Dr. Eesa Bastaki

Chair of the UAE Drones for Good Award judging panel, Dr Eesa Bastaki, President of the University of Dubai, explains what will make this award’s winning entry

What advances would you like to see in this year’s entries from the 2015 competition?
Entries to last year’s UAE Drones for Good Award were more about identifying where drones could be useful. In this year’s competition I’d like to see drones that are smarter, more intelligent in the way they deal with a situation, such as emergencies: drones that actually understand the situation, which register and interpret what is happening and send feedback according to what the drone has understood. There should be artificial intelligence (AI) in the drone.

What other improvements in performance are you looking for?
I also want to see drones that are more than just a machine that flies somewhere, takes pictures, and sends those images back. For example, if it finds a person in medical need, can the drone do something before it calls for an ambulance? Sanad, one of last year’s entries, was able to carry a dummy weighing 40kg to 50kg, which I think is amazing. I hope we can see drones that save people from drowning or from fires, for example – drones that perform the rescue rather than just sending an SOS message, when help might come too late. We need to look at increasing the speed, reducing the weight and improving the AI of drones.

Which sectors or industries have the most scope for innovation?
I think the education and health sectors especially are ripe for innovation in drone usage. In particular, the health sector is wide open; there are so many things that drones could do, such as sending medicine or providing remote medical help. Education, too, is very important. We need to look at how we can apply drones in a more powerful way when it comes to the betterment of humanity – such as using drones to deliver lectures and learning to remote areas. We are looking for drones that can create prosperity and help people.

The environment is very important as well. One of the entries I liked from last year’s competition was the idea of using drones to plant 1 billion trees around the world. Something went wrong at the finals stage for that entry, but it would be good if that project came back to the competition or if there were a similar concept of how to make things greener and clean our environment.

What are some of the challenges to drones’ development?
One of the problems we have now is that we need regulation. There have been a few incidents around the world – unauthorised drone flights in Paris and one near the White House in the US – and this is perhaps the biggest drawback.

But people are interested in making things happen and I think drones have an excellent and beautiful future if you look at them carefully. In the coming years, I think drones will really be used in everything, even for sending mail, in transportation, for a cleaner environment. All sectors will be using drones to make things quicker, more efficient and at the end for good. This is our message we are sending out and that we need more of it.