[SE02-HUM] UAVs: Opportunities and Challenges for International Aid and Global Development

DAY 2 – Tuesday 3 May – 11:15-12:45
Swiss Tech | Room 3A | Level Garden

Session Leader | Summary | Panelists and Abstracts


Session Leader

Andrew Schroeder
Humanitarian UAV Network – UAViators, United States

Andrew Schroeder, PhD is the co-founder and Chief Operating Officer of WeRobotics, a global non-profit organization which aims to accelerate the ethical, safe and effective use of robotics technologies for humanitarian aid, development, community resilience and global health. Prior to his role at WeRobotics, Andrew was the Director of Research and Analysis for the humanitarian medical aid NGO Direct Relief. He was also co-organizer of the UAViators Humanitarian UAV Network and the founder of the UAV Working Group at Nethope. Andrew has been recognized by Esri, Fast Company, Nominet Trust, the Clinton Global Initiative, and many others as a world leader in application of geographic information systems (GIS) for humanitarian aid and global health. His work has appeared in The Lancet, The New England Journal of Medicine, SciDev, Business Week, Huffington Post, and other publications. He received his PhD in Social and Cultural Analysis from NYU and his Masters in Public Policy from the Ford School of Public Policy at the University of Michigan.



Across the landscape of disaster relief, resilience and development UAVs (“drones”) are moving from the margins to the mainstream, demonstrating new types of solutions to previously intractable problems. Two distinct streams of use cases have emerged with particular force, one related to data collection and the other related to logistics. UAVs are being used by a wide variety of groups from Tanzania to Brazil to generate imagery with both high spatial and temporal resolution to support all phases of disaster preparedness, response, and recovery. Combined with advanced photogrammetric techniques, the sphere of what is knowable and actionable at each point, for instance through rapid production of accurate digital elevation models and imagery for change detection, is being steadily expanded. Likewise, early stage experiments in transportation of essential medicines and diagnostics are raising crucial questions about medical access and healthcare efficiency in remote areas. By avoiding obstacles in ground transport networks and responding dynamically to clinical demand, new models of responsive health care system design are coming into focus. Key issues remain though for realizing the potential of these innovations. Communities must be effectively engaged at the levels of systems implementation, data access, and analytical interpretation. Regulatory regimes must be redesigned to balance expanded utilization of airspace with concerns over safety and privacy. Additional comparative research into the cost structures and health impacts of UAV-based logistics, within and beyond the pilot implementation phase, must be conducted.

This panel delves into these interrelated questions and concerns in order to open up creative discourse about how the growing wave of humanitarian UAV activity may not only add new tools to the humanitarian toolkit, but also prompt rethinking of basic assumptions about what can be known and acted upon within disaster relief, resilience, and development.


Krista Montgomery & Jorge Fernandez, Pix4D, Switzerland, Drone Photogrammetry for Flood Preparedness [PDF Full Paper]


Raj Madhavan, Humanitarian Robotics & Automation Technologies (US) & AMMACHI Labs (India), United States, UAVs for Environmental Monitoring and Disaster Management


Daniel Singer, Singer Global Health, Cost Effectiveness and Feasibility of Using Unmanned Aerial Vehicles to Transport Laboratory Samples for Early Infant Diagnosis of HIV in Malawi [PDF Full Paper]