Drones in Humanitarian Action

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Drones in Humanitarian Action

“Drones in Humanitarian Action” is an in-depth analysis of the role that drones (also known as UAVs or RPASs) can play in humanitarian crises. It is based on two years of research as well as multiple stakeholder consultations.

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Humanitarian Drones

Fostering the appropriate use of airborne systems in humanitarian crises

Aim: To consolidate existing knowledge on the use of drones in humanitarian contexts and to further test, promote and disseminate their appropriate use and best practices among humanitarian organisations and the Global Clusters.

Duration: June 2015- January 2017

Drones in Humanitarian Action

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Context: UAVs (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles), also known as drones and RPAS, are used more and more in various fields for imagery, transport and other purposes. Humanitarian organisations, but also actors not traditionally involved in humanitarian action have started to use these tools in humanitarian settings as well. Hopes are high that drones will strongly improve humanitarians’ capacity to assess needs, monitor changes on the ground and even to deliver relief items. At the same time, critics voice their skepticism regarding the actual usefulness of drones in humanitarian settings. We are addressing these questions from different angles.

Final report: The final report is an in-depth analysis of the role that drones can play in humanitarian crises. It provides an overview of the strengths and weaknesses of the technology for different scenarios in emergencies and can provide guidance to decision makers who consider using drones. In addition to a general introduction to the technology, the report focuses on the use of drones to gather information, transport cargo and in search and rescue. You can download the free report here.

Specific Activities:

Technologies and their humanitarian applications 

The knowledge base regarding the use of drones in humanitarian was thin. We have worked with civil protection and humanitarian organisations that have used or worked with drones in the past to document and share their insights and learnings with the humanitarian community at large.

To this end we have published case studies that evaluate past deployments in humanitarian settings.

Case Study No.1: Mapping – Flood Mapping for Disaster Risk Reduction: Obtaining High-Resolution Imagery to Map and Model Flood Risks in Dar es Salaam

Case Study No.2: Delivery – Using Drones for Medical Payload Delivery in Papua New Guinea

Case Study No.3: Mapping – Small-scale Mapping with Consumer Drones in Nepal

Case Study No.4: Mapping – Deploying Drones for Spatial Modeling of Displaced Landmines after flood in Bosnia Herzegovina

Case Study No.5: Mapping – Testing the Utility of Mapping Drones for Early Recovery in the Philippines

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

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

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

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

Case Study No.10: Monitoring and real-time information – Using Drones for Disaster Damage Assessments in Vanuatu

Case Study No. 11: Search and Rescue: Simulation: Using Drones to Support Search and Rescue

Case Study No. 12: Search and Rescue: Using drones in fire and rescue services in the United Kingdom

Case Study No. 13: Monitoring: Using drones to inspect post-earthquake road damage in Ecuador

Case Study No. 14: Mapping: Using drones to create maps and assess building damage in Ecuador

Drone Regulations 

We have researched the current regulations of 30 of the most disaster prone countries in the world. The database can be accessed here: https://www.droneregulations.info/



Research on perception

A survey was circulated through humanitarian networks to understand the perception and the level of experience on the use of drones by staff from organisations involved with humanitarian aid and civil protection. The full results can be accessed here.

Building the knowledge base

In the second phase of the initiative, we expanded the knowledge base by deploying drones in collaboration with partner organisations. The findings and lessons learned were shared with the humanitarian community.

Field deployments took place in France, Tajikistan and Malawi

Stakeholder discussions and sharing of experiences

Mapping Drones Consultation with Humanitarian Actors: Meeting summary

Cargo Drones Consultation with Humanitarian Actors: Meeting summary

Drones in Humanitarian Action is supported by DG ECHO:

About DG ECHO:

The European Union with its Member States is a leading global donor of humanitarian aid. Through the European Commission’s Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection department (ECHO), the EU helps over 120 million victims of conflict and disasters every year. With headquarters in Brussels and a global network of field offices, ECHO provides assistance to the most vulnerable people solely on the basis of humanitarian needs, without discrimination of race, ethnic group, religion, gender, age, nationality or political affiliation.

The initiative is led by FSD in partnership with:

CartONG – Founded in 2006, CartONG is a French non-governmental organization committed to furthering the use of geographic information tools to improve data gathering and analysis for emergency relief and development programmes around the world. CartONG enables emergency relief and development organizations and local governments to manage their own existing data, integrate other data sources and then use that data to plan programmes and monitor progress and impact. CartONG is a registered non-profit organization headquartered in Chambéry, France.

Zoï Environment Network – An international non-profit organization, Zoï’s mission is to reveal, explain and communicate connections between the environment and society.

UAViators – With over 2,500 members in 80+ countries, UAViators’ mission is to promote the safe, coordinated and effective use of UAVs for data collection and cargo delivery in a wide range of humanitarian and development settings. We do this by developing and championing international guidelines for the responsible use of UAVs. We actively promote operational safety and document lessons learned and best practices.

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.