With the AUVSI Xponential conference all but done and dusted for 2018, the UAV association has awarded its inaugural XCELLENCE Humanitarian Award to not one but five drone companies for their work in humanitarian and philanthropic drone projects.
Presented on behalf of the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI) at the Colorado Convention Center in Denver, the award was sponsored by leading drone manufacturer DJI.
The five winners recognised for their participation in critical, life-saving missions came from far flung corners of the earth, including Aeryon Labs Inc. of Canada, DroneSAR of Ireland, Nepal Flying Lab or Nepal, ONG DroneSAR Chile and Zipline in Rwanda.
Recognition of excellence in unmanned systems included disaster response and management, search and rescue, and medical assistance.
Aeryon Labs Inc.‘s Skyranger was involved in the assessment of damage in St. Maarten and Dominica following Hurricane Irma. Dave Kroetsch, CTO & Co-Founder of Aeryon Labs Inc., spoke with Drone Below last year about how the Skyranger was able to assist in the disaster response efforts.
“SkyRanger was deployed in response to both Hurricane Harvey (in Texas) and after Irma (in St. Maarten and Dominica). The primary application involved rapidly assessing damage of the islands. In less than two weeks a joint Aeryon and GlobalMedic team mapped 3300 hA at 3-4 cm/pixel resolution across St. Maarten and Dominica. With a resolution of 3 cm/pixel, the SkyRanger images could supplement and even replace existing maps that had a resolution of only 10, 20, or even 50 cm/pixel. With these detailed maps, agencies could create comprehensive damage assessments and prioritize demolition and reconstruction projects, and better plan recovery for critical infrastructure such as power and water lines,” he said.
DroneSAR were recognised for their UAV Search & Rescue Solution, which they have used to execute enhance first response efforts in autonomous aerial searches, by delivering live drone data. The Irish drone search and rescue organisation have also been involved in the DJI and EENA collaboration to develop a drone emergency response framework in Europe.
Nepal Flying Labs are a member of the Flying Labs network nurtured by humanitarian drone company WeRobotics,were awarded for their work in hazard and vulnerability mapping in Nepal, a country known for its sharp changes in altitude.
“In 2017, WeRobotics and Nepal Flying Labs, along with Swiss NGO Medair, set out to map a massive landslide in Nepal using the senseFly eBee plus drone. The flights proved to be difficult, with over 800m in altitude change, but were ultimately completed and an incredible 3D model data-set was generated,” they state on their website.
ONG DroneSAR Chile were recognised for their efforts in emergency response and humanitarian aid using drones.
Zipline International, who recently released what they say is the world’s fastest delivery drone, were the final winner, being awarded for their efforts in medical drone delivery in Rwanda. Zipline have also been instrumental in the development of drone industry regulations in the African country.
Michael Perry, Managing Director of North America at DJI said the company was “thrilled to recognise and reward organisations who have utilised drone technology to make great contributions to their communities and the environment, through AUVSI’s inaugural Humanitarian Awards.”
“We congratulate the winners and thank all those who have participated for sharing the innovative ways they use drones to support humanitarian and life-saving efforts around the world. We hope this award will inspire more organisations and drone operators to accomplish great feats and help others in their community,” he continued.
“As these organisations have shown, unmanned aircraft systems that are typically flown for commercial purposes are also capable of accomplishing vital humanitarian missions,” said Brian Wynne, president and CEO of AUVSI. “With sophisticated on-board cameras and sensors, drones can quickly fly to remote locations or areas that are inaccessible to ground vehicles because of roads blocked by storm debris or flooding.”
The five organisations will share the prize money of $25,000 donation awarded for their ground-breaking work in life-saving humanitarian and philanthropic efforts.