The drone competition is starting this week. What is its goal?
Drones have many benefits. This technology lets people record places that aren’t easily accessible to humans or offer live transactions of various events. However, drones might be used for search and rescue operations (SAR). The tech developers are working to advance this technology to that end.
Consequently, Salina Airport is hosting the Drone competition this week. Its hanger has become a testing ground for new kinds of drones created specifically to help first responders. The United States aims to create drones that will enable people to assess the situation effectively in times of crisis and help to plan the rescue. In this scenario, the drones should do the search part.
Nine teams from different states of the United States are participating in a competition. The goal is to advance this automatic aircraft’s technology.
Duncan Mulgrew, Uniform Sierra Aerospace Co-founder, and CEO, stated that they issued a huge engineering challenge. To achieve success in this endeavor, the aircraft must be able to fly outdoors in the same way it does indoors. The company wants it to be predictable as well as easy to use. That is especially important when people use drones in high-stress situations. In such cases, there is no time for any kind of malfunctioning, as the latter might hinder the whole operation and result in losing lives.
One of the founders of this competition is the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). This is the fourth event, and nine teams from various universities and companies will participate in it, flying their drones to test them and reveal the winner. K-State Salina Aerospace and Technology campus are NIST’s partners.
How does NIST plan to advance this tech?
Terese Manley from NIST Public Safety Communications Research Division noted that the university uses competitions and challenges to advance some of its external research. Currently, it’s trying to ascertain what needs improvement and how to make drones more efficient to aid first responders in their missions better. Manley also pointed out that this technology has a lot of potential and could prove very useful in SAR operations.
Meanwhile, Topeka Fire Department Division Chief Alan Stahl stated that in such cases, it’s really nice to get additional information, especially when you are searing large areas. That will save rescue teams much time and effort and could be crucial in some situations.
Uniform Sierra Aerospace co-founder Mulgrew will participate in the competition himself. He will fly a drone indoors, though, and assist first responders in places with limited visibility or access.
Mulgrew noted that outside, people can use GPS to position the aircraft. But when they go inside, they often lose that GPS signal. As a result, they have to depend on other info delivered from the aircraft sensors to decide where to position it. In buildings, they use a LIDAR and various optical-flow-based positioning sensors, but if people could use drones to assist with indoor disasters, as well as search and rescue, that could revolutionize the field and save numerous lives.
Stahl believes that drones will help increase the ability and speed of rescue teams. The competition’s reward budget is $685,000, and the best team will receive $100,000.
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