New drones to help emergency services during disasters


Several research institutions and businesses in Flanders are developing a new service that will see drones assisting emergency aid workers in disaster situations

Life-saving drones

Five Flemish companies and three research institutions are collaborating to develop a platform that will enable the use of smart drones during disasters like fires, explosions and airplane crashes. The goal is to have drones quickly map the situation at the affected site, so that human aid workers don’t lose essential time during their efforts.

“The drones will directly inform aid workers about the risks at the disaster site,” explained tech consultant Rudy Van den Bergh, who is leading the project. “They will be able to detect whether and where people are present in the disaster area, recognise chemical substances and send high-resolution images.” The drones will be able to withstand explosions, he said.

Apart from the development of an aid system, the project will create commercial opportunities for the partners. It is expected that the service will create 235 jobs by 2023. The project will be developed over the next three years and will cost €3.2 million, which includes €1.8 million in subsidy from the government of Flanders.

The project was launched this week at the European Drone Convention, organised by Flemish expertise centre Euka, at the C-Mine complex in Genk. Participating research institutions include the University of Leuven, digital research centre iMinds and the Flanders Innovation Security Safety Network.

Photo courtesy Made in Limburg