Drones for Humanitarian and Environmental Applications

 

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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

Testing mapping drones to plan refugee camp sites with UNHCR

In collaboration with The Global Camp Management and Camp Coordination (CCCM) Cluster, FSD and CartONG provided training drone imagery at the annual Global CCCM Cluster Retreat to test if mapping drones can help plan refugee camp sites more accurately and more efficiently compared to using satellite imagery. Part of the task was to determine the number of refugees the site could accommodate. The data was prepared to be and used with the planning and engineering software, Autodesk.

The team generated an orthomosaic, a digital surface model (DSM) and a digital terrain model (DTM) of the site using a ground sampling resolution of 15cm.

The participants were also asked to provide their input on where they see additional potential uses for the technology and what the challenges towards implementation would be. A more detailed write up with the results will follow.

Particpants of the UNHCR/SDC site planning simulation in Canton Vaud on 22 September 2016, with CartONG staff.

Particpants of the UNHCR/SDC site planning simulation in Canton Vaud on 22 September 2016, with CartONG staff. Photo: Timo Lüge

Sylvie De Laborderie and Fanny Bas from CartONG preparing a Sensefly eBee drone to collect images for a UNHCR/SDC site planning simulation in Canton Vaud on 22 September 2016

Sylvie De Laborderie and Fanny Bas from CartONG preparing a Sensefly eBee drone to collect images for a UNHCR/SDC site planning simulation in Canton Vaud on 22 September 2016. Photo: Timo Lüge

Orthomosaic of the hypothetical camp site processed in Pix4D

Orthomosaic of the hypothetical camp site processed in Pix4D

 

Drones in Humanitarian Action is partially funded by DG ECHOThis 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.

Mapping Drones in Humanitarian Action: Meeting Summary Report

Introduction

With funding from DG ECHO, FSD is spearheading an initiative on Drones in Humanitarian Action in collaboration with CartONG, Zoï Environment Network and UAViators. The objectives of this meeting were to provide a progress update on the use of drones in emergency response, to discuss new case studies and to consolidate findings and outputs. The overall aim of this initiative is to provide humanitarian organisations with a roadmap for the effective and safe integration of this technology in support of more efficient and effective delivery of humanitarian assistance.

Background

A 2-day consultation meeting was convened on the use of drones for mapping in humanitarian contexts. The purposes were to:

• Offer a platform for constructive discussion to take stock of how drones and related technology are useful in creating maps in humanitarian contexts
• Identify how best to adopt and roll out this technology for humanitarian organisations
• Discuss the way forward, including next steps towards safe, effective and efficient integration of drones for mapping in humanitarian work

The 40 participants included technology experts and representatives of humanitarian NGOs, governments, donors and two drone manufacturers. The results of this discussion will provide the basis for a Guideline Publication on the use of mapping drones in humanitarian action, which will be published later in 2016. Case studies covering past drone deployments in humanitarian contexts were provided as background reading for the meeting (see Annex I).

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Survey: Most humanitarians favour the use of drones in disaster zones

Drones are one of the most controversial technologies in disaster response operations. To find out what exactly humanitarian aid workers think about the use of these unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV), the Swiss Foundation for Mine Action (FSD) with funding from EU Humanitarian Aid has now published a survey. In total, close to 200 disaster responders working in 61 different countries took part in what is the first comprehensive survey of how humanitarian professional view drones.

The survey shows that a substantial majority of respondents (60%) believe that drones can have a positive impact in disaster response operations, while only less than a quarter (22%) see their use negatively – at least when used following natural disasters. The opinions shift significantly, when asking about use of drones in conflict zones. Here, humanitarian workers are sharply split: while 40% stated that drones should never be used by humanitarian organisations in conflict settings, 41% said they would consider using drones even during armed conflicts.

Interestingly, a majority (57%) said that they believe that the local populations feel threatened by drones – even in non-conflict environments. However, this perception is not backed up with the experience that FSD has gathered as part of the EU Humanitarian Aid funded initiative “Fostering the Appropriate Use of Air-Borne Systems in Humanitarian Crisis” so far. As part of that initiative, FSD, in partnership with the Zoi Environment Network and CartONG, is currently collecting 16 case studies ranging from mapping, to de-mining to transporting medical samples. Nine of these case studies have already been published and can be found here.

Most survey respondents saw a very real potential for drones to assist in humanitarian response operations, particularly in situations where drones can be used to create maps, monitor activities, support search and rescue operations or deliver cargo. However, humanitarian workers also stressed that drones need to be able to provide a real added value compared to existing technologies.

The survey also showed that much more needs to be done within the humanitarian sector to build knowledge about the advantages, disadvantages, capabilities and limitations of drones. The vast majority (87%) of respondents said that they did not have first-hand knowledge of using drones. Many of them explained that they were looking for guidance and needed experience to make the best use of the technology.

As drones become more affordable and widespread, there is no question that UAVs will become more and more common in disaster zones. The results of this survey show that more needs to be done to better understand the added value of drones and to provide humanitarian organisations with practical guidance on how and where drones should be used.

Key figures of the survey are summarised in the infographic below. The complete survey can be downloaded here.

Infographic - Survey: Drones in Humanitarian Action

 

Drones in Humanitarian Action is partially funded by DG ECHOThis 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.

Case Study No. 10: Using Drones for Disaster Damage Assessments in Vanuatu

NATURAL DISASTER I ACUTE EMERGENCY I ASSESSMENTS

Type of system: Indago Multi-copter Microdrones by Lockheed Martin, 960L by Allign, Phantom 2 Vision+ by DJI and Fixed wing model UX-5 by Trimble
Deploying agency: World Bank with UAViators
Piloting agency: Heliwest, Australia, and X-Craft, New Zealand
Dates of Deployment: 28 March to 12 April 2015
Authors: Patrick Meier, Denise Soesilo

File: Download

Summary

Cyclone Pam struck Vanuatu and destroyed thousands of homes, schools and other buildings. The Humanitarian UAV Network carried out aerial surveys as the first operational project related to the World Bank UAVs for Resilience programme. The UAV team formulated standard operating procedures and coordination mechanisms, and carried out about 200 flights. Logistical and communication challenges, a lack of clarity about specific data requirements and the lack of a standardized file format limited the success of the project, but the drones mapped areas more quickly than any other available method, and the World Bank notes that extensive learning and insights were gained through the UAV mission.

Background

On 13 March 2015, tropical Cyclone Pam, a category 5 storm, struck Vanuatu, a collection of 82 islands that stretch across 1 300 kilometres, and became one of the worst natural disasters in the country’s history. Wind gusts reached as high as 320 km/hour destroying thousands of homes, schools and other buildings, leaving 16 people dead and displacing 3 300 people. The cyclone affected a total of 132 000 people, including 54 000 children. Within days the World Bank asked the Humanitarian UAV Network (UAViators) to carry out aerial surveys of as many disaster-affected areas as possible to supplement the post-disaster needs assessment. The Government of Vanuatu, through the South Pacific Commission, identified priority areas for the aerial surveys while carrying out their own initial damage assessments in the wake of Cyclone Pam. The priority areas were Shefa (Efate Urban, Efate Rural, Epi, Tongoa) and Tafea (Tanna, Erromango) and Malampa (Ambrym, Pentecost). The World Bank chose to use UAVs instead of helicopters due to the limited and unpredictable availability and cost of chartered helicopters in Vanuatu. In addition, producing high-resolution ortho-rectified mosaics requires specific flight plans and altitudes that are typically not achievable with helicopters. The purpose of the aerial surveys was to complement the field-based disaster damage assessments to identify which buildings were fully destroyed versus damaged but reparable versus largely intact. The mission was carried out between 28 March and 12 April 2015.

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Cargo Drones in Humanitarian Contexts Meeting Summary

Introduction

With funding from DG ECHO, FSD is implementing an initiative on Drones in Humanitarian Action in collaboration with CartONG, Zoï Environment Network and the Humanitarian UAV Network (UAViators)[1]. Discussions among the partners and participants led to a meeting focusing on cargo drone applications in humanitarian contexts co-organized and hosted by the University of Sheffield on 20-21 June 2016. The meeting brought together the principle stakeholders interested in the use of cargo drones for the delivery of essential humanitarian payloads. The purpose of this meeting was to advance the effective use of this emerging technology in humanitarian efforts actively, responsibly and effectively. This document summarizes the presentations and main discussion items of this meeting.

PDF Summary Report

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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.