by Lucy Knight
An artistic interpretation of a NAR drone over a forest fire. (Images via NAR)
In 2014, when fires started raging through Nicolas Zaatar’s home district of Baabda in Lebanon, an opportunity presented itself.
He was helping the firefighters when the then-engineering student saw a vital missing link in the rescue operation chain: there was no aerial monitoring. The firefighters needed help finding and getting to the next spot that would need their attention.
“There are helicopters available when such things occur,” Zaatar told Wamda. “But the bureaucracy involved when it comes to getting one in the air is not conducive in emergency situations.”
The situation in Lebanon is lacking when it comes to fighting fires. NGOs are usually the first ones on the ground armed with sand and a shovel, followed by civil defense (they are the ones dispatched to deal with fires) who suffer from lack of resources and manpower.
So, along with some friends, and cofounder Charlie El Khoury, and as part of a final year university project in 2015, Zaatar built a small quadcopter. Three months later and it evolved into a VTOL (vertical takeoff and landing) drone, they were able to engineer a prototype that could fly for up to two hours and – better yet – resist high winds, a common ingredient in forest fires.