A Jordanian-led university research team that developed a drone that can fly, float, and dive underwater has won a $1 million prize at a top international competition.
The Loon Copter, which was built by a group of University of Oakland engineers headed by Osamah Rawashdeh, came first in the global contestant category at the first annual UAE Drones for Good competition held in Dubai last month.
“Winning the top prize is still unbelievable. We are honored, proud, and humbled,” said Rawashdeh, adding that his team would use the prize money to try to develop the prototype drone into a working product.
The team’s creation can fly through the air like a typical quadcopter. But it’s fitted with a special remote-controlled buoyancy chamber that allows it to float when empty and dive when filled up with water. Once submersed, it can use its tilting rotor blades to maneuver about before rising to the surface again and lifting off.
Rawashdeh said potential applications for the drone are huge, including search and rescue missions, environmental monitoring, and the inspection of underwater structures. Hobbyists and drone enthusiasts have also shown a great deal of interest in the Loon Copter, which is named after a diving duck commonly found in Michigan.
Rawashdeh’s team was one of 800 entrants from 57 countries that took part in this year’s Drones for Good competition. Other winning entries included a quadcopter that can spot and repair damaged pipelines, and a self-flying drone that can be combined with a smartphone and dispatched for help in emergencies.