Humanitarians in the Sky: How UAVs are Changing Disaster Response

About this Webinar:

Satellite imagery has played an important role in humanitarian response for almost two decades. But tasking a satellite, acquiring the imagery and analyzing the results is still a time consuming and expensive process. In addition, cloud cover and data sharing restrictions further limit the use and dissemination of satellite imagery following major disasters.

In contrast, UAVs can be deployed locally and thus more quickly. The resolution of aerial imagery is also significantly higher than the resolution of satellite images. Furthermore, aerial imagery poses fewer challenges around data sharing. Lastly, the cost of small and light-weight UAVs is falling dramatically. This explains why humanitarian organizations are increasingly turning to UAVs for disaster response and recovery projects.

This talk will highlight three such efforts in the Philippines, Haiti and the Balkans. The increasing use of UAVs in humanitarian settings prompted the launch of the Humanitarian UAV Network (UAViators), which seeks to facilitate the safe and responsible use of humanitarian UAVs. UAViators has produced the first ever Code of Conduct on the use of UAVs in humanitarian settings and is actively carrying out applied research on UAV technologies and legislation. In closing, the talk will address the use of UAVs beyond imagery capture and will conclude with a note on the need for innovative policies around the use of humanitarian UAVs.



Patrick Meier (PhD) is an internationally recognized thought leader & speaker on the application of new technologies for humanitarian response. He presently serves as Director of Social Innovation at QCRI where he develops next generation Humanitarian Technologies in partnership with several international humanitarian organizations. Patrick is also the author of the widely read blog iRevolution and of the forthcoming book: “Digital Humanitarians: How Big Data is Changing the Face of Humanitarian Response.” He previously co-founded and co-directed Harvard’s Program on Crisis Mapping & Early Warning and served as Director of Crisis Mapping at Ushahidi. Patrick is also the co-founder of the International CrisisMappers Network and of the Digital Humanitarian Network. He has a PhD from The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, a Pre-Doc from Stanford and an MA from Columbia University. Twitter: @patrickmeier.

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