For some, the thought of whipping their drone around a bridge and over a waterfall can be anxiety inducing. For the world’s best drone racers, it could be an adrenaline rush of positive energy. Even the most zen drone pilots surely see a heart rate spike during an intense drone race.
One drone company is seeking to find out for sure, and it’s partnering with the world’s largest league of drone racers to investigate. Canadian-based Draganfly, which is primarily an aircraft manufacturing company, has partnered with the Drone Racing League to launch an ‘innovation lab’ to better research drone technology, particularly as it pertains to drone racing. Together, they’ll find out what a drone pilot’s heart rate is like during a flight, among other information that could be relevant to furthering the way we think about and use drones.
Draganfly, which is headquartered in Saskatoon, Canada, has been building drone hardware, software and sensors for the past 20 years. As of late, the company has been focused on building health screening systems that involve drones.through another partnership with Vital Intelligence, where it installs to install health assessment systems on drones that can then fly around entertainment complexes, shopping centers, and other high-traffic locations including workplaces, even. The sensors are primarily designed to measure social distancing and visitors’ vital signs like temperature, cough, and respiratory rate. In theory, they could identify what Draganfly calls ‘high-risk visitors.’
That said, the concept of using drones to measure vital signs like heart rate hasn’t gone over completely well in public situations. Back in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, Draganfly launched a controversial partnership with the Westport Police Department in Connecticut, which said it would use their drones to detect people sneezing and coughing in crowds, while also displaying fever, temperature, heart rate and respiratory rate. Many drone industry leaders, including DJI, publicly came out over this use case as a potential privacy violation.
Hence, Draganfly’s use of sensors on drones to detect vital signs has been less controversial in more private environments. For example, Draganfly has been credited to some extent with helping Hollywood reopen thanks to its Draganfly Safe Set Solutions product, a health and respiratory measurement platform used as a pre-screening tool to help identify possible infectious and respiratory conditions on film and TV sets.
Now, Draganfly will work with the Drone Racing League to create what the two entities are calling ‘DRL Labs,’ an innovation hub to research and develop next generation drone technology that will advance the sport of drone racing as well as potentially other industries undergoing significant transformations through drones, which they said could include humanitarian aid and mobility.
Among their first big projects: the league will incorporate Draganfly’s Vital Intelligence platform into their
2021-22 DRL World Championship Season by using cameras to monitor pilots’ in-race heart and respiratory-rates.
“Driving new health insights around flying drones and bringing fans closer to the DRL action than ever,” according to a statement from DRL. With audiences gaining insights into pilots’ physiological reactions to competition, fast speeds, crashes and more, it could shed more of a ‘wow factor’ and provide a stronger connection between audiences and players to a sport that has otherwise struggled to break into the mainstream.
Additionally, DRL Labs will ‘work to develop new technical solutions within autonomy, next generation sensors and
artificial intelligence, with an aim to contribute discoveries to disaster relief, transportation and delivery
spaces,’ according to a statement from DRL.
“With the launch of DRL Labs, together we will introduce novel drone technology that will not only redefine our sport, but also provide real world use cases to support communities around the world,” said DRL SVP, Head of Partnership Development, Ari Mark.
You can see the fresh Draganfly integratations by tuning into the 2021-22 DRL World Championship Season starting next Wednesday, Oct. 20, 2021 at 8 p.m. ET. It airs on both NBCSN and Twitter. The 2021-2022 season bring together the world’s 12 best drone pilots, who will face 14 levels of racing through both iconic sports arenas and DRL SIM virtual maps. The winner will be crowned the World Champion.