IBM is Giving Away 1,500 Free Drones for Disaster Relief

IBM’s Developer Drone Drop 2019 contest is officially underway. Now, through June 16th, the company will be giving away 1,500 drones to developers who enter. IBM hopes coders and developers will use them to deliver AI-powered solutions to the problems caused by natural disasters.

The contest started a couple of weeks ago, but there’s still plenty of time to sign up. You don’t have to be an expert or have any code build to enter – the winners will be selected at random, not by judges. Winners will receive more than just a robot, too.

According to IBM, “The DJI Tello Drone is more than just a cool prize. We’ll give you code patterns to unlock its potential, and introduce you to new skills around visual recognition, AI, and machine learning.”

The company is hoping to see actual results that benefit the world, shared with the #IBMDroneDrop hashtag.

The giveaway comes courtesy of IBM’s Code and Response, a new initiative this year from the company that aims to empower developers with the resource and support to implement original technology-based solutions to humanity’s open problems. Inspiring others who, otherwise, might not have access to IBM’s resources and mentos is a strategy that’s already paying off for the company.

Last year, winner Pedro Cruz, developed his drone-based disaster relief tech after experiencing the devastation of Puerto Rico by hurricane Irma and Maria. Cruz said that his inspiration for his project, which uses computer vision and drone to look for survivors and pattern recognition to help them get the specific kind of help they need, came from his experience in the wake of Hurricane Maria.

“Right after the hurricane,” said Cruz. “I was worried for my parents, my family, and my grandma. We had no communications whatsoever. I saw all the destruction and I got worried. Thankfully, I had my drone.”

Cruz confirmed his grandmother was okay using his drone, and eventually, was inspired to develop a more robust AI-based drone solution for scouting for survivors of disasters with IBM. He’s now an employee of the company who continues to develop these solutions in the hopes of mitigating the effects of natural disasters.

His project, called DroneAID, incorporated a visual vocabulary that could be displayed by disaster victims and read drones using visual recognition technology. Reading the symbols, the drones would then really vital information back to relief workers, potentially shortening the response time from days to hours and helping responders get vital resources where they’re needed.

If you’re a coder or developer interested in participating in the context and you’d like a drone, you can enter the contest here. Sign up for your free IBM CLoud to be in the running. The competitions is open to residents of the US, Canada, the UK, and Spain. On Tuesdays between now and June 16, 2019, watch the IBM developer Twitch channel and check your email. Each week, IBM will randomly select a group of winners to receive the DJI Tello drone and the code patterns for drone programming.

Winners then compete in a series of challenges using tools like Node-RED and IBM Watson Visual Recognition, Watson IoT, IBM Cloud, and IBM Data and Analytics to create novel drone applications.

Entry in the broader Call for Code competition is open until June 29. Winning coders who develop an open source for natural disaster relief are eligible for a $200K grand prize.

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