With every new technology comes various applications, and with drones, the possibilities are endless. Most people are familiar with the typical applications which include, surveillance, filmmaking, use in agriculture and fishing, law enforcement, racing, and flying for fun. However, did you know that drones could be used for social good?
We were like the majority who only envisioned that drones could be used for the applications listed above. Given the advancing technology in drone making, we sort the ways that drones could be used to bring about social good. It was not easy researching since all we could find were the same old applications. However, we were able to identify seven ways that drones could be used to bring about social good, and we have compiled them for you below.
Common Ways That Drones Are Used for Social Good
We are not trying to impose that the common ideas that drones are not for social good, but some ways leave the society better than others. When it comes to drone news, most people only talk about how lucrative drones will become and failing to look at the social impact of the drones. There is also a lot of news streaming in on how the military is using drones to bomb terrorist hideouts and closer home; there is the notion that drones will infringe on your privacy.
It might take a while for the public to change their minds about drones, but we it is not too late to show the good side of drones. With drone technology still in its infancy stages, there is much to be done, and we can expect more to come our way. It is a responsibility to use the drones for the good of the society.
When researching the good drones do, we came across UAE Drones for Good. This is an annual competition held in Dubai. It is the largest competition of its kind in the world and winner gets to walk away with Dh 4.67 million. The competition is open to everyone who is using drones for social good. This and several other competitions have tireless worked to shine a light on the positive impact that drones have on the society. These are some of the best ways of using drones for social good.
1 Disaster Management
In various parts of the world, adverse weather has left devastation in their wake. For example, hurricanes and storms displace people, and they sweep everything to the ground. The victims are left to start from ground zero. The levels of devastation are catastrophic, and the desperate victims are left to the mercy of well-wishers. Following a disaster such as that caused by hurricanes and storms, there is hardly any means of transport that would reach the affected as well as the lack of communication.
For example, drones became very crucial in the search and rescue of thousands of Houston residents when Hurricane Harvey ravaged it. It was also used in Miami following the wake of Hurricane Irma. In both of these scenarios and others across the world, disaster management personnel have used drones to search for victims and drop relief as they wait for the rescue teams.
Drones will typically gather information about the places where search and rescue teams need to reach. In most cases, these areas are impassible, and thus drones prove to be the best option. Some of the companies spearheading the making of drones for disaster management include Windhorse Aerospace who have a drone called Pouncer that can deliver food items. Otherlab is also on the forefront with their advanced paper planes made from biodegradable materials and can carry as much as 2 pounds of life-saving and sustaining supplies.
2 Providing Cellular and Internet Services
Whenever adverse weather rain down on the land, other than disrupted means of transport, the victims in most cases do not have the means to communicate with the outside world. This makes search and rescue scenarios difficult. More so, the teams find it difficult to do a coordinated search when they cannot communicate effectively.
The FAA finally authorized the use of drones in the provision of cell service, and the first application was in Puerto Rico after the havoc caused by Hurricane Maria. These types of specialized drones are known as Flying Cell on Wings (COWs) and are the product of AT&T. They act like flying cell towers, and they can quickly restore cellular and internet services. Its approval took too long, but we have seen one of the ways drones can be used for good.
The development of these Flying COWs will need to be improved to increase flight times and range. The goal is to deploy them as soon as communication channels are broken down. In the past, entire neighborhoods would go without voice, text, and data service for months on end.
3 Fighting Illegal Logging and Mining
For a long time, human beings have destroyed the planet through excessive logging without replacing the trees cut down. To curb further environmental degradation, government and private environmental agencies have tried to keep natural forests safe as well as initiate tree planning activities to increase the tree cover over the land.
Illegal logging is one of the biggest threats to indigenous tree species. Consequentially, it results in the destruction of ecosystems, ruined livelihoods, and displacement of birds, and other wildlife. In conjunction with the government, environmentalists are using drones to catch illegal loggers in the act, which can be difficult when it is happening smack in the middle of a forest.
The Amazon, one of the most diverse ecosystems left in the world is under threat, and the Amazon Basin Conservation Association of Peru have employed the use of toy planes and drones to photograph miners and illegal loggers, that are threatening the world’s largest forest. The drones weigh no more than five pounds, and when compared to the typical commercial drones, they have a longer range. Their drones are made of foam, and while this reduces their weight, they can still be able to carry a regular drone camera. This group of environmentalists has caught miners, and illegal loggers in the act and their photographic evidence have prevented the loggers from going into the protected areas of the forest.
In 2016, the Wapichan Community in southern Guyana, whose traditional homeland is in the forest wanted the government to act against illegal miners and loggers. Unfortunately for them, the government wanted proof. They used YouTube DIY tutorial and built themselves a fixed-wing drone that had flight tracking software and a GoPro camera. With the drone, they were able to get proof of the loggers in protected areas of the Amazon, and those illegal miners were polluting their water sources. Renowned environmentalist and Nobel Prize roulette Wangari Mathai would be proud of how drones are helping in the fight to save trees.
4 Fighting and Preventing Pollution
China is one of the countries with the highest pollution rates in the world. The situation is so bad that it creates dense smog in their cities, especially in Beijing. The level of pollution has disposed many people to airborne diseases, but in 2014, they started taking matters into their own hands. The Aviation Industry Cord of China used a nameless drone and tied it to a gliding parachute.
The drone had a payload of a chemical catalyst that would cut through the smog. It achieved this by creating artificial wind currents that would help curb the level of air pollution in the city. While the process worked, the government identified that prevention is the better option. Today, the Chinese Ministry of Environment Protection launched drones that would monitor and detect any illegal emissions from factories.
In a bid to reduce littering on its streets, Dubai, one of the greatest cities in the world today, started using drones in 2016 to catch people littering. The drones are also used to monitor beaches, waste dump sites, desert campsites, and any offenders face hefty fines or even time behind bars. This is in line with the strict sanitation laws. Other than curbing littering, Dubai is experimenting with passenger drones. In their thinking, this will reduce and control the emissions from ordinary taxis. These and more applications have led to a cleaner environment, and we can only hope more countries adopt it.
5 Anti-Poaching and Wildlife Conservation
Poaching has become a rampant menace in many areas of the world. The latest wave of poaching in Africa is spurred by the lucrative prices of elephant and rhinoceroses’ horns on the black market in the Far East. As a result, thousands of elephants and rhinoceros have been murdered, and they are now part of the endangered species. What this means is that should the trend continue, we will be reading about them in books like we do dinosaurs, except that this was our own doing.
South Africa is leading the rest of Africa by using silent drones for patrolling rhinoceros reserves. Even with an increase in the number of park rangers, drones can do a better job. With thermal imaging cameras, rangers can now identify unauthorized personnel and get to them before they do any harm. The Lindbergh Foundation has provided the Air Shephard program, and the drones can patrol for two hours on a single charge. Better yet, the drones integrate predictive analytics, and they can predict where poachers would be.
6 Detecting and Safe Detonation of Landmines
When a war is finished, and the warring sides are finally at peace, there is much celebration. However, there are dangerous weapons left behind. Reports indicate that there are landmines that have stayed hidden since world war I, and they pose a threat to the people occupying former battlefields. Over the years, landmines left in the ground have killed hundreds if not thousands and left scores maimed for life. Drones with the appropriate technology could help identify buried, and they can be detonated safely.
Harshwardhan Zala, a 14-year old boy from India, made headlines recently when he unveiled a drone he made that could find and safely detonate land mines. His custom drone includes a 21-megapixel camera with a mechanical shutter, an RGB sensor, a thermal meter, and infrared sensors. According to Zala, the drone can detect the precise location of a land mine. When the area has been cleared, the drone can drop a small bomb to detonate the landmine.
The drone is not only applicable to forgotten landmines, but it can be used to save thousands of lives when used on an active battlefield. Currently, the military uses a landmine detecting and detonating robots. While there are no human casualties in this method, it means that they will need a new robot for each landmine since the robot is completely taken apart. Zala’s anti-landmine drone can detect landmines from afar and detect the landmines safely. This will not only help save lives, but it can also help cut military spending.
7 3D Mapping and Preservation of Archeological Sites
As time unfolds, human beings have created architectural marvels, but with time they turn into archeological sites, and they start to fade away. If left unchecked, they could fall into oblivion, and the history of a people could be forgotten forever. Archeologists are working to ensure that these sites remain standing and recognizable.
They are using drones to create detailed 3D maps of archeological sites. Even when weather and time have eroded the sites away, they can always get an accurate replica of the site. This will help future generations understand world history and the replicas can also be used to study how past civilizations carried day to day activities and their way of life. One of the notable archeologists using drones in site preservation work is Benoit Duverneuil, and together with his research group, Aerial Digital Archeology and Preservation. They aim to further the use of drones in archeology as well as give other archeologists training on the use of drones in their work.
These are some of the incredible ways of using drones for social good, but we are nowhere near exhausting them. The drone sector is still young, and with continued drone development, we expect this list to keep on growing. While we have seen only negative news about drones, the above ways will set the record straight, and hopefully, more drone enthusiasts will start using their drones for social good.
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