How drones are used in humanitarian relief efforts?

First Drone Delivery in the Amazon

Patrick Meier is an internationally recognized expert in the field of humanitarian technology. He has consulted for the UN, Red Cross, World Bank and numerous other organizations.  His book, Digital Humanitarians, shares remarkable, real-life stories of how humanity coupled with innovative solutions to Big Data is changing humanitarian response forever. He founded the Humanitarian UAV Network (UAViators), an organization of 2,500 members in 80+ countries with a mission to promote the safe, coordinated and effective use of UAV’s for data collection and use in a wide range of settings.  He is also a consultant and author of several articles on humanitarian efforts and technology.

Patrick presently serves as the Executive Director and Co-Founder of WeRobotics, which scales the positive impact of humanitarian aid, development and environmental projects through the use of robotics solutions, most notably, drones.  Patrick talks about We Robotics, how drones are used in humanitarian efforts and how Digital Humanitarians are saving lives and creating new, sustainable economic opportunities with drones.

In This Episode

  • Introduction.  Patrick Meier is the Executive Director and Co-Founder of WeRobotics, an organization that scales the positive impact of humanitarian aid, development and environmental projects through the use and localization of appropriate robotics solutions, most notably, drones.
  • Digital Humanitarians.  Patrick uses this term to describe people that use new technology to support and advance humanitarian efforts.  In his book by the same name, Patrick summarizes several case studies from around the world where digital humanitarians are making a difference.  In this podcast, he focuses on one example, the devastating earthquake in Haiti.  In the beginning, digital humanitarian efforts were part of a crowd sourcing effort to compile data during disasters and producing crisis maps.  Patrick has applied the concept in throughout the world.  He talks about these efforts and how data is being compiled by local partners to inform and direct response and recovery efforts.
  • Drones and Digital Humanitarian Efforts. Patrick describes how drones are used in supporting disaster relief efforts.
  • We Robotics. We Robotics is an organization founded and led by Patrick to scale the positive impact of humanitarian aid, development and environmental projects through the use drones.  Patrick believes that the best humanitarian programs integrate local populations in the response and recovery phases.  To this end, We Robotics creates drone Flying Labs to train local pilots in flying and using drones to rebuild their communities and launch new businesses.  There are currently three flying labs – Nepal, Peru and Tanzania – with Nepal being the first.  Approximately 36 people are participating in this Lab.  The Peru Flying Lab recently completed the first ever cargo drone deliveries in the Amazon rain forest.
  • Passion and Purpose. Patrick describes how rewarding it has been to experience the excitement local teams have in using drones to support their local efforts.  And the key feeling is the recognition that the local teams are in control (not outsiders), that they have sense that they can accomplish great things in their own community and are driving the decisions.  There is a great amount of pride and passion by team members in knowing that they are the first in their generation to use drone technology to improve their communities. That excitement is contagious.
  • Role as One Tool in the Tool Box. Patrick talks about integrating different sources of data to get a contextual understanding of patterns and trends for managing humanitarian response.  Drones are not replacing a technology or data source, they are adding a new dimension.  If they’re already in a region, they can fly immediately after the disaster.  Sometimes, weather patterns prohibit the use of satellite imagery or traditional air flights, and drones have a huge advantage. There are cost savings as well as time savings, in adding drones and a complimentary data compilation too.  The added benefit is that local responders can participate in their own recovery efforts.
  • Closing. Patrick hopes that the work with We Robotics will improve humanitarian efforts around the world, enabling and localizing programs that will create jobs and spur new high paying industries in these areas.

Mentioned Links

Training Local Residents to Use Drones

Training Local Residents to Use Drones

Aerial Data Compiled Using Pix4D