Pinoy-invented drone seeks to improve search and rescue in PH


Posted at Feb 02 2016 05:43 PM | Updated as of Feb 02 2016 06:29 PM

Pinoy-invented drone seeks to improve search and rescue in PH 1
Kwago is a Search and Rescue drone specializing in night operations. Photo from Drones for Good

MANILA – (UPDATE) It's Filipino-made and can help boost search and rescue operations, especially during disasters.

Meet 'Project Kwago,' a search and rescue drone project made by three Filipinos, that is now a semifinalist at the 2016 Drones for Good Awards in the United Arab Emirates.

'Project Kwago' is currently among the 20 semifinalists out of the 1,017 entries submitted to the competition from 165 participating countries. If 'Project Kwago' wins, it will be awarded US$1,000,000 in funding to reproduce the drone. 

'Kwago' needs votes for it to reach the finals of the competition organized by the UAE government. You can vote here: Vote for Kwago

Behind 'Project Kwago' is a three-man team composed of project head Mac Eugenio, a video editor and hobbyist who is also the drone's pilot; freelance cameraman Ari Trofeo, the project's systems designer; and entrepreneur Vince Villena, the software architect.

The team said most drones used in search and rescue operations in the Philippines only take photos and videos of damages in disaster areas. Also, most can only be used during daytime. Kwago aims to provide more.

"'Kwago' is a search and rescue drone specializing in night operations. It is equipped with a thermal camera to detect heat signatures from the ground," Eugenio said in a video explaining their project.

'Kwago' also has pattern recognition, auto take-off and landing, collision avoidance, and sonars.

The team said they made sure that the drone can fly at night and can be safely flown around full-size aircraft.

"Since Kwago is an app-based system, we have the option to create other apps where we can use Kwago for other relevant purposes," Eugenio said.

How does it work?

The drone will make a high altitude thermal scan of the coordinates plotted using the Kwago App. The system marks an area once a thermal scan has been detected. A low altitude sweep will follow to get the exact location of the coordinates of the detected heat signature and also to get more detailed information of the subject.

The coordinates would then be transmitted to the ground station or to the rescuer nearest to the location in real time.

The Kwago operator can also hover and beam a light on the detected subject while waiting for aid or it can resume with the sweep.

"When we were building Kwago, one thing that we considered the most is the cost but we don't want to sacrifice on quality. In less than a year, we were able to build a reliable system that is affordable enough to reach different industries," Eugenio said.

So far, Project Kwago has received 33,482 votes. Voting will end on February 3, 2016.

The finals will be held on February 6, 2016 at the Dubai Internet City.

"It is up to us to gear up to these challenges, to be creative, to be innovative and believe that we can do something more for humanity through technology," said Eugenio.

"Once Kwago flies and does it job, we know we have done our part," he said.