UAE Drones for Good Award

Earlier this year, I posted in What drones can do stating that I attended UAE Drones for Good Award. As promised here is my article.

Drones in the UAE

Drone is an unmanned aerial or combat vehicle that has become a known tool in the military. However, there are other ideas in which this device can be of use. UAE Drones for Good Awards announced last year at the UAE Government Summit by His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the United Arab Emirates. He created a platform for drone developers to present their ideas using the drone technology. They have three categories; National, International and Government.

Wadi Drones during their presentation

The winners were announced on the 7th of February 2015 at Dubai Internet City. For the National category, NYU (New York University) Abu Dhabi students and faculty team, Wadi Drones won Dh1 million. The conservative drone will help the park rangers to inspect Wadi Wurayah National Park which they originally have to do so on foot. During summer season, it is with great difficulty at times to do the job not only because of the heat, but also from danger of cliff falling and wild animals. With Wadi Drones, they will be facing less risks. The Wadi Drones can do the job for them by collecting data like salinity and atmospheric data around the park.

Flyability, a Swiss company, won the international category with USD1 million (Dh3.67 million). Their drone is focused on deploying to difficult areas during fire and disasters which is usually done by search and rescue teams who face life threatening situations.

Etisalat won the Government category. Their drone can go to remote areas, like the desert and mountains, where the telecommunication signals are low. It strengthens the signal wherever it goes. This will help if anyone needed to call the police or coast guards for rescue.

Drones for society

These ideas are great and are one step ahead in utilizing drone as a useful tool for our society. However, will drones really help the UAE? According to Xavier Esparrich, Senior Aviation Consultant from ALG (Advanced Logistics Group) Indra Business Consulting, drones that were originally developed for military purposes can be used for civil applications. They can be used for surveillance and earth observation.

There are commercially made drones available in the public market. These drones are made for hobby purposes. Regulating different types of drones in the UAE might be difficult but according to Xavier Esparrich, there are civil aviation authorities in each nation which adhere to international standards and regulations. In the UAE, it is the General Civil Aviation Authority which issues a national regulation to control the use of drones in the civil airspace.

George Held, Vice President Commerce in Digital Services, Etisalat Group, stated that in the UAE, the best authoritative bodies to regulate drones are the TRA (Telecommunications Regulatory Authority) and the UAE’s Civil Defense. He stressed that these two bodies are the best in regulating drones as they both have the right jurisdiction in the UAE concerning drone technology.

Frederico Renda with educational drones at the UAE Drones for Good Award

Other than regulating the use of drones, will the drones disturb the peace of the country and what about the safety measures? According to Frederico Renda, Post Doc Fellow at Khalifa University, each drone that is developed for civil purposes are designed in such a way where it does not harm or endanger the public. Other than its applications to do a certain job, it is designed to meet certain safety measures.

For example, the commercial drones are just made for leisure purposes and nothing else but a drone that entered in the UAE Drones for Good Award have a skill programmed in them to do a certain job. Both drones have different safety measures as both are designed distinctly for different reasons.

Serving forward

It may be easy to say that the use of drone technology for civil use is still in the research and development stage. However, drones have been around for many years in the military. According to Xavier Esparrich, there has been a reduction in human loss, specially for pilots, in the military when the drone technology had been introduced.

Drones have been successful at achieving what they needed to do in the military. To use it as a tool in our society; it has to be approached wisely. When a new technology is discovered, it needs to be applied ethically especially if it can promote progress in our society.

In Singapore, Infinium Robotics have developed drones to serve you your food at a restaurant, BBC reports. Imagine having drones delivering your food to your table from the kitchen. It may sound surreal right now but it has started. Edward Chia, managing director of Timbre Group, which runs several restaurants in Singapore, plans to buy 40 drones to work in six of their locations.

Due to new visa regulations in Singapore, hiring foreign workers for the service industry is difficult. Singaporeans do not want to work in the service industry. This is why Edward Chia welcomes the idea of having drones as servers to solve his problem.

Drone future

George Held (far right) with his Etisalat Drone Squad at the UAE Drone for Good Award

Xavier Esparrich emphasized that the effect of the UAE Drones for Good Awards is very positive. The idea of allowing the developers of drone technology a chance to meet with potential clients who can further raise awareness of the idea of drone technology for civil purposes is outstanding. He said that there are other numerous potential applications, non-military purposes, with the drone technology.

United Arab Emirates have evolved into a growing hub. During the second day of the UAE Government Summit on 11th February 2015 at Madinat Jumeirah, His Highness Sheikh Abdullah Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, UAE Minister of Foreign Affairs mentioned during his speech that though Emiratis come from the desert, through their effort, UAE was able to advance its people, infrastructure and society.

With a very optimistic attitude towards their future, UAE can conquer their dreams. The driving force, to be open minded towards new ideas when it comes to innovation, is very admirable. The future of drones in the UAE is possible as the UAE Government is not afraid to try new things that might give an advantage to their country.

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Originally published at on June 9, 2015.