Air Drop Irrigator by Ed Linacre wins the 2011 James Dyson Award

Air Drop Irrigator by Ed Linacre wins the 2011 James Dyson Award

Industrial Design Graduate, Ed Linacre, is on top of the world this morning with the news that he has just won this year’s prestigious James Dyson Award, a high profile, international student design award currently running in eighteen countries.

Run by the James Dyson Foundation, the award aims to ‘encourage the next generation of design engineers to be creative, challenge and invent.’

The brief is relatively simple: ‘Design something that solves a problem’ – but the difficulty of beating other worthy ideas from the world’s best student designers is enormous.

Ed’s winning design was his ‘Airdrop Irrigation’ concept, which seeks to solve the problem of excess water evaporation in times of drought from plants and soil. Instead of tapping into underground aquifers and other finite water sources, Ed’s Airdrop design concept cleverly harvests evaporated water moisture from the air – moisture that would otherwise be inaccessible to plants.

Solar panels are used to charge battery powered air turbines that draw heated air down into underground cooling towers. Once cooled, water in the air condenses and is collected in underground tanks before being pumped to plants via underground dripper pipes.

The Airdrop system also includes an LCD screen that displays tank water levels, pressure strength, solar battery life and overall system health.

Ed’s design was the only Australian project selected from the James Dyson finalists at the recent Australian International Design Awards, and from there he faced an agonising wait as his design progressed through to the top fifteen, the top five – and just announced today – the top of the world.

Ed receives a 10,000 pound (AUD$15,500) prize for his win, as does his university, Melbourne’s Swinburne University.

top 20 finalists in the james dyson foundation 2011

“I am in shock to be honest, almost speechless,” said an emotional Ed as news of his win was broadcast around the world. “It was an enormous privilege to even get through to the top fifteen for the award and to be the sole representative of Australia,’ he explained.

‘But to win such a major award outright is almost indescribable. ‘It’s been a bit of an emotional rollercoaster these last few days, but now I am very happy.’

Commenting on Ed’s Airdrop design concept and award win, James Dyson said that ‘Biomimicry is a powerful weapon in an engineer’s armoury.

‘Airdrop shows how simple, natural principles like the condensation of water can be applied to good effect through skilled design and robust engineering.

‘Young designers and engineers like Ed will develop the simple, effective technology of the future – they will tackle the world’s biggest problems and improve lives in the process.’

Past winners of the prestigious award have traditionally gone on to a very bright design future, and Ed says that his immediate dream is to use the award prize to help take his Airdrop design concept to the next level of

‘The Airdrop Irrigation concept has so many potential uses all around the world for countries with water restrictions and arid climates,’ said Ed.

‘I truly hope that I can develop the Airdrop project with an Australian investor for the future so that we can show the world what a great country of design inspiration this is.

‘I couldn’t have won this competition without the invaluable guidance of my university tutors, and the critical support of organisations like the Design Institute of Australia, which has encouraged and publicised my design
efforts along the way.’

Project Description


The Airdrop irrigation concept is a response to poor agricultural conditions in periods of severe drought. Extensive research into droughts revealed an increase in soil evaporation and trans-evaporation (plant and soil) due to the increasing temperatures. Airdrop Irrigation works to provide a solution to this problem.

Moisture is harvested out of the air to irrigate crops by an efficient system that produces large amounts of condensation. A turbine intake drives air underground through a network of piping that rapidly cools the air to the temperature of the soil where it reaches 100% humidity and produces water.

The water is then stored in an underground tank and pumped through to the roots of crops via sub surface drip irrigation hosing. The Airdrop system also includes an LCD screen that displays tank water levels, pressure strength, solar battery life and system health.


The effects of climate change on Australia are accelerating at an alarming rate. Last year the Murray Darling area experienced the worst drought in a century, lasting 12 years and resulting in irreversible damage to ecosystems, widespread wildlife decline and catastrophic bushfire conditions.

Agriculture in the region suffered record losses. An alarming figure of 1 rancher/farmer a week was taking their own life, as years of drought resulted in failed crops, mounting debt and decaying towns. Although 2010 brought much needed rainfall to the area, other parts of Australia are continuing to suffer drought. The southwest corner of the country has experienced its driest year to date.

Scientific projections indicate as temperatures continue to increase so too will the severity, frequency and duration of droughts worldwide. While there are various atmospheric water harvesting technologies that exist today, most are high-tech and expensive – not ideal for the rural farmer market.


The airdrop irrigation system is a low-tech, self sufficient solar powered solution; an innovation bread of comprehensive investigations into rural agricultural environments, developed through working with irrigation manufacturers and local farmers, and refined by extensive prototyping with successful results.

Research reveals a gap in the use of atmospheric water harvesting technologies for irrigation purposes within Australia, and there has been no discovery of any similarities to the condensation producing system of piping present in the Airdrop irrigation design.

The pipe construction was born through investigations into the principles of air-flow.

Other elements that incorporate the resolved concept include the turbine – designed to maximize air intake, to operate freely in high wind and switch to battery power in low wind.

The submersible pump that drives water from the underground tank includes a float cut off switch to cut power to the pump when water levels are low.

About James Dyson Foundation

The James Dyson Award is an international student design award running in 18 countries. It’s run by the James Dyson Foundation, James Dyson’s charitable trust, as part of its mission to encourage the next generation of design engineers to be creative, challenge and invent.

The James Dyson Foundation was originally set up in the UK in 2002 to support medical and scientific research charities; design and technology educational projects; as well as charitable organisations in the Malmesbury area where Dyson Ltd. is based.

It has since grown internationally and continues to expand within US, Europe and Far East.

The James Dyson Foundation works to spark young people’s interest in engineering, and inspire the next generation of engineers. Through free initiatives, such as the education box and workshops, students are encouraged to think differently, to experiment, and to invent. Engineers are the future.

New thinking should be rewarded.

Each year we invite submissions for ground-breaking ideas. The award runs across eighteen countries and an international judging panel pick the most promising. James Dyson then personally selects the winner who receives £20,000.

Tough economic times put even more pressure on budding designers and engineers. We believe investing in the next generation of problem solvers is essential.

Both at undergraduate and doctorate level, over £150,000 is available annually to support promising students and their ideas. We want to help turn good ideas into commercial products

THE BRIEF : >> “Design something that solves a problem”


International Winner:
– £10,000 the student or student team (of up to four members)
– £10,000 for their university department
– James Dyson Award trophy and Certificate

Two International Runners-up:
– £2,000 each
– James Dyson Award Certificate

Twelve International Finalists:
– James Dyson Award Certificate

National Winners:
– £1,000 each
– James Dyson Award Certificate

Up to nine National Finalists from each country:
– James Dyson Award Certificate


The James Dyson Award is open to product design, industrial design and engineering university level students (or graduates within 4 years of graduation) who have studied in the following countries: Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Malaysia, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Russia, Singapore, Spain, Switzerland, UK and USA. See the Terms and Conditions for full entry criteria.


Stage 1: A panel of leading designers, engineers and design critics in each of the 18 participating countries shortlist the top ten entries and name the national winners.
Stage 2: A panel of Dyson design engineers scrutinise all national projects selecting the top 20.
Stage 3: An international judging panel of high-profile designers, engineers, academics and journalists pick 15 international finalists. Informed by the international judges, James Dyson will name the winner and two runners-up

2010 james dyson award finalists

2010 James Dyson Award finalists and winner

The James Dyson Award 2010 international winner, Longreach ( a portable bazooka-fired buoyancy aid ) by Samuel Adeloju, Australia.

About the DIA ( Design Institute of Australia )

The Design Institute of Australia – Australia’s only professional, multi-disciplinary design organisation – has been actively improving the community and status of designers since 1947. The organisation promotes the value of design and designers to industry, business, government and the community.

The DIA provides a vibrant networking base on a state, national and international level. Through its international affiliations, the DIA links its members with designers in over 40 countries.

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