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Drones for Good: Loon Copter wins $1 million prize

Sunday, 7 February, 2016

The winner of the $1 million prize at the Drones for Good event in Dubai this weekend was the Loon Copter, a prototype drone that can fly, float and swim underwater. Equipped with a “buoyancy chamber” that fills with water, the drone can sink beneath the surface, tilt 90 degrees and use its four rotors to swim around. This piece of ingenuity is the product of the Embedded System Research Lab at Oakland University in Rochester, Michigan. Its potential uses include searching for sunken objects, environmental monitoring and underwater structure inspection.

The Robotics Award for Good went to SuitX, an exoskeleton system designed to improve the physiological gait development of children. It’s a product of the Robotics and Human Engineering Laboratory at the University of California. “SuitX is just one of the companies hoping to boost interest in exoskeleton research,” writes Signe Brewster in MIT Technology Review. “Competing suits like the ReWalk, which costs $70,000 and weighs about 50 pounds, are striving to reduce costs while improving functionality. If exoskeleton makers can drive suit costs down to a few thousand dollars, they could start competing with motorized wheelchairs.”

The winners of the UAE national competition were the BuilDrone team, who designed a drone that can detect and repair leaks in pipelines, and students from Ajman University, who developed a smart guidance system for the blind that assists them in avoiding obstacles using a vibration signals.

Yes, we need to keep a close watch on those nerds, but drones, robots and AI can be, and are, a force for good.


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