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Build Your Own Disaster Relief Drone

BY Jessica McKenzie | Wednesday, June 26 2013

The OpenRelief Drone (carrierdetect/Flickr)

Anyone with a thousand bucks and some engineering know-how can now build their very own drone. Unlike those controversial ones used in the “drone war,” these are made for disaster relief.

The organization OpenRelief seeks to design better disaster relief solutions, including the second generation OpenRelief airframe, which they released May 31. The project co-founder Shane Coughlan told SciDevNet that their design cost five to ten times less than commercial versions, making it a feasible option for nonprofits and disaster relief organizations.

The new airframe is exactly that, a frame for an aerial robot that can be customized with additional software and hardware.

From a product description:

The robot is designed to be small enough to be launched from footpaths. It can be made smart enough to recognize roads, people and smoke. It can use sensors to measure weather and radiation. The information it collects can easily be shared with disaster management systems like Sahana Eden.

The idea for OpenRelief came in March 2011, during the aftermath of the Tohoku disaster in Japan. The “fog” of disaster was hindering relief efforts, so Coughlan and his partner Karl Lattimer decided to create ways to disperse the fog.

Edward Strickland, an engineer specializing in drones, led the development of the OpenRelief airframe. He documented parts of the process on the website DIY Drones, a social network for people building personal Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV), also known as drones.

Personal Democracy Media is grateful to the Omidyar Network and the UN Foundation for their generous support of techPresident's WeGov section.