x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Swiss search-and-rescue drone wins UAE competition

The team, named Flyability, impressed judges with their Gimball, a collision-proof search-and-rescue drone that is designed to manoeuvre safely in complex and dangerous environments.

Patrick Thevoz, the leader of Flyability, showcases Gimball, his Swiss team’s award-winning search-and-rescue drone. EPA
Patrick Thevoz, the leader of Flyability, showcases Gimball, his Swiss team’s award-winning search-and-rescue drone. EPA

DUBAI// A Swiss team has won the US$1 million first prize in the international category of the UAE’s Drones for Good competition.

The team, named Flyability, impressed judges with their Gimball, a collision-proof search-and-rescue drone that is designed to manoeuvre safely in complex and dangerous environments.

Patrick Thevoz, leader of Flyability, said the cash prize was “game-changing” for his group.

He said the team was struggling to find funding to develop its drone, but winning the competition meant that it could develop the vehicle commercially within a year.

“We’re going to be able to hire two more engineers, invest in more advanced sensing technology and more robust materials,” said Mr Thevoz.

The Drones for Good competition, which is the first of its kind, was launched at the Government Summit last year. This year’s final round of competition will take place at Dubai Internet City at the weekend.

Mr Thevoz said the competition was inspirational “because while there are many awards for academic research, there aren’t many for the social application of new technology”.

The Gimball is able to access confined spaces and safely fly close to people, which make it particularly useful for rescue operations.

A rotating cage protects the drone, enabling it to negotiate obstacles without losing its stability.

Etisalat won the UAE Government Entities Award, while Wadi Drones won $1m (Dh3.7m) for placing first in the national competition category.

Last weekend, 39 semi-finalists in the three categories showcased their designs before a panel of international judges.

Other finalists in the international category include drones for reforestation, urgent transport of organs, delivery catchment systems, and monitoring of crop conditions.

“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,” said Mohammed Al Gergawi, the 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.”

The prizes were presented in the presence of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, and Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed, Minister of Presidential Affairs and Deputy Prime Minister.

nhanif@thenational.ae