The winning team, Drones Torrescue Strait Away, wanted to develop improved systems to ensure more people can survive boat accidents in the Torres Strait. “In the Torres Strait, the primary means of transportation is a boat. Unfortunately, this can lead to a high rate of accidents and also a high rate of deaths,” Steve says.
“On a personal level, I was involved in a search up on the Torres Strait about six months ago for a man who had fallen off a boat and sadly passed away. So, there is a personal connection there.”
Steve says that the Drones Torrescue team know the conditions in the Torres Strait firsthand, and they were very aware of what needs to be done in an emergency situation. “After a boat accident, the two main issues are communication and search and rescue capabilities,” Steve says.
The team developed the idea to use mobile phone repeaters, which can extend the range of a mobile phone, and integrate them into a series of drones. This way, the search and rescue crew would be able to contact the person in an emergency situation.
Drones could also be used to deliver potentially lifesaving items. “Perhaps delivering a lifejacket or other life-saving items to them would be a possibility,” Steve says.
Bushfires: A hot topic
Steve also mentored another team, Hot Topic, that aimed to save more lives by decreasing the potential for catastrophic bushfires. Bushfires are a danger not only to residents and properties, but also to the firefighters.
“There was an Indigenous firefighter who walked into the room. He had a broken hand, which he had broken while fighting a fire just the day before,” Steve says. “He asked, 'instead of only responding to bushfires, how do we prevent the fires from becoming really bad in the first place?'.
“The team proposed that drones could collect relevant data about bushfire-prone regions, such as fuel load, topography, aerial images, weather, humidity and background temperature."
The data could then be imported into an app that would tell firefighters where the high-risk areas are. “The app could identify red zones and green zones in terms of fire danger."
Steve says the team, consisting of Traditional Owners and programmers from the software company KJR, were very focused and worked together really well. “The thing that really impressed me was, by the end of the weekend, the programmers had a functioning app,” Steve says.