Avy, an Amsterdam-based firm, unveiled the world’s first Drone Response Network, which is capable of autonomous operation and can be utilised to save lives in a variety of ways.

Drone developers found themselves in a modern version of the Wild West just a few years ago, with no clear norms or regulations in place. Meanwhile, drones have advanced significantly – including in terms of materials – to the point where they can save lives in a variety of ways. By providing medicines, discovering a wildfire, or rescuing a stranded passenger at sea. They can also accomplish it on their own while staying in touch with the nearest emergency service stations.

Avy unveiled their Drone Response Network concept, which includes their self-driving Aera aircraft and docking stations. The drones can take off and land vertically and can be used for a number of tasks, including providing pharmaceuticals and assisting emergency services during incidents.

Several firms – notably the Port of Rotterdam, PostNL, and the Dutch blood bank Sanquin – joined Avy’s initiative to help the company develop and improve its applications.

“It was a bit of a Wild West country when we launched the enterprise.” There were no restrictions in place, and the components on the market were insufficient. Making this vision a reality wasn’t simple, but we did it,” Patrique Zaman, founder and CEO of Avy, told Innovation Origins.

The company announced that the first flights will take place next year after testing the system in various scenarios and with various applications.

A smart eye that can be deployed quickly


The Avy Aera has a design that is suggestive of a larger plane. Its wingspan is 2.4 metres, and the entire apparatus is a metre and a half long. When unloaded, the drone has a range of up to 100 kilometres and a payload capacity of 3 kilos. The system interacts through a 4G or 3G LTE mobile network.

Aera uses an RGB and a thermal camera to take photographs and videos. These features open the door to a plethora of new uses, such as identifying wildfires or locating persons in peril at sea.

The drone response network must first be notified of the location and sort of mission it will be doing. The aircraft departs from the docking station after obtaining this information. As it approaches the scene, it communicates with emergency personnel, providing an overview of the situation as well as more precise coordinates for the position of the blaze or the troubled person.

“The two cameras can be employed in different settings and overlay each other. The visual camera operates better during the day since it can easily see smoke columns. The heat camera, on the other hand, is quite beneficial at night,” Zaman explains.

Machine learning algorithms, which can teach the drone to recognise objects, are also a possibility.

Drones for the greater good


The Avy Medikit is installed on the drone when it is used for medical deliveries. Vaccines, blood, and other medications are kept at the proper temperature via a passive cooling system in the aircraft’s hold.

“The impact we can have is significant,” Zaman asserts, claiming that “we can offer healthcare to locations where it didn’t exist before.” Avy put its technology to the test in Africa, honing it and making it resistant to hot climates.

“Transporting vaccines and blood is a priority in those places, although outdoor temperatures are high. As a result, we developed the plane to keep the cargo cool for 100 minutes in temperatures of 40° C.”

Childbirth is one of the key functions that the drone can undertake, as moms can lose a lot of blood during childbirth. Because healthcare systems have limited infrastructure, transporting medical fluids is difficult. That’s why, in addition to saving lives, aiding women in birth with blood transfers by drone can have a broader impact.

“Assisting them increases their chances of surviving. As a result, the number of healthy young women increases, and they may play a larger part in their communities. In certain ways, their cultures are becoming more progressive as well,” Zaman observes.

Flying in Africa has taught me a lot.
In order to test the technology in Africa, further hurdles had to be faced. One of the most significant was the absence of internet access, which prompted Avy to include satellite connection technology into the drone response network.

“We believe that, other from the transmission and handover concerns – flying in a region between two satellites – the technology could be scaled out globally,” Zaman says. Especially with the emergence of new providers like Starlink and Certus that use low-orbit satellite systems.”

Aera can send videos at a resolution of up to 4K depending on the speed of the connection. It can still deliver some photographs in sequence even if the signal is low. “There are usually some images,” Zaman adds.

Flying in Africa may be easier because to less stringent regulations, but the lack of satellite data at higher altitudes was another issue they encountered. In that situation, the Dutch corporation conducted its own research and incorporated all of the findings into their system.

Transport of blood
Throughout Europe, Avy’s drones can transfer medical patients in an emergency. Blood samples are transported by road in the Netherlands, as they are in many other western countries, and are sometimes escorted by police.

“These types of transportations can be done by air,” Zaman says. Drones could be used for this purpose, which would improve services by avoiding traffic congestion and delays. Furthermore, it has a beneficial effect on CO2 emissions.

Re-adjusting and perfecting
“The Aera is constructed from a variety of composite materials. The aircraft’s components that are subjected to the most stress are made of carbon fibre, while the rest is constructed of glass fibre,” Zaman continues.

Initially, the drone was made entirely of carbon fibre. That substance, on the other hand, does not allow any radiation to get through. As a result, antennas had to be mounted on the outside, causing significant drag and reducing the aircraft’s efficiency. Avy achieved a balance of rigidity and stability by mixing these two materials, enhancing the device’s performance and making it deployable in practically any environment.

If you can build a device that can fly, that’s terrific, but if you can build a drone that can fly 24 hours a day, that’s truly remarkable. Then there’s the matter of learning how to fly at night, how to communicate with an airport when flying close by, and so on. “Most of our work was devoted to these aspects,” Zaman underlines.

Aera had to develop all of the technology on its own in order to perfect the system because the market didn’t have the proper materials and components. “It took a little luck to design such a system, but doing it yourself helped us a lot.” We were able to redesign things quickly because we were not reliant on anyone. Zaman says, “That was a big help to us.”

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