Some are calling it the World Cup for Drones, while the United Arab Emirates (UAE) has simply labeled it the Drones For Good award. Whichever way you spin it, offering up US$1 million in prize money is sure to bring out great ideas from all corners of the globe. The international competition seeks to emphasize the positive capabilities of drones and on Saturday, a team of Swiss technologists took out first prize with a vehicle that flies protected by a spinning cage, helping it to better travel through confined spaces.
Last month we did a roundup of the finalists for the Drones For Good Award, so we won't go over them in great detail here. But the Flyability team from Switzerland beat out some truly big-picture ideas to claim first prize. These include drones that detect landmines, drones that shoot seedpods into the ground to help replantation efforts and drone delivery nets that could form the mailboxes of the future.
We covered the Gimball drone when it first emerged back in 2013, and at first glance the concept is not as eye-catching as those above. It's not promised to save lives, conserve protected rainforests or disrupt the package delivery game, but indirectly, it may prove to have a far greater impact across a number of industries.
The team says its aim in developing Gimball was to mimic the ability of insects to crash into obstacles and continue in flight. To this end, the drone is housed inside a carbon fiber cage, which sits inside another rotating, spherical frame. As the drone crashes into walls, beams and ceilings, the outer frame takes the impact and the inner remains stable, allowing it to continue on its way.
The big advantage is that there is no need for obstacle avoidance sensors and software. Gimball can instead have collisions and use the obstacles to guide it in its path. The team posits that the drone will first find value in search and rescue missions, where drones are sent into disaster zones, such as a nuclear site or war-torn area, for example, to look for survivors.
But working out how drones can be prevented from crashing into things, or at least in a way that doesn't put a stop to their flight, is a legitimate problem for this burgeoning technology could see the Gimball approach pop up in all kinds of applications.
You can see the drone in action and hear from Flyability CEO Patrick Thévoz in the video below.
Source: The UAE Drones For Good Award