The word “drone” is starting to evoke more than warfare. During the past three years, drones—also known as
unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs)—have gained attention as
do-gooders. They’re being used to search for missing people,
survey natural disaster sites and monitor endangered animal
populations. But because the military association is still so
strong, project teams have to overcome significant stakeholder concerns.
Drones to the Rescue?
After Hurricane Sandy hit Haiti in 2012, the Geneva, Switzer-land-based International Organization for Migration (IOM)
undertook a project that used UAVs to help survey the disaster area. Within days of the hurricane, the team provided
data on the number of collapsed or damaged homes. Drones
also performed aerial surveys after the March 2015 cyclone
in the South Pacific nation of Vanuatu and the earthquake in
Nepal the following month.
The next frontier may be using drones to deliver medicine
to hard-to-reach locations. For instance, the Humanitarian
Emergency Logistics Program aims to send medicine, vaccines
and test results from clinics in Ghana to remote areas of the
country within half a day. Currently, it can take up to 21 days.
Sponsored by the Michigan Aerospace Manufacturers Association and engineering and consulting firm Ausley Associates
Inc., the drone delivery system is expected to be fully operational in two years, according to UAS Magazine.
Conservationists hope wildlife can benefit from drone
technology, too. In June 2015, the World Wildlife Fund
(WWF) and several partners began a project to test the use
of drones and high-resolution 3-D
imagery to monitor an endangered black-footed ferret habitat
on the Fort Belknap Reservation
in the U.S. state of Montana. The
project is intended to lower the
cost and improve the accuracy
of obtaining information about
Projected spending for global UAV
production by 2025
Civil/consumer UAV market share
in 2015. Military is 72%