Student Designs Communications Drone for Disaster Relief

photoHilmi Hacaloğlu, public domain

photoHilmi Hacaloğlu, public domain

A college student at Staffordshire University in the UK has designed a disaster relief drone that will set up an emergency communications network.

The drone concept was exhibited at the New Designers exhibit in England last month.  Luqmaan Patel, the designer of the drone, said that he was inspired by a desire to assist in disaster relief.   “This idea came to me when I was looking into R/C drone technology, and around that time the unfortunate Nepal earthquake had taken place. I felt there was more application for drones, than just simply flying and taking landscape images, I wanted to push the application forward and create more of a beneficial use for drones,” he says in his designer statement.

The drone, which he named Exigency, sets up a temporary communications infrastructure.  Patel says that research shows communications infrastructure is one of the first to fail and can take about 72 hours to reconstruct.  Exigency could be deployed within an hour of a disaster and set up by Microsoft engineers.  The drone would set up a communications hotspot for about 10 km, or a little over 6 miles. The communications network would allow victims to contact family and rescuers to communicate on relief efforts.

The drone is another example of the disaster relief work being performed by drones and drone operators – following the Nepal earthquake, relief teams from drone software companies and manufacturers around the world contributed to reconstruction efforts.  Drones have been used to create 3D models of disaster struck areas, to identify road blocks, to demonstrate the size and scope of a disaster’s impact, and in the immediate aftermath, to locate victims for rescue.

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