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Video | Highlights from the ‘Drones World Cup’

A drone which can bounce off walls to navigate its way past barriers and through buildings has won the star prize at what organisers have called the ‘Drones World Cup’.

The event, more formally known as Drones for Good, saw robotics firms from around the world gather in Dubai to compete for the $1m (£650,000) first prize.

Swiss company Flyability manufactures the hovering robot called Gimball, which was inspired by the way insects move around obstacles, according to co-founder Patrick Thevoz.

A mesh cage surrounding the motor and camera moves independently from the rest of the machine, meaning it can crash without losing stability. The design also makes it safer to use near people.

Flyability already has customers in Europe who use the robot to inspect the inside of container ships and hard-to-reach parts of buildings, Thevoz said.

Drones for reversing deforestation

BioCarbon Engineering from the UK has made a tree-planting drone to combat deforestation. The firm’s entry said: “We believe industrial-scale deforestation can only be countered with industrial-scale reforestation.”

After gathering terrain data to generate a 3D map of the environment, drones can plant biodegradable seed pods, suspended in nutrient-rich gel, at predetermined locations.

Drones for fog dissipation

Students at Abu Dhabi’s Khalifa University have propose using drones to perform cloud seeding – a type of weather modification – which could remove dangerous fog from busy roads and airports.

Substances such as fine salt would be sprayed from the flying vehicles and dispersed into the low clouds, altering the microphysical processes within the vapour to break it up and improve visibility.

Drones for water sampling

A team lead by Italian architect and designer Carlo Ratti is testing drones that could assess water quality. The Waterfly project aims to capture data concerning levels of microscopic cyanobacteria, which affect the drinkability of supplies. Vehicles would scan and map out the areas of water, take samples and relay data to the web so it can be accessed by researchers and members of the public.

Drones to detect land mines

A Spanish team has developed a mine-seeking drones. The technology from CATUAV Landmines Detection would capture images of the landscape and run algorithms post-flight to calculate the chances that land mines are present.

The United Arab Emirates launched the awards in 2014 with the aim of recognising drone inventions that offer practical solutions to human problems. Teams competing in the event had to demonstrate their technology could provide a public service in areas such as disaster relief, humanitarian aid, logistics and education.  The prototype drones also had to be within three years of being ready to deploy.

Finalists had to give a live demonstration and provide a technical report with details such as the drones’ operating system, tracking, power source and proposed solutions to safety or regulatory issues.

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