Unmanned Systems Australia is happy to announce the sponsorship of Kwabena Ansah, a honours student with the Research School of Physics and Engineering at the Australian National University in Canberra. Kwabena has been working on a master thesis project regarding the development of a delivery mechanism for commercial delivery drones. Unmanned Systems Australia previous work with Google’s Project Wing inspired Kwabena to design a similar system for commercial applications for use in Australia. Recently Kwabena conducted a poster presentation in Canberra about his thesis project, where he had to explain and answer questions about the project being undertaken with Unmanned Systems Australia and received positive feedback on his progress.
We wish Kwabena all the best of luck for the remainder of his studies.
Since 1993, 20,000 people have died in the Mediterranean Sea while fleeing war-torn Africa for the safety of European shores. Now, the world’s first private maritime search and rescue operation is doing everything it can to help them. And they have already saved thousands of lives.
The UN estimates that 207,000 people tried to clandestinely cross the Mediterranean last year. A number that’s accelerating rapidly as conflicts on that continent grow worse. Migrants fleeing Syria and Iraq are adding to their numbers as they travel from the Middle East to Libya before enlisting human traffickers to smuggle them into Europe.
Forget the politics for a second, these are hundreds of thousands of men, women and children taking to the sea aboard what are often unsafe, overcrowded vessels that catch fire and sink and on which they may have inadequate access to food, drinking water and medical supplies.
Pope Francis offered prayers for the victims and called on his followers to help, stating, “Let’s unite our efforts so that tragedies like this don’t happen again. Only a decisive collaboration of everyone can help and prevent them…It is a disgrace.”
In response, the Italian government launched Mare Nostrum, but an American businessman living in Malta, close to the main smuggling routes, also heard the plea.
Christopher Catrambone is an immigrant himself, having moved his family to Malta from his native New Orleans to flee the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Last year, he and his wife Regina say they invested“nearly 50 per cent of our savings” — $US7.5 million — to purchase a 130-foot search and rescue ship, two drones and two inflatable boats, then put them to sea complete with a crew of technical and medical experts. “No one deserves to die at sea,” reads the Migrant Offshore Aid Station’s call to action.
At sea, MOAS patrols the main smuggling route between Libya and Italy, using its two Schiebel CamCopter S-100 drones (above) to search for migrant-carrying vessels that may be in trouble. Each CamCopter is capable of operating at speeds up to 150mph and can remain aloft for over six hours, making the potential search area huge.
If they find a vessel that may be in need of assistance, MOAS then decides to either respond itself aboard the Phoenix I mothership (above) or call in the Italian Coast Guard if the boat in question is in imminent danger. Those extra eyes in the sky are one of MOAS’s main functions, providing additional search and surveillance capabilities to augment the Coast Guard’s own. Identifying at-risk vessels that may be in need of assistance before their situation becomes critical.
“When a migrant vessel is spotted by one of MOAS’s camcopters, we immediately provide visuals to the appropriate official Rescue Coordination Centre to help ascertain the vessel’s condition and the migrants’ needs,” explains the NGO. “We then assist as directed.”
The Phoenix I’s main mission is distributing humanitarian aid to refugees in-transit: water, food, medical aid and medical supplies. If it finds itself in a position to pull migrants off a sinking ship, MOAS is prepared to and has bring them onboard the Phoenix, but then defers to Italian authorities to decide where those refugees are taken.
“MOAS follows the laws of the sea which oblige all vessels to help in case of distress,” it states. “Thus, MOAS will rescue migrants if it is asked to do so by search and rescue authorities or if the situation is an immediate matter of life or death. But our primary aim is to prevent loss of life at sea, not to ferry migrants from one point to another.”
MOAS is able to liaise closely with authorities in part because it employs ex-government and military officials to run its operation. Its director Martin Xuereb, for instance, was formerly the Chief of Defence for Malta while the ship’s captain was formerly that country’s Search Mission Coordinator. Catrambone himself is a defence contractor, providing medical services and insurance to companies operating in war zones.
“There are many larger NGOs trying to reduce poverty and conflict in Africa and beyond,” MOAS explains. “Many also work on integration and asylum once refugees reach Europe. However, at the point where migrants are most vulnerable – when it is a clear matter of life and death – there is an immediate need to act.”
“Last year, 3419 men, women and children died while making the dangerous crossing to Europe…mostly by drowning or dehydration,” the organisations says. During its first 60 days at sea alone, MOAS aided about 3000 people.
Want to help? MOAS relies on donations to supply migrants with emergency rations, water and medical supplies. You can help them buy those supplies through its website.
The Connectivity Lab at Facebook is developing ways to make affordable Internet access possible in communities around the world. The team is exploring a variety of technologies, including high-altitude long-endurance planes, satellites and lasers.
Hear from Mark Zuckerberg on the challenges and opportunities of a new generation of connectivity platforms. Read the paper
In 2013, I made my first trip to Ethiopia. Knowing a bit about the country’s economic circumstances, I fully expected the grim poverty that I’d later encounter. After all, like millions of Americans, I watched the devastating famine there unfold on television in the 1980s.
At the same time, Ethiopia has made great strides since then. Ethiopia halved the number of its undernourished people from 75 percent to 35 percent in two decades, according to the United Nations. Still, that 35 percent is considerable – the U.N.’s World Food Programme estimates that3.2 million Ethiopians need food relief assistance.
So imagine my surprise when I entered a restroom in a small town outside Addis, the capital, and found sensorized urinals – the kind that self-flush. I don’t normally notice urinals, but in Ethiopia, where electricity and indoor plumbing are unreliable at best, sensorized urinals catch your attention. To find something as relatively advanced as a sensorized machine in a small Ethiopian town doesn’t necessarily say much about the country; but it says a lot about the machine.
In particular, it illustrates the potential of sensors and how they could hold the key to significantly reducing the world’s hunger problem. Sensors are everywhere and in everything, at least in developed nations such as the United States. They’ve revolutionized our mobile phones, and are now powering the next wave of wearable tech devices. Sensors are the reason the automotive industry is poised to deliver a driverless car.
The best thing about sensors, aside from their potential? They’re dirt cheap. The average smartphone holds five to seven sensors that cost about $5 combined. In 2007, an accelerometer, which comes standard in all smartphones today, cost $7 — now it costs less than 50 cents. The steep price decline, which has been in place since the early 1990s, is a function of strong competition in the smartphone arena and the growing number of applications using sensor technology. But nothing mandates that sensors are for smartphones only.
Which brings us back to Ethiopia. Now that you see how cheap sensors are today, the notion that a small, dusty town in Ethiopia can afford a sensorized urinal doesn’t seem all that remarkable. But let’s take this one step further. Sensorized devices are multiplying across every sector of the economy. Heavy industry uses sensors to increase productivity. Airplanes employ sensors in their “fly-by-wire” systems. Physicians can prescribe digestible sensors to monitor and wirelessly transmit biometric data.
According to the Digital Universe report from the International Data Corporation, the total number of “connectable things” – everyday objects that can be linked to the Internet – in the world is around 200 billion. Of those, about 20 billion are actually wired and talking to the Internet right now. They’re able to do so through a network of roughly 50 billion sensors that track, monitor and feed data to those connected devices. And the IDC estimates that by 2020, the number of connected things will increase by 50 percent to 30 billion, while the network of sensors will number in the trillions.
So, what does this have to do with solving the global food crisis? There’s enough food in the world to feed every person on the earth, yet through a combination of inefficiencies, supply-chain obstacles and oppressive government regulation, hundreds of millions of people are undernourished. Indeed, many food shortages arise because of misallocation of information. Suppliers of food are unaware of shortages and unaware of market prices. I’ve heard stories of food rotting on African farms only miles away from desolate starvation.
Equipping food-supply material such as storage containers, warehouses and shelves with sensors allows us to know instantly the moment a shortage exists. And I mean instantly in the literal sense. With sensors, we don’t need to wait for a person to count hundreds of containers to realize that there won’t be enough food for the community –a time-consuming process that too often doesn’t happen anyway. Sensors help remove those layers of inefficiency, shortening data’s transmission chain, skipping potential inhibitors and triggering faster response times.
This is a great little video about how Unmanned Systems – or Drones or Robotic Aircraft (Whatever you would like to call them) can help in the future.
IDEO.org is using design to tackle the world’s most pressing challenges. We believe that the solutions that arise from human-centered design bring stability, hope, and dignity to low-income communities around the globe. Through partnerships with non-profit organizations, social enterprises, or foundations, IDEO.org facilitates the design process to create solutions to challenges in a number of sectors, including health, clean water and sanitation, financial inclusion, agriculture, and gender equity.
Malta, 31 October 2014 – As part of the Migrant Offshore Aid Station (MOAS)
operation Schiebel’s CAMCOPTER® S-100 UAS (Unmanned Air System) helped to
save the lives of over 2800 refugees in the Mediterranean Sea during several
Between August and October 2014 the expedition vessel Phoenix, carrying the
CAMCOPTER® S-100 on board, conducted three operations in the central Mediterranean
Sea, each lasting two to three weeks. The final mission of this season was successfully
completed on 31st October, saving the life of 331 refugees.
MOAS took the migrants on board, where medical staff provided first aid, blankets, food
and water. After that all migrants have been handed over to the Italian Authorities.
Since it began operating, MOAS – with the help of the CAMCOPTER® S-100 UAS – has
located and rescued 2851 migrants from distressed boats crossing the Mediterranean
MOAS is a private NGO initiative to save lives in the Mediterranean Sea, one of the
world’s deadliest border crossings. Its aim is to provide assistance at sea in co-ordination
with the Rescue Coordination Centres in the region. A ship-borne aid station, named
Phoenix, was made available to support refugee vessels in need.
Phoenix has two 6-metre rigid inflatable boats on board that respond to calls for
assistance. The CAMCOPTER® S-100 is launched from on board the ship to locate and
identify boats in distress. The UAS then provides imagery in real-time, day and night and
even under adverse weather conditions. Operated by Schiebel personnel, the EO/IR
camera submits essential data to locate people in need. With the help of the unmanned
helicopter the Rescue Coordination Centre (RCC) can be informed and provide help
The mission radius was implemented in a strategic geographic location on the central
Mediterranean route, affected by migratory flows departing from the Southern
As Direct Relief’s relief and recovery efforts in the Philippines following Typhoon Haiyan continue, civil drones are helping our organization and others respond more efficiently to the most pressing needs of people affected by the super storm.
About a week after Typhoon Haiyan struck, an assessment group from Direct Relief’s partner, veterans’ response organization Team Rubicon, sought to determine the operational status of the Carigara District Hospital, located northwest of the city of Tacloban.
Travel along damaged roads was difficult and slow. Rumors of an uncertain security situation were circulating. Comprehensive structural assessment seemed highly challenging at best.
Yet, the assessment group was able to provide local officials and aid groups with a rapid and highly accurate visual analysis of damage to the Carigara District Hospital – at minimal risk to the people conducting the assessment – by deploying the latest in close proximity aerial imaging technology with a Huginn X1 civil drone.
The assessment provided enough information to allow Team Rubicon to proceed with setting up a medical relief station there to help survivors access emergency care. Direct Relief has been supporting Team Rubicon’s medical responders on the ground with critical medicines and supplies.
A civil drone is the peacetime and humanitarian cousin of the aerial robotic units which have been discussed extensively in the press throughout several recent US-led military conflicts. The Huginn X1, manufactured by Anthea Technologies and distributed by DanOfficeIT, is a ruggedized quadcopter drone adapted primarily for search and rescue support. It comes equipped with high definition digital cameras as well as thermal imaging to detect the heat signatures of people on the ground who may be in need of help.
DanOfficeIT contributed the drone technology and manpower free of charge to nongovernmental organizations working on the front lines of the typhoon response to help organizations learn where to focus their work.
Civil drones have had an immediate and substantial impact on the ability of groups like Direct Relief and Team Rubicon to gain high-speed visual awareness of complex situations that threaten to put humanitarian responders at significant personal risk.
Likewise, civil drones allow for detailed aerial mapping in support of operational planning. The Huginn X1 was not only valuable in terms of structural assessment but also as a way to scout locations in advance to determine the best possible routes of approach and assistance.