The team behind Flare 2.0 wanted to create a simple technology that helps save lives. Project Lead Kenneth Wong discussed Flare 2.0 and how the idea came about.

Can you describe the concept behind Flare 2.0?

The idea is simple. It’s one of the most unsophisticated ideas in the competition and we are glad it is. Everybody has had a breakdown or been somewhere where they don’t have mobile coverage. What if you ever needed emergency help when there isn’t anyone around?

I spend a lot of time off-road in the mountains and desert and this resonated with me. Nobody here buys satellite phones. We said what if we could get a drone to travel to the nearest area of mobile coverage so that recovery services can get to you. If you are lost you can’t tell the recovery guy where you are if there’s no coverage. We decided to make the drone and call it Lassie– based on the 50s TV show about a dog that gets help. The drone goes and gets help. It saves the authorities time because they know where to find you, and they know the terrain.

How does it work?

The drone sends a text to civil defense with your Google map location. Basically, we were looking at mobile coverage maps in the UAE and created a drone close to an A5 sheet of paper. You press one button for medical help or mechanical assistance. One button turns on the drone and it takes off and acquires a precise GPS signal of where you are. By using the right kind of telecommunication equipment you can get the right kind of range. It then transmits the SOS message to civil defense. Then a green light indicates that the message is successful.

We want to make it as affordable as possible, and are targeting $100 in mass production or less. We think this is something that should be as ubiquitous as a first aid kit.

What field trials or testing have you done?

We haven’t completed out consultation with the Dubai Civil Authority and the Gulf Civil Aviation Authority. What we understand is there must be some kind of fail safe. This cannot be a fully autonomous flight at this time.

It’s a very advanced prototype. It’s capable of taking off on its own and will fly to the edge of the demonstration area, which is what we can do for the purpose of the competition so far. And we would be able to show it is transmitting an SMS and what can be done with the information.

Are you excited?

Very much. We didn’t expect to make it this far. Everyone’s got this industrial application but we wanted it to be simple, to just save lives. If we can save one life a year it would be totally worth it.