Friday, May 23, 2014

Iran’s Latest Drone Drops Life Preservers, Not Bombs

Earlier this month, during an exhibition at the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) Aerospace Forces’ Central Command in Tehran on May 11, Iranian military officials unveiled a domestically-produced reverse-engineered version of a sophisticated unmanned aerial vehicle (UVA), Lockheed Martin’s RQ-170 Sentinel stealth drone. The Iranian version comes about two-and-a-half years after one of the CIA’s RQ-170s – dispatched from a U.S. military base in Afghanistan – was downed and captured by Iran during a surveillance mission over the Iranian city of Kashmar, located 140 miles from the Afghan border. The IRGC subsequently extracted and decoded the video data stored by the aircraft and claims it brought down another American drone in February 2013.

According to an Iranian press report, the exposition “put on display the achievements of the IRGC Aerospace Forces in the design and development of drones, radars and defense systems as well as anti-ship, ballistic and anti-shield missile systems.” It also showcased other Iranian-made drones, such as the Shahed-129 and Shahed-125. Since 2010, Iran has periodically unveiled indigenously-manufactured models of drone aircraft capable of carrying out both “reconnaissance missions” and “combat operations.”

Just days later, however, another type of drone – one produced not by the IRGC, but rather a private Iranian innovative tech company called RTS Lab – was revealed by VICE’s Motherboard website. This drone isn’t designed to spy on foreign countries or drop bombs; instead, it saves lives. Motherboard reports:
We’ve seen how drones can be a crucial asset to search and rescue operations, but Iran’s RTS Lab has taken an entirely new angle. RTS’s Pars drone carries a payload of life preservers that can be delivered to a drowning swimmer far faster than a lifeguard. As we saw in testing in the Caspian Sea, the drone can also work at night, using bright lights, thermal sensors, and a built-in camera to stream video to rescuers on shore.
“At the moment, many people talk about ‘bad drones’ and drones that are spying and killing people. But I think everything has a good side and a bad side,” says RTS director Amin Rigi. “And they should see the good side that are drones that can save lives.”

Tehran-based RTS Labs was founded in 2010 by university students interested in competitive robotics, but is now an well-known technology firm with international contracts.

“We don’t believe in producing missiles and stuff will one day be used for destruction and killing people. We try our best to save people and build devices that can help,” Rigi says, citing his religious faith as inspiration, namely the Qur’anic verse (5:32), which declares that “whoever takes a life… it is as if he has killed all mankind; however, if anyone saves a life, it is as if he saved all mankind.”

Check out this awesome video, produced by Motherboard on location in Iran, to see the future of lifeguarding:


Originally posted at Muftah.


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