While the 2016 UAE Drones for Good Award is now accepting submissions, the winner of last years National Prize, the Wadi Drone built by the NYU Abu Dhabi Team is already being used at the Wurayah National Park. Wurayah National Park is “UAE’s first mountain protected national park.”
The ultralight Wadi Drone can fly for 1.5 hours across some 40km of the Wadi, which is the “UAE’s first mountain protected national park. The drone collects data from 120 camera traps that capture images of wild animals at the park” (1). Thanks to Wadi Drone, rangers no longer have to hike through the park (often facing temperatures upwards of 45 degrees Celsius) to manually collect the SD cards from each of the 120 cameras scattered across the area. Instead, the drone simply flies over the cameras and uploads the pictures directly to an onboard memory card. To date, these cameras have enabled park rangers and conservationists to identify more than 800 specifies, such as foxes, wildcats and lynxes.
The design was originally intended for conservation efforts, such at the effort in Wurayah National Park, but as Patrick Meier points out in his article “Can This Unique Conservation Drone Be Used for Disaster Response?,” the Wadi could easily be repurposed for humanitarian relief efforts.
What if we used the Wadi Drone to collect relevant data from humanitarian base camps in the field during disasters? Connectivity and bandwidth can often be an issue in these situations. Could we use a version of the Wadi Drone to collect data on damage assessments, resulting needs, etc., along with pictures directly from the field? Laptops and/or smartphones could simply be retrofitted to push relevant data to the drone flying overhead, which would then return to HQ where (hopefully) a more solid Wifi or 3G/4G connection is available.
Am I completely off here, or is this something worth exploring? I hope my more seasoned humanitarian colleagues will chime with some of their thoughts. Is there a role for data-carrying drones in the humanitarian space? Keep in mind that drones are not immune to Moore’s Law.
Wadi Drone (UAE Drones for Good Winner, National Category, 2015)