When it comes to alleviating some of the world’s most pressing problems, perhaps we should look to the skies. The word ‘drone’ might inspire images of counterterrorism strikes and the future of package delivery. But quadcopters and other autonomous flying vehicles are revolutionizing the ways we tackle the biggest social and environmental issues of our time.
While there are definite drawbacks to using drones in this capacity — problems of privacy, ethics, and cost among them — the technology, when executed responsibly, helps aid organizations, scientists, and everyday citizens transform the act of doing good.
Here are 9 ways to use drones for social good:
1. Humanitarian aid
Unmanned aerial vehicles have a proven track record of being useful in disaster relief efforts. Now, companies are testing to see how drones can regularly deliver humanitarian aid, rather than just inform NGOs where to go. It can be extremely difficult (and even dangerous) for aid workers to get to people in hard-to-reach areas, whether it’s a rural region of a developing nation, or a country plagued by conflict. But if you cut humans out of the equation, the seemingly insurmountable task gets a little easier.
2. Animal science and research
Drones are helping animal scientists and researchers make strides in their fields, simply by giving them views they never had before. It’s just one example of many in which drones can aid in animal research. Ecologists have used drones to track critically endangered birds, count sea lions, support the Jane Goodall Institute’s chimp efforts, and even help dwindling populations of the southern right whale recover.
3. Anti-poaching and curbing wildlife crime
Drones don’t just help scientists observe animals in their natural habitats. They can also help protect endangered species from poachers. For the past several years, anti-poaching groups have tapped into the power of drones to save rhinos and elephants in countries like Kenya, Zimbabwe, and South Africa. Drones can act as a sort of high-tech park ranger, monitoring wide expanses of land to intercept poaching gangs. And their flight paths aren’t random — everything is based on analytical models and massive amounts of data, including incidents of past poaching, the movement of rhinos with ankle trackers, the weather, and more.
While elephant and rhino poaching might be the most visible wildlife crime issues, it’s worth noting that drones also help track illegal fishing, which can deplete resources, kill off species, and affect whole ecosystems.
4. Fighting illegal logging
Illegal logging doesn’t just leave the visible destruction of trees in its wake — it also threatens species, destroys ecosystems, and ruins the livelihoods of local communities (and often damages their sacred land). Enter drones. A number of groups have employed the technology to catch illegal loggers in the act — something that isn’t easy to do when it’s happening in the middle of rainforest.
5. Medical emergencies
How do you help people who need medical attention in rural areas that aren’t accessible by ambulance? Three words: autonomous medical drones. Other drones can deliver first aid quicker than traditional ambulances, and even help fight malaria in Southeast Asia by mapping the communities where the disease spreads.
6. Sexual health and reproductive rights
If you thought drones couldn’t help advance sexual health and reproductive rights, think again. You can fly drones to deliver birth control pills, condoms, and other medical supplies to people in remote regions, where there is little-to-no access to contraceptives. Drones are also helping activists navigate anti-abortion laws in the developed world.
7. Curbing pollution
China is infamous for its smog and historic levels of air pollution, but in 2014 it set out to curb the problem — with a drone. The unnamed drone was tied to a gliding parachute, and was equipped with a chemical catalyst to cut through smog and created artificial wind currents to reduce air pollution. Later that year, China’s Ministry of Environmental Protection launched a series of drones to detect illegal nighttime emissions from factories.
8. Refugee search and rescue missions
We’ve seen countless tech solutions to help curb the global refugee crisis, but drones are particularly helpful — and in the Mediterranean, where nearly 900 refugees and migrants have died trying to get to Europe this year, the tech is saving lives. Using a drone, you can find vessels carrying refugees and migrants adrift at sea with an infrared-enabled camera, send back coordinates, and help the organization rescue them.
9. Connecting the developing world
Facebook aims to get the 4.1 billion people who aren’t connected to the internet online by using radio technology above remote regions carried by drones. It was first tested last year. Google had a similar program, after it acquired Titan Aerospace in 2014, but announced earlier this year that it was abandoning the project. Facebook also recently announced that it built a large drone that could connect people in disaster areas to the internet, but it’s still in early testing stages.
To see the complete article, videos and all the case examples, go here: http://mashable.com/2017/04/23/drones-social-good-humanitarian-aid/#ounEc5.o1iqK
Photo: moas_eu – Instagram