possible habitats. If successful, it can contribute to
WWF’s goal of restoring, establishing and maintaining the animal’s population in the region.
Despite these applications, the “drones do good”
message still faces skepticism, says Patrick Meier,
PhD, Doha, Qatar-based founder of the Humanitarian UAV Network, which promotes the safe,
coordinated and effective use of UAVs in humanitarian settings.
“This is a new technology, and new technologies
don’t become mainstreamed in the humanitarian
space overnight,” he says.
Even Ghana’s medicine project raised concerns.
“When I first proposed the project of providing these
logistics, they [Ghana officials] were a little leery of
unmanned systems because all they knew about them
was from the press and that they are used for weaponry or spying,” Gavin Brown, executive director of
the Michigan Aerospace Manufacturers Association,
told UAS Magazine. After officials heard more about
UAVs’ potential, they agreed to the project.
Sebastian Ancavil, geographic information
system officer, IOM, Port-au-Prince, Haiti, helps
organize geographical data related to humanitarian
assistance for displaced people. He said his drone
projects have raised concerns—particularly when
the UAVs fly over camps to map those areas and
monitor the number of tents.
“We couldn’t just come to the area of inter-
est and fly over the population and then leave,”
Mr. Ancavil says. “We were working in sensitive
places. This population is vulnerable, living in hard
conditions.” The images aren’t intended to show
poverty or to track individuals. But some people in
the camps expressed concern that the UAVs could
recognize their faces.
That makes communication particularly vital.
“To avoid any confusion…we involve the com-
munity—local camp leaders, for example,” he
says. “And within our team, we determined how
to explain the goals of the use of UAVs to the dis-
placed people in the camps.”
Another stakeholder concern, particularly
among law enforcement and rescue agencies, is
possible interference from drones. “Making sure
that a drone hobbyist doesn’t fly into or over a
search area is one of the UAV industry’s biggest
hurdles,” says Adam Andrews, Kenosha, Wis-
consin, USA. He’s a founding member of SAR
Drones, an all-volunteer search
and rescue organization, and
director of operations for Aero-
works Productions LLC, which
offers UAV services including
Those rogue hobbyists don’t
necessarily help create goodwill
toward drones. In June, as crews
battled a large wildfire in California’s San Bernardino Mountains
in the U.S., a hobby drone was
spotted near firefighting planes.
The planes had to turn back,
halting firefighters’ efforts.
Mr. Andrews has one word
for anyone who’d like to advance
the cause of humanitarian drone
projects: communicate. “The
more people understand how
drones can assist, save time, save
money and perform a task safer
than manned aircraft, the better.”
“This is a new
—Patrick Meier, PhD,
Humanitarian UAV Network,
The International Organization for Migration worked
with Drone Adventures to survey a disaster area after
Hurricane Sandy hit Haiti in 2012.