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Flying high: IMechE fellow on using drone technology to respond to humanitarian crises

Institution News Team

Flying high with UAVAID
Flying high with UAVAID

For most aid agencies, responding to large-scale disasters and disease outbreaks can be logistically challenging operations. Institution of Mechanical Engineers Fellow, Daniel Ronen, is the co-founder of UAVAid and hopes to change this with the Hansard Platform.

Q: Can you tell us a bit about how UAVAid came about?

Daniel Ronen (DR): UAVAid was born out of a desire, from both myself and my co-founder and brother, James, to help improve the lives of those in underdeveloped regions through the development of a technology that would support jobs, exports and skills here in the UK.

These values have become central in the culture of the organisation. We’re committed to the responsible development of the next generation of ‘drones’, to allow the greatest number of people to benefit from improved healthcare and living standards, and enhancing the UK’s position in this new industrial sector.

Q: What makes the Hansard Platform different from other drone solutions?

DR: It’s range and operational flexibility as a true multi-role platform. What we discovered when starting out and talking to various stakeholders was the sheer range of needs in both Humanitarian Response and Development contexts. 

Some wanted a UAV to improve the last-mile transportation of medicines, while others thought it would be best used for mapping of disaster zones. And some wanted it for low-cost fishery and wildlife monitoring in remote areas. 

The direction the fledgling industry had taken to date was to develop specialist drones to tackle individual challenges. We realised this can be both asset and logistics footprint expensive and that a multi-role platform would be more efficient and flexible for operators. The Hansard platform was designed to be capable of meeting a wide range of applications (cargo delivery, mapping and video surveillance), and fundamentally improving the economics of large scale UAV adoption.

Q: What are the plans for UAVAid in the coming months?

DR: In November 2018 we achieved a major milestone.  The aircraft was awarded the first Certificate of Airworthiness-EF, by any EU country, for a humanitarian multi role drone.  In proving it is possible, this has helped raise safety standards for the industry.

We’ve got some exciting pilot and development programmes set for the rest of the year, and we’re working closely with the Department for International Development.

We’re aiming to become the first UK drone organisation to successfully integrate a multi-role UAV into a local supply chain in Africa, with the Hansard delivering medical supplies of up to 10 kilograms at a time. 

Q: Will you be involved in this year’s UAS Challenge?

DR: I took part in a video interview with the Institution earlier this year, where I discussed the real world context of the challenge. I hope what I shared supports the project teams in their work. 

Q: Any quick advice you would give UAS Challenge participants who might want to scale and commercialise their entry?

DR: Two things: first, make sure your design is problem-led and not technology-led. Second, only use sophisticated technology when necessary, otherwise keep it simple, because reliability is absolutely critical.

The 2019 UAS Challenge is taking place across three days between 16 June to 18 June at the Snowdonia Aerospace Centre at Llanbedr, part of the Snowdonia Enterprise Zone. 

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