A drone we’d welcome

Finding civilian uses for drones will be like the US space programme, which ushered in a series of technological breakthroughs.

The Drones for Good Award, an international competition in which inventors will compete for $1 million (Dh3.67m) for the best practical uses for unmanned aerial vehicles, is likely to achieve much more than find unexpected new applications or even help rehabilitate a word made controversial by military surveillance programmes.

Instead, the Dubai Government competition is more akin to the US space programme in the 1960s, which had the goal of landing a man on the Moon but led to a series of scientific breakthroughs with real utility for the rest of us down here on Earth.

Civilian drone use remains in its infancy but the potential is vast, with major companies like Amazon mooting the prospect of delivering packages in this manner instead of via traditional courier vans.

One of the exciting things about the Drones for Good Award is that the competition is likely to bring forth truly left-field applications that most of us could never have even imagined but may one day be unable to imagine living without. Along the way, bright minds in the UAE (who will vie for a separate Dh1 million prize) will develop expertise in a high-tech field that will shape the future. That will be the real breakthrough.

Published: May 17, 2014 04:00 AM