The "GimBall" has just won the $1 million first prize in the "Drones for Good" competition. It is designed to access hard-to-reach areas such as burning buildings and nuclear disaster sites. Its robust outer structure means it is the first "collision-tolerant" drone in the world, according to is creators -- Swiss company Flyability. As well as negotiating tight spaces it can roll along ceilings and floors, map its surroundings and beam images back to emergency services. Flip through the gallery to see the semi finalists from the competition.
The Transition UAV by researchers at Germany's Quantum Systems, is designed as an agricultural solution. The drone evaluates crop conditions, monitoring their health and devising a fertilization strategy. It then feeds back this information to farmers, who will know exactly the right information about of water and nutrition their crop requires for optimal growth. Its name derives from the drone's propellers. The drone lifts off like a helicopter, but once in the air the front propellers pivot forward 90 degrees, the drone then flying like a conventional airplane. This improves efficiency and increases its range greatly, the engineers claiming it can travel up to 500km.
The Waterfly drone operates in a team to scan lakes and rivers for traces of cyanobacteria, harmful to both humans and wildlife. The drone, created by a team of MIT researchers, first identifies certain colors on the water via spectral analysis, before lowering itself onto the surface to collect a sample. This is scanned by the drone before the analytic data is uploaded to the web automatically.
Coastguard New Zealand designed a drone to detect and aid people adrift at sea. Operating independently for long periods of time, the drone flies in search patterns in advance of coastguard vehicles, identifying victims, dropping life vests and rafts whilst relaying their position to emergency services.
"Dronlife" by Innova, a team of Spanish university students, seeks to navigate the problematic field or organ transportation. Donated organs only last a matter of hours outside the body, and a traffic jam can be a matter of life and death for the recipient. Their solution is to transport organs by air in a temperature-controlled vessel, greatly hastening the process and potentially saving lives.
The entry by BioCarbon Engineering, seen here with team lead Lauren Fletcher, set itself the ambitious task of planting one billion trees a year to counter deforestation. The system utilizes two drones; the first maps the topology, soil types, nutrient and moisture levels, drawing up an optimal planting route. The second drone follows that path, firing pre-germinated seed pods into the ground from a height of two meters. Seeds are encased in a nutrient-rich gel to increase the chances of growth, which also acts as a shock absorber upon impact.
The Rapid Response Drone Mapping and Tracking device is a project intended for disaster zones. A drone first 3D maps a site before sending in MicroUAV drones for search and rescue purposes. Using RGB, thermal and multispectral imaging the drones identify victims, deposit life-sustainment packs and GPS tag victims' locations for disaster relief services. It's the work of Falcon Viz -- based at King Abdullah University of Science and Technology, in Saudi Arabia.
The National University of Singapore's entry was designed as a fully autonomous delivery system. The team behind it demonstrated that the drone could safely lift, transport and descend with its cargo without human interference, and could even deliver onto moving surfaces.
The "Surveying Robot" was designed to cater for those in the densely populated urban slums in Kenya. The project aims to provide easier access for emergency services and humanitarian organizations, deliver items in hard-to-reach areas and alleviate traffic.