Crash-Proof Drone Secures Million Dollar Grant

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A Swiss flying robotics company called Flyability has nabbed the highly competitive Drones For Good Award with Elios, a collision-tolerant drone designed to navigate places that may be too precarious for humans.

The United Arab Emirates launched the international contest to draw attention to the many potential humanitarian applications of these UAVs, which are commonly associated with faceless military attacks and bombings. Contenders submitted proposals from all around the globe in hopes of securing first place, which boasted a US$1 million reward.

Flyability’s crash-proof drone features a spherical carbon-fiber cage that protects it from collisions and enables it to probe difficult-to-reach locations with no risk to the mechanics of the vehicle.

“We offer safe operations for inaccessible places, to avoid human injury in confined spaces,” Flyability CEO Patrick Thevoz explained in an interview with DroneLife.

Although originally intended for industrial inspections of cramped indoor spaces, Elios has proven itself equally valuable as a resource in outdoor search-and-rescue scenarios. To demonstrate this, Flyability recently tested the drone’s ability to navigate an icy crevasse in the Zermatt Glacier, a perilous landscape that could put human rescue teams at high risk.

The 15-inch UAV beat out several formidable opponents in the Drones For Good competition, including a squad of reforestation drones that could aerially shoot seeds into the soil, a drone designed to detect the 120,000 remnant landmines buried within Bosnia-Herzegovina, and a drone that would provide critical data on Kenyan slums that lack the infrastructure necessary for access to sanitation services.