Humanitarian Drone Missions in Nepal: Early Observations

There are at the very least 7 humanitarian UAV teams operating in Nepal. We know this since these teams voluntarily chose to liaise with the Humanitarian UAV Network (UAViators). In this respect, the current humanitarian UAV response is far better coordinated than the one I witnessed in the Philippines right after Typhoon Haiyan in 2013. In fact, there was little to no coordination at the time amongst the multiple civilian UAV teams; let alone between these teams and humanitarian organizations, or the Filipino government for that matter. This lack of coordination coupled with the fact that I could not find any existing “Code of Conduct” for the use of UAVs in humanitarian settings is actually what prompted me to launch UAViators just months after leaving the Philippines.

The past few days have made it clear that we still have a long way to go in the humanitarian UAV space. Below are some early observations (not to be taken as criticisms but early reflections only). UAV technology is highly disruptive and is only now starting to have visible impact (both good and bad) in humanitarian contexts. We don’t have all the answers; the institutions are not keeping up with the rapid pace of innovation, nor are the regulators. The challenges below cut across technical, organizational, regulatory challenges that are only growing more complex. So I welcome your constructive input on how to improve these efforts moving forward.

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Comment by Randy on May 4, 2015 at 7:13am

An informative read that gives an real sense of the messiness of the situation.  At least you and some of the other teams are trying to get organised.  Interesting to get the link to micromappers and hear about the issues of combining oblique images.. a technical issue that doesn't sound too hard to overcome if only for next time.

For those of us interested in UAVs for S&R, sounds like we need to be very careful to not cross the line (or let others near us cross the line) from actually helping to being there for disaster tourism or to get PR for our UAV system.

Comment by benbojangles on May 4, 2015 at 10:36am

Photo looks like beautiful Kakani Nepal

Comment by Patrick Meier on May 5, 2015 at 12:16am

Thanks Randy. On MicroMappers, we used the platform for the World Banks UAV Response to Cyclone Pam which I spearheaded last month. We were able to crowdsource the analysis of some 2,000 very high resolution arial images for disaster damage assessments. Results are available under Maps tab at MicroMappers.org. Would welcome any guidance you may have on software that enables simultaneous displays of nadir and obliques for comparative analysis purposes.

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