New York University Abu Dhabi students have taken top honours at the national UAE Drones for Good Award with their Wadi Drone submission, which leverages commercial drone technology and proprietary software for wildlife conservation and environmental protection. The Wadi Drone collects data in regions where deploying communications infrastructure would spoil the natural heritage, or present a human risk to physically retrieving data. The Wadi Drone is a fixed wing airplane with a 2.5-metre wingspan carrying a small communications payload that retrieves information from ground-based scientific measurement devices.
Created by the UAE Government, the UAE Drones for Good Award invited the most innovative and creative minds from around the world to find solutions that will improve people's lives and provide positive technological solutions to modern day issues. The National competition is dedicated to rewarding the best, most practical ideas for using Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) technologies to improve government services in the Emirates.
The Wadi Drone team is comprised of four NYUAD students: Martin Slosarik, Ting-Che Lin, Vasily Rudchenko, Kai-erik Jensen. Matt Karau, a visiting instructor and research associate, is the team's faculty adviser. The team collaborated with the Emirates Wildlife Society and the country's first national park, Wadi Wurayah National Park located in Fujairah, on the development of the Wadi Drone.
Martin Slosarik, studying electrical engineering at NYUAD, said, "We developed the idea for this project in careful consideration of where drones can and should exist to do good for the benefit of society. It is a great honour to win the national UAE Drones for Good Award, and we applaud the UAE Government and His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai for creating a competitive environment that invites thinkers and tinkerers from around the world to deeply consider the role drones may play in achieving innovative solutions and positive outcomes for humanity." In Wadi Wurayah National Park the drone flies over mountains and through valleys to wirelessly download photographs taken by ground-based camera traps that automatically capture images of wildlife as they pass in front of the camera's motion sensor. The Wadi Drone serves the conservation efforts of the Emirates Wildlife Society both by increasing the rate at which photographic data of wildlife and potential poachers can be analysed by experts, and by reducing the human risk associated with the current method of hiking to retrieve photos from remote camera traps. Wadi Drones further eliminate the need to employ an expensive helicopter to reach camera traps during the summer months when the heat makes it too dangerous to hike.
Working with the Emirates Wildlife Society, the team will use the Dh 1 million prize to implement the Wadi Drone project in Wadi Wurayah National Park, and will look to expand the programme regionally, and internationally.