A 21 month action to consolidate existing knowledge on the use of drones (also known as UAVs and RPASs) in the humanitarian context. With partners, we will also test promote and disseminate the appropriate use and best practices among UN Clusters, NGOs and other relevant stakeholders. 

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Drones for Humanitarian and Environmental Purposes

Cargo/Delivery Drones in Humanitarian Action – A First Meeting Summary

The 2-day meeting on delivery drones in humanitarian action just concluded in Sheffield, UK.

The purpose of this meeting was to bring together the principle stakeholders around the use of cargo drones for the delivery of essential humanitarian payloads in order to actively, responsibly and effectively advance the impactful use of this emerging technology in humanitarian efforts. Representatives from a number of humanitarian organizations, businesses, academia, and donors attended this meeting. This event was an opportunity to connect a variety of stakeholders to identify the most compelling use cases and current developments in the field.

Break-out discussion groups focused among others on issues such as humanitarian technical needs, regulatory challenges and realising systemic supply chain improvements.

The meeting was generously hosted by the University of Sheffield and co-organized by FSD and UAViators/WeRobotics as part of the Drones in Humanitarian Action Initiative funded by DG ECHO.

Presentations are linked to their respective agenda items below: (more…)

Case Study No 9: Using Drone Imagery for real-time information after Typhoon Haiyan in The Philippines

Type of system: Huginn X1 Quadcopter
Deploying Agency: Danoffice IT (with support from Team Rubicon and Palantir)
Piloting Agency: Danoffice IT
Dates of Deployment: November 2013
File: Download

In late 2013, Danoffice IT used its Huginn X1 quadcopter drone during the emergency response to the worst ever Typhoon to hit The Philippines. This initiative — a pilot project conducted in partnership with humanitarian response teams on the ground — provided useful insights into the type of operational infrastructure needed to deploy drones effectively in emergencies. The drones were deployed later than anticipated, which limited the impact of the use of drones in decision-making or planning.


Case Study No 8: High Resolution UAV Imagery for Camp Management in Haiti

Type of system: Swinglet and eBee Fixed Wing Mapping Drones
Deploying Agency: IOM
Piloting Agency: IOM
Dates of Deployment: Starting 2 January 2012
File: Download

IOM considers the use of mapping drones a helpful tool to plan shelter units and to monitor the evolution of camps. As a result, IOM has been using drones since 2012 for this purpose. An initial drone flight in Port-au-Prince in February 2012 provided figures on seven camps for persons displaced by the 2010 earthquake. The imagery was used to delimit the extent of the camps, and then to count and uniquely identify the tents within each camp. These data could then be linked to IDP data stored in the Displacement Tracking Matrix (DTM). This helped establish the size of camps (as the number of tents and number of people were known), organize the camps into blocks and zones to inform registrations and operations for decision making. (more…)

Case Study No 7: Using High-resolution Imagery to Support the Post-earthquake Census in Port-au-Prince, Haiti

Type of system: Swinglet Fixed Wing Mapping Drone
Deploying Agency: IOM
Piloting Agency: IOM
Dates of Deployment: May 2012

The International Organization for Migration, in collaboration with the National Statistics Office of Haiti, conducted a census of areas and populations affected by the 2010 earthquake. Insufficiently precise GPS and out-dated reference imagery were inadequate to the task of clarifying land tenure status. IOM therefore conducted drone flights to obtain the high-resolution imagery essential to the preparation of assessments in Haiti’s densely populated slums. The drone imagery enabled the preparation of precise maps of the enumeration areas, and the maps enabled the enumerators to pinpoint exactly which buildings to assess and to link individual buildings to their owners. Local support included volunteers from the Haiti OpenStreetMap community, who contributed directly to the project by digitizing buildings and roads. (more…)

Case Study No 6: Mapping Rapid Damage Assessments of Tabarre and Surrounding Communities in Haiti following Hurricane Sandy


Type of system: Swinglet Fixed Wing Mapping Microdrone
Deploying Agency: IOM and Comunite OpenStreetMap de Haiti (COSMHA)
Piloting Agency: IOM
Dates of Deployment: October 28 to November 1, 2012


The timely availability of aerial imagery of the damage caused by Hurricane Sandy, combined with existing open source imagery and census data, allowed analysts to determine with precision where assistance was needed. The ability of drones to acquire the imagery depended on pilots gaining access to the affected areas, but did not require the clear skies necessary for the effective use of satellite imagery, and the drones accomplished the task seven days before the satellites. Download PDF (more…)

Drones in Humanitarian Action is partially funded by DG ECHO. This website covers humanitarian aid activities implemented with the financial assistance of the European Union. The views expressed herein should not be taken, in any way, to reflect the official opinion of the European Union, and the European Commission is not responsible for any use that may be made of the information it contains.