Drones for Demining and Disaster Relief Win Drone Social Innovation Award

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Projects using unmanned aerial systems to detect landmines and help disaster victims in the Philippines received the Drone Social Innovation Award, a $10,000 cash prize created to spur the creative use of low-cost drones for socially beneficial causes. The award was announced on Saturday at an awards ceremony in Dallas, TX.  “These projects represent some of the most exciting and important ways people are using drones to make the world a better place,” Drone User Group Network Founder Timothy Reuter noted at the group’s annual conference where the award was presented.
Dozens of projects were submitted competing for the prestigious prize. “We received an incredible variety of entries ranging from people using drones to teach STEM skills to kids on the autism spectrum, collecting whale snot for marine conservation research, and recording the size of protest movements in countries that are trying to suppress dissidents.” Reuter said. “What’s most exciting to us about this technology is that as drones become cheaper and easier to use we are seeing innovation being driven by individuals and non-profits in addition to the traditional government and big business users.”
Award winner Charles Devaney, the Global UAV Program Director at Linking the World, said “Our work has focused on using UAVs to provide NGOs and first responders with imagery for immediate situational awareness in disaster response settings such as after Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines. We decided to participate in this competition to share the work we were doing with a wider audience. The prize money will help us update our equipment for the upcoming storm season, and to expand the countries we are able to support.”
“There are over 70 countries that have landmines buried in their soil with new victims from these weapons every year. Current methods of detection are slow and dangerous, so we developed a new method to detect mines from the air that doesn’t put people at risk.” said Marc Beltram of CATUAV, the other award winner.
The Drone Social Innovation Award was organized by the Drone User Group Network, an association of community organization dedicated to teaching people how to use unmanned aerial vehicles, and sponsored by the UAS America Fund and NEXA Capital Partners.  “We are happy to support encouraging the next generation of socially beneficial applications of UAVs,” said Matthew Bieschke, President of the UAS America Fund, which is in the process of raising billions of dollars for investment in commercialization of the growing unmanned aircraft market.

The $10,000 in prize money will be split between the two winning projects. Entrants were required to submit a YouTube video as well as a brief project write up and were judged on the basis of the depth and breadth of their project’s social impact as well as on how easy it would be for other individuals or community groups to replicate their efforts. In order to make this contest accessible to as wide a range of participants as possible, the cost for the aerial vehicle was not allowed to exceed $3,000.

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