In coming years drones will be fully incorporated into commercial airspace. They’re already flown in many countries – to inspect real estate, to survey agriculture and crop yields, and to respond to emergencies. Will we be ready? And how can UNICEF use these emerging technologies to help children? UNICEF Office of Innovation is on the forefront of emerging technologies, and we are looking at the future of drones for humanitarian response and development.

Even though drones are a new technology, we see great potential use in humanitarian and development affairs by their potential for imagery, connectivity, and transportation. And they’ve already been used. In Latin America, they’ve been used for hurricane damage analysis, post-earthquake census and damage mapping, and camp management. In Africa, drones have been used to transport HIV tests and to map flood risk. In Asia and Oceania they have been used for medical payload delivery, disaster damage assessment, and for real-time information after Typhoon Haiyan.

In parallel, other commercial groups like Amazon, Google and others see the inescapable market opportunities of using drones for package delivery, real estate inspection, agriculture, policing, insurance and offshore drilling. Other groups are exploring the use of drones for cell tower extension and creation, bringing connectivity to places otherwise unreached. Because UNICEF Office of Innovation partners work closely with the private sector, we want to make sure we are in conversation with these Silicon Valley institutions and are therefore making inroads to ensure future longevity for our corporate partners.

UNICEF sees drones as being helpful, for example, in mudslides in emergency flooding situations, by bringing connectivity to areas with no cell coverages and for transporting important medical supplies to hard-to-reach places. Drones are currently in an early stage of technological and infrastructural integration, and while federal aviation authorities are still figuring out national guidelines for governing airspace, we want UNICEF to be actively engaged in these early conversations in order to develop uses that enhance children’s lives.

 

 

 

 

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