Collision-proof drone wins $1 million UAE innovation prize

A Swiss team won top honors for its search-and-rescue drone design in United Arab Emirates 'Drones for Good' contest.

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

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.

Wyatt Kash

Written by Wyatt Kash

Wyatt Kash is an award-winning editor and journalist who has been following government IT trends for the past decade. He joined Scoop News Group in June 2014, as Vice President of Content Strategy, where he heads up the company's content strategy and editorial product development. Prior to joining SNG, Mr. Kash served as Editor of , where he developed content and community relations for the government technology market, covering big data, cloud computing, cybersecurity, enterprise architecture, mobile technology, open government and leadership trends. Previously, he co-led an AOL start team, where he helped create, launch, manage and market an online news platform, featuring advanced social media strategies, aimed at government, defense and technology industry executives. Mr. Kash has also held positions with The Washington Post Co. and subsequently 1105 Media, as Editor-in-Chief of and , where he directed editorial strategy and content operations for print, online, and mobile products and industry events. Contact the writer at or on Twitter at @wyattkash.

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