confined spaces and survive collisions with obstacles without losing its stability.

The device incorporates sensors that allows it to recover from in-flight collisions, according to Adrien Briod, head of technology for Flyability. He takes his “inspiration from insects that navigate very reactively and bump into obstacles when they cannot see them,” he says in a biographical
profile.

Resembling a flying geodesic skeleton the size of a beach ball, Flyability’s GimBall drone was one of 39 semi-finalists in a two-day competition held in Dubai last week as part of the
UAE government’s efforts to advance the use of technology for public service.

The competition was held in conjunction with a UAE Government Summit taking place this week, which focuses on how technology might reshape government and public services through the introduction of drones, robotics and other innovations.

“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,” Flyability team leader Patrick Thevoz said.

“It allows passionate teams like us to move forward and make this a reality. 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,” he said in a statement. With Flyability, public agencies are “able to go where it is dangerous for rescuers (and) help save lives.”

The million dollar international prize, reportedly the largest of its kind in the world for drone innovation, “is a tangible outcome of the vision of (UAE Vice President and Prime Minister) Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum to make optimal use of innovation and technology for the service of humanity,” said Mohammed Abdullah Al Gergawi, UAE minister of cabinet affairs.

Wadi Drone, a 2.2 kilogram drone developed by students and faculty from the Abu Dhabi campus of New York University, took the top prize among
national UAE competitors. The drone has a range of 40 kilometers and was designed to digitally retrieve wildlife images taken by remote camera traps.

Additional unmanned aircraft systems
concepts for public service can be seen at the UAE Drones for Good Award website.

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Drones / UAS, emerging technology, Government IT News, Innovation, Tech, UAE, United Arab Emirates
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