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Drones for Good—A Look at the 6 Finalists for AUVSI’s Xponential Xcellence Humanitarian Award

BY Zacc Dukowitz
3 June 2020

AUVSI just shared a list of this year’s finalists for its Xponential Xcellence Awards.

DJI has previously been a partner with AUVSI in granting the awards, but it looks like that sponsorship has been dropped and AUVSI will be giving out the awards on its own this year.

The AUVSI XCELLENCE Awards celebrate the achievements of individuals and organizations who have applied unmanned systems technology to create solutions to address a range of challenges affecting business and society.

– Brian Wynne, President and CEO of AUVSI

The awards this year are organized under three main categories—Technology & Innovation, Humanitarian, and Public Safety. Winners will be announced live at the Xponential 2020 conference, which was originally scheduled for last month but will now be held October 5-8 due to the pandemic.

In looking over the finalists this year we found a lot to admire in each category. But we were especially interested in the drones for good stories that jump off the page when you read through the list of humanitarian finalists.

In this article we’re going to take a look at each one of those six finalists and share the work they’re doing with drones to make the world a better place.

AUVSI’s Six Finalists for the Xponential Xcellence Humanitarian Award

Here are the six finalists for AUVSI’s Xponential Xcellence Humanitarian award.

Centro de Innovación de Drones and DR FlyingLabs

Reason for Nomination: Medical Cargo Drones Improving Health Services in Rural Communities of the Dominican Republic

The Centro de Innovación de Drones is a nonprofit located in the Dominican Republic with the mission of using drone technology to better the lives of those living on the island.

DR (Dominican Republic) Flying Labs is one of several knowledge hubs located throughout the world as part of an initiative started by WeRobotics. These knowledge hubs are led entirely by local experts, who “work on achieving the Sustainable Development Goals by leveraging robotics solutions like cargo drones.”

The two organizations have partnered on a public health project that used cargo drones to help improve access to healthcare by delivering essential medicines from a regional hospital to two remote health facilities.

Watch this video to learn more about the work the Centro de Innovación de Drones and DR FlyingLabs are doing in the Dominican Republic:

DJI - Delivering the Future of Healthcare

Nepal Flying Labs

Reason for Nomination: Drones Optimized Therapy Systems

Nepal Flying Labs is another knowledge hub founded through WeRobotics.

In a partnership between Nepal Flying Labs and eight different partners, the Nepal project focused on using drones to collect samples for Tuberculosis (TB) testing as part of a project called Drone Optimized Therapy Systems (DrOTS) started by Stony Brook University.

[Read our interview with Uttam Puadasaini, Lab Coordinator for Nepal Flying Labs]

In Nepal, TB is the first leading cause of death from infectious diseases and the fourth leading cause of death overall. But getting tested is difficult for many of Nepal’s citizens, because the majority of the population lives in remote, rural areas, which are often six to eight hours from the nearest hospital.

To date, the project has used drones to deliver more than 1,000 TB testing samples from eight remote health facilities.

Watch this video to learn more about Nepal Flying Labs and the DrOTS project:

DrOTS Nepal - Air operations V2 in Nepali

Swoop Aero

Reason for Nomination: Transforming the Way the World Moves Essential Supplies with Aeromedical Drone Logistics

Swoop Aero was nominated for an Xcellence award because of the work it does in using drones to enable on-demand healthcare in rural, impoverished areas throughout the world.

The ambitious goal of Swoop Aero, which is located in Australia, is to change the way the world transports essential health supplies. The company uses what it calls “aeromedical logistics networks” to make medical deliveries more efficient, and to deliver essential medical supplies to remote areas that are otherwise difficult to access.

Swoop Aero’s aeromedical networks have been used by the UN, and USAID in countries throughout the world, including the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Malawi, Mozambique, and Vanuatu.

Watch this video to learn more about the work that Swoop Aero does to bring on-demand healthcare to rural areas:

Behind The Scenes at Swoop Aero

UMD UAS Test Site

Reason for Nomination: Human Organ Transplant Delivery UAS

Researchers at the University of Maryland (UMD) were the first to conduct an organ drone delivery. The delivery took place in 2018, when the UMD team successfully delivered a kidney for a transplant to surgeons at the University of Maryland Medical Center in Baltimore. Since then, UMD has continued testing the use of drones for organ delivery, paving the way for it to become a common practice in the medical field.

Organ transportation may be an ideal use-case for drones. With the development of faster, larger drones, long-distance drone organ shipment may result in substantially reduced cold ischemia times, subsequently improved organ quality, and thousands of lives saved.

– From an article written by UMD researchers on the use of drones in organ delivery

Watch this video to learn more about UMD’s groundbreaking use of drones for organ delivery:

First-ever Transplant Organ Delivery by UAS


Reason for Nomination: Footprint Identification Technique (FIT)

WildTrack creates software for cost-effective, non-invasive methods for monitoring wildlife. This year, the company was nominated for an Xcellence award for its creation of the Footprint Identification Technique (FIT), powerful software for the conservation of wild animals.

Using aerial images collected by drone, FIT can identify not only what species an animal is based on its footprint, but also which individual animal made the print. Since each animal has a unique print, just like a fingerprint, the software can identify individual characteristics for animals, as well as sex and age.

FIT has been used to protect endangered species, including rhino and cheetah, by monitoring and tracking them from the air without having to disturb them at all.

Watch this video to learn more about WildTrack’s FIT and how it’s being used in conservation:

WildTrack: Footprint Identification Technology (FIT) to protect endangered species


Reason for Nomination: Saving Lives through Drone Deliveries

Wingcopter is the creator of efficient eVTOL drones made primarily for medical deliveries.

Wingcopter’s drones are long-range, and have been used to bring crucial medical supplies like vaccines, blood, and lab samples to rural, hard-to-reach places around the world.

In Vanuatu alone Wingcopter is supplying 19 villages with regular medical supplies by drone. These deliveries take just 20 minutes—a big improvement from the three-day timeframe required without the use of drones.

Watch this video to see a Wingcopter drone make a vaccination delivery in Vanuatu:

Wingcopter Vaccine Delivery in Vanuatu

Feeling inspired, or know of some other #dronesforgood stories you’d like to share? Share your thoughts in this thread on the UAV Coach community forum.

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