You’re in a life-or-death situation inside a burning building, where the situation is so out of control that human firefighters wouldn’t be able to reach you. Suddenly, seemingly out of nowhere, comes the flying Gimball to rescue you. It’s a globe with a soft flexible inside and a tough outer frame which allows it to bounce off walls while still flying.
The Gimball isn’t quite ready for search-and-rescue operations just yet, but it has been invented. And such an amazing invention it is, that it just won a $1 million dollar award in the international category at the UAE’s Drones for Good competition.
A Swiss team named Flyability is responsible for the Gimball. Patrick Thevoz, the team’s leader, said that they were struggling to find funding to develop the drone, but winning the prize money means they can develop the vehicle commercially within a year.
The Gimball is quite remarkable. It has two rotors and its outer frame rotates independently of the drone inside. It smashes into obstacles as a way to navigate, similar to the behavior of insects. With a GPS destination it will roll along walls and bounce off ceilings as it finds its way.
The Gimball’s inventors hope to see it being used in dangerous indoor situations such as chemical leaks, nuclear meltdowns and, of course, fires.
Drones are used more often than you might think, in all sorts of ways. More formally referred to as unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV), they are associated with the military, but are also used for surveillance, traffic monitoring and firefighting.
In the agricultural industry drones watch for disease and collect data on crop health and yields. Drones also aid in search and rescue operations ranging from forest fire fighting to searching for people buried in snow or rubble, using infrared sensors. And they can also be used to deliver supplies to remote areas around the world.
Recognizing the future possibilities and potential of drones, the United Arab Emirates Drones for Good Award was launched at the Government Summit last year. The objective is “to find solutions that will improve people’s lives and provide positive technological solutions to modern day issues.”
Other finalists in the international category included drones for urgent transport of organs, delivery catchment systems and reforestation.
Just try not to get trapped in any burning buildings for the next year or so – it might be wise to wait until the Gimball is in use.