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UAE students tasked with generating drone ideas that could net them Dh1 million

DUBAI // Engineering student Chibuke Enekwechi has plans to develop a drone that could be used to monitor pupils sitting exams instead of relying on teachers to do the job.

The final-year student from the American University in Dubai said on Tuesday that he hoped to come up with a winning design that could help him bag Dh1 million and possibly a further US$1m (Dh3.6m) in the Drones for Good awards.

“Our professors teach three courses usually,” said Mr Enekwechi, 21, from Nigeria.

“They are under pressure to correct and submit exam papers on time. If we can use drones to supervise exams, they will have time to correct our papers.”

Mr Enekwechi was among 50 engineering students from the university encouraged by the Prime Minister’s Office, or PMO, to come up with innovative drone ideas that the government could use to deliver services to Emiratis and residents.

The workshop at AUD is part of a series being run by the PMO in 15 public and private universities across the UAE until August 1.

Students were urged to come up with different applications.

“Drones are not just used for spying,” Amer Abdulraoof, a senior research analyst from the PMO, told the students.

“It is up to you to decide what you want to use it for. We are looking for ideas in education, health care, civil defence, infrastructure, logistics, environment and tourism.”

Residents as well as students can enter the national and the international contests to win the cash prizes.

Participants will have to complete a registration form and create and submit a two-minute video detailing their project by August 1 for the national contest. Two weeks later, a list of semi-finalists will be announced and a winner will be selected by August 15.

The international contest is dedicated to exploring future prototypes of how drones might be used to improve the lives of humanity, focusing on what may be possible in the next one to three years.

Officials from the PMO said the workshops were to “familiarise” students with the concept of drones.

“We want students to start thinking about using drones beyond delivery,” said Saif Al Aleeli, project manager. “We want to open their minds to the impact drones can have on people’s lives. They are co-designing services with the government as they are the end users.”

Although drones are already available in the UAE, Mr Aleeli said existing models had limitations. “They have only 15 minutes’ flying time. We want something that is cost-effective and easy to use,” he said.

Increasingly, drones are being explored for civilian uses. Recently, Indian media reported that a pizza chain had delivered food, on a trial basis, using drones in Mumbai, which is known for its traffic snarls.

Mr Enekwechi, who first heard of the contest a few weeks ago, said he was keen to try his luck but needed time to work on his idea.

“I have the basic knowledge to make a drone but I need to do further research. I am thinking of participating, depending on my university workload,” he said.

“If the university gives us academic credit for this and helps us financially, it would be good. As much as I want to win the money, it will also help gain knowledge.”

AUD professors agreed. “Students are best equipped to come up with new ideas,” said Alaa Ashmawy, the dean at AUD’s school of engineering. “They think of crazy ideas and crazy ideas is what we want. These ideas should be possible to be applied in real life. We hope five to six teams of students will participate. Our role is to help and assist the students in the best way possible.”

For more information, visit dronesforgood.ae.

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(via The National)