The winner of the Drone Social Innovation Award has just been announced! The $10,000 prize is awarded to the most socially beneficial, documented use of a UAV platform that costs less than $3,000. The purpose of this award is to “spur innovation, investment, and attention to the positive role this technology can play in our society.” Many thanks to my colleague Timothy Reuter for including me on the panel of judges for this novel Social Innovation Award, which was kindly sponsored by NEXA Capital Partners.
Here’s a quick look at our finalists!
Disaster Relief in the Philippines
Using low-cost UAVs to take high-resolution imagery of disaster-affected areas following Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines. The team behind these efforts is also working with NGOs from around the world to enable them to use this simple technology for situational awareness in times of crisis. The team is also developing platforms to deliver critical items to locations that are difficult to access in post-disaster scenarios.
Taking Autism to the Sky
Teaching young children with autism how to build and fly their own UAVs. The team behind this initiative to scale their work and teach autistic kids both better social skills and “concrete skills in drone technology that could get them a job one day. It’s just one of the many proposed uses of drones in schools and in science and technology education.”
Crowd Estimation with UAVs
While this entry focuses specifically on the use of UAVs and algorithms to determine the size of social movements (e.g., rallies & protests), there may be application to estimating population flows in refugee and IDP settings. I have a blog post on this topic coming up, stay tuned!
Drones for environmental conservation
Aerial photos and videos helped to direct millions in funding to acquire and preserve hundreds of acres of valuable habitat and strategic additions to public park space. “In a single glance, an aerial photo allows you understand so much more about location than a view from the ground.”
Bosnia-Herzegovina has one of the highest densities of land mines in the world. So this team from Barcelona is exploring how UAVs might accelerate the process of land mine detection. See this post to learn about another UAV land mine detection effort following the massive flooding in the region this summer.
Whale Research and Conservation
Using benign research tools like UAVs to prove you can study whales without killing them. This allows conservationists to study whales’ DNA along with their stress hormones without disturbing them or requiring the use of loud and expensive airplanes.
And the award goes to… (drum roll please)… not one but two entries (yes it really was a tie)! Big congratulations to the teams behind the Land Mine Detection and Disaster Response projects! We really look forward to following your progress. Thank you for your important contributions to social innovation!
We are hoping to making this new “Drone Social Innovation Award” an annual competition (if the stars align again next year). So stay tuned. In the meantime, many thanks again to Timothy Reuter for spearheading this social innovation challenge, to my fellow judges, and most importantly to all participants for taking the time to share their remarkable projects!
- Crowdsourcing the Analysis of Aerial Imagery for Wildlife Protection and Disaster Response [link]
- Humanitarians in the Sky: Using UAVs for Disaster Response [link]
- Official UN Policy Brief on Humanitarian UAVs [link]
- Crisis Map of UAV Videos for Disaster Response [link]
- Humanitarian UAV Missions During Balkan Floods [link]
- UAVs, Community Mapping & Disaster Risk Reduction in Haiti [link]