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Inspiration: Dr Trung Duong

Inspiration: Dr Trung Duong

PA

Inspiration: Dr Trung Duong

A Queen's University researcher described how seeing friends and relatives injured during extreme weather and natural disasters in his home town in Vietnam inspired his invention of a pioneering telecommunication system.

Dr Trung Duong (40) grew up in the Unesco world heritage village of Hoi An in the south-east Asian nation, where regular disasters during October and November - including flooding, earthquakes and storms - cause havoc.

Based at the Institute of Electronics, Communications and Information Technology in Belfast since 2013, Dr Duong was previously a recipient of the prestigious Newton Prize in 2017, which delivered £200,000 to help fund his research.

Now coming to fruition, the researcher has developed a revolutionary system for alerting those most at risk from serious flooding and storms, using drones as cheap and portable methods of tracking weather.

Already beginning to be utilised and making a difference in Vietnam, Dr Duong is modest about his achievement but ambitious for the future.

He said: "I am from Vietnam and this place had a lot of disasters - storms, floods, hurricanes - especially in my home town.

"When I was young, whenever we had storms or flooding all the schools closed so we were happy to have a day off.

"However, when you saw the reality of your friends or relatives injured or even dying, it gives you the motivation to do this kind of work.

"When the disaster happens we don't have electricity. The network can be brought down and that is really bad for communication methods.

"We hope this will make a big difference to people's lives. With a drone you can fly, you get information immediately instead of using satellites for example."

The system, known as Catastrophe-Tolerant Telecommunications Network (CTTN), will see the drones flying over large surface areas, taking real-time measurements and providing information about weather conditions. It will also provide seamless internet connectivity in situations where the network has been destroyed.

Dr Duong said there is a significant difference in cost between traditional monitoring stations - nearly £500,000 for 25 - compared to his system which is "100 times cheaper".

"The research could make a real difference to people living in areas exposed to extreme weather and it will certainly make the work of emergency services much easier," added Dr Duong.

"I describe myself as a scientist trying to help. I think the most important thing for us as scientists is to bring the theory into the practical, in order to help people.

"Our next step in October and November is to test the system in some more practical scenarios."

Belfast Telegraph