Drones or UAVs (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles) are increasingly coming to the forefront of humanitarian technology innovation. While drones are not new to headlines, their application in disaster relief situations is still in the embryonic stage, with exciting developments coming thick and fast.
Innovators want to use drones to deliver vital emergency supplies to areas with no road access, as well as to operate in disaster areas where access for rescuers is fraught with danger. Recent tests have yielded encouraging results and are also demonstrating the versatility of the drone as a platform for other technologies.
In the US, new laws have relaxed restrictions on the commercial use of drones. This means that the country’s academic researchers can test drones without the need for a pilot’s license. In the near future, large scale testing may become even easier and NASA is already planning a nationwide US drone traffic control system.
On June 22, Australian startup Flirtey tested ship to shore flights, using drones to pick up medical supplies and samples from a vessel in Delaware Bay in the US and deliver them to a medical camp on the shore.
Students, academics and companies are looking at ways to combine the drone platform with other developing technologies. IntelliNet Sensors has developed the Lynx6-A, an attachment for drones which can scan areas for heartbeats and breathing. Elsewhere, Swiss student Jonathan Cheseaux has developed a drone attachment which can successfully locate mobile phones to within a ten metre area. These kinds of applications will allow drones to increase survivor detection whilst reducing the need to put rescue teams in harm’s way.
While many of these designs are still in the prototype stage, drones have already been successfully deployed to disaster situations. Following the earthquake of 16 April in Ecuador, GlobalMedic used several UAV teams to examine unsafe buildings and provide photo maps of affected areas.
Part of a growing trend in ethical architecture, Foster and Partners revealed its droneport prototype at the International Architechture Bienalle on 26 May. What marks the droneport out is its ‘kit of parts’ design. Only the basic formwork and brick-press machinery will be delivered to the site. Lord Foster says:
“The Droneport project is about doing ‘more with less’, capitalising on the recent advancements in drone technology – something that is usually associated with war and hostilities – to make an immediate life-saving impact in Africa. Rwanda’s challenging geographical and social landscape makes it an ideal test-bed for the Droneport project. This project can have massive impact through the century and save lives immediately.”
We are delighted that world renowned humanitarian technology expert Patrick Meier will deliver the keynote presentation on Humanitarian Technology & Robotics at this summer’s AIDF Global Disaster Relief Summit 2016.
Patrick is the founder of UAViators, a network which promotes safe and effective use of UAVs in humanitarian and development settings. He is also the founder of Werobotics, which helps to drive the use of robots such as drones to deliver humanitarian aid. You can read some of Patrick’s articles on drone applications here.
Image Source: IRevolutions