Few technologies have undergone as radical a change as drones. Where five years ago, drones were mainly seen as an instrument of war, today they are far more likely to be flown by a wedding photographer than an airman. Earlier this year, the Consumer Technology Association estimated that globally 9.4 million civilian drones will be sold in 2016. Increased reliability, ease of use and much lower prices have also made drones a viable technology for humanitarian responders. Rarely a week goes by without a new idea for how drones can revolutionize humanitarian aid: from drones that promise to detonate landmines to edible drones. However, this hardware centric view often neglects drawing on humanitarian best practice, respecting legal frameworks, or considering ethical aspects of humanitarian innovation.
As part of the EU-ECHO funded research initiative “Drones in Humanitarian Action”, the Swiss Foundation for Mine Action (FSD), CartONG, UAViators and the Zoi Environment Network have spent the last two years looking into how drones can have a real impact in humanitarian crises and what humanitarian organizations should consider before using them. At the core of the research were 14 case studies from 10 countries that looked at the impact of drones in situations ranging from search and rescue, to damage assessments and camp management to transporting medical samples.
The full report “Drones in Humanitarian Action – A guide to the use of airborne systems in humanitarian crisis” is now available for download.