The Netherlands Red Cross just announced their collaboration with the engineers at startup Hack the Planet. They have started co-development on the GroundHawQ. The GroundHawQ is a self-driving drone that may prove invaluable to the Red Cross’s work.
“Co-development with startups is fairly new to us,” Frank Tebbe, head of communications at the Netherlands Red Cross, shares his perspective. “It’s been great so far. The guys at Hack the Planet are full of energy. They are in a position to come up with fresh answers to questions that we have been looking at for a long time.”
“Collaboration with the Red Cross is very interesting. We’re both learning from it,” Tim Van Deursen, founder at Hack the Planet, says. “People at the Red Cross are very curious to learn from our technological knowledge and expertise. In turn, we are just as excited to learn about their work.”
“The Red Cross has really opened up to us,” he adds. “We are being invited to events, and asked to help advance their thinking on a range of issues. It’s been great to develop technology that will potentially save lives.”
Riding vs. flying
The GroundHawQ is a low-cost, 3D-printed and self-driving drone. It can be used for a wide range of activities, depending on the additional technologies that are installed.
The concept of the GroundHawQ was triggered by difficulties that its engineers experienced when they tested its flying predecessor, the SkyHawQ. “Our flying drone proved to be problematic in terms of its compliance with rules and regulation,” Tim Van Deursen explains. “That’s why we started development on its riding substitute.”
Great timing for co-development
They assumed that, like them, the Red Cross experienced similar problems when using flying drones. That’s why they got in touch and pitched their idea. Indeed, “Hack the Planet’s concept of a driving drone fits us like a glove,” Frank Tebbe says.
“We were pondering very similar questions. Their invitation to start co-development came at the right time. It’s great for us to have them on board. Their technological know-how proves invaluable for us to come up with new ways to achieve our mission,” he adds.
“The GroundHawQ may prove useful at a wide range of large-scale events, such as trail runs, marathons or long-distance ice skating competitions. They all take place over long distances and include locations that are hard to reach quickly by Red Cross first aid volunteers,” Frank Tebbe explains.
They will run a first experiment with the GroundHawQ at a marathon in the province of Zeeland in the Netherlands. A significant part of the race will take place on a sandy beach. This is the kind of terrain that is generally hard to navigate for the Red Cross’s relief workers.
“Before going on to use the driving drone internationally, we want to make sure it’s been tested properly in the Netherlands,” Frank Tebbe adds. “This beach marathon offers us the perfect environment in which to test the functioning of the GroundHawQ.”
Eyes and ears on the ground
The self-driving drone will make footage on the beach and send it back to a nearby Red Cross relief post. The video images will allow relief workers to have a full view of the beach as if they were right there themselves.
“The GroundHawQ allows us to have eyes and ears on the ground in places that are hard for us to reach otherwise,” Frank Tebbe says. “Also, in case of an emergency, the riding drone may offer us a way to offer first aid virtually, thereby increasing the time frame for actual aid workers to reach the location.”
Based on their experiences at the beach marathon, they want to continue co-development on the GroundHawQ. Ultimately, it should serve the Red Cross internationally, for example by transporting food and medication to areas that are difficult to reach.
The Hague Innovator
Startup Hack the Planet’s GroundHawQ concept won first prize in the The Hague Innovators competition this year. They used the prize money of 30,000 Euros to fund the entire development and production of the first GroundHawQ prototype.
“Winning the competition has allowed us to take the GroundHawQ to market as a finished product. This has lowered the threshold for potential buyers tremendously. Our collaboration with the Red Cross is proof of it,” Tim Van Deursen emphasizes.