Review: The First Ever Course on Humanitarian Drones

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The Humanitarian UAV Network (UAViators) promotes the safe, coordinated and effective use of UAVs in a wide range of humanitarian settings. To this end, the Network's mission includes training the first generation of Humanitarian UAV experts. This explains why I teamed up with VIVES Aeronautics College last year to create and launch the first ever UAV training specifically geared towards established humanitarian organizations. The 3-day, intensive and hands-on training took place this month in Belgium and went superbly well, which is why we’ll be offering it again next year and possibly a second time this year as well.

Participants included representatives from the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), World Food Program (WFP), International Organization for Migration (IOM), European Union Humanitarian Aid Organization (ECHO), MedairDirect Relief, and Germany's Development Organization GIZ. We powered through the most important subjects, ranging from airspace regulations to the physics of flight, the in’s and out’s of civil aviation, aeronautics, weather forecasts, programming flight routes, operational safety, standard operating procedures, best practices, etc. I gave trainings on both Humanitarian UAV Applications and Humanitarian UAV Operations, which totaled well over 4 hours of instruction and discussion. The Ops training included a detailed review of best practices—summary available here. Knowing how to operate this new technology is definitely the easy part; knowing how to use UAVs effectively and responsibly in real-world humanitarian contexts is a far bigger challenge; hence the need for this training.

[Click Here to continue reading and see dozens of pictures from said training]

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Comment by John Githens on June 17, 2015 at 7:34am

I read the rest of this post, then the post by Andrew Schroeder of DirectRelief. Impressive work toward efficient and effective application of drone systems to respond to emergency events (and more examples of use cases as requested by Roger Sollenberger in his 16 June post). With the potential for disaster anywhere...  I hope that government agencies (like the US FEMA) are taking note of this progress. What improvements are envisioned for the next offering of this training?

Comment by Patrick Meier on June 17, 2015 at 8:17am

Thanks John, I gave an hour-long talk on Humanitarian UAVs at FEMA HQ in DC last Fall, which FEMA's CTO attended. My sense is they prefer to work manned aircraft (via CAP) instead, but this is bound to change at some point in coming years. The American Red Cross is more active in the UAV space, which is why they are on the Board of the Humanitarian UAV Network. Regarding improvements for future trainings, we've gotten some good suggestions from participants, including adding a seminar and hands-on exercise on using UAVs for payload transportation. Another suggestion was to provide a 4th optional day of training that would provide participants with the opportunity to do a deeper dive on a specific aspect of humanitarian UAV operations, e.g., imagery processing & analysis.

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