Today’s UAVs are faster, safer and cheaper to fly, which makes them hugely appealing and effective candidates for humanitarian ventures. This use was highlighted in the recent Nepal earthquake disaster, where volunteer UAV pilots played a huge part in the search and rescue operation following the devastating earthquake by coordinating their efforts through Uaviators.org.
For a fraction of the cost of their satellite counterparts, UAVs generate real time information, situation monitoring, public information and advocacy, search and rescue, mapping and more. UAVs have played a key role in the disaster relief efforts of Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines, Cyclone Pam in Vanuatu, Hurricane Sandy in Haiti, mass flooding in the Balkans and the aftermath of a 6.1 magnitude earthquake in Ludian County in Yunnan, China.
The International UAV Humanitarian Award (UAVHA) has therefore been launched to celebrate the efforts of humanitarian drone projects, search and rescue, not for profit initiatives and recognize some of the industry’s most inspirational role models. The UAVHA will be presented at the UK Drone Show in December 2015.
UAVHA is supported by The World Bank, US Red Cross and the UN, with some members of these organizations joining the judging panel for the award. The judging panel will also be comprised of leading industry professionals such as Eric Cheng, director of aerial imaging at DJI Global, Patrick Egan of AirVid, filmmaker Phillip Bloom and thought leader on humanitarian technology, Dr. Patrick Meier.
Inspired to bring together humanitarian and UAV communities across the globe, UAViators is at the forefront of the global ‘altruism meets aviation’ movement. Driven to action by the devastating aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan, UAViators founder Dr. Patrick Meier knew there had to be a faster, more cost effective solution to obtain and share valuable aerial footage.
“While I was surprised by the surge in UAV projects in the Philippines, I was troubled that none of these teams were aware of each other and that most were not sharing their imagery with local communities," Meier explained. "What happens when even more UAV teams show up following future disasters? Will they be accompanied by droves of drone journalists and ‘disaster tourists’ equipped with personal UAVs? Will we see thousands of aerial disaster pictures and videos uploaded to social media rather than in the hands of local communities? What are the privacy implications? And what about empowering local communities to deploy their own UAVs?"
"There were many questions but few answers," Meier said. "As a result, I launched the humanitarian UAV network (UAViators) to bridge the worlds of humanitarian professionals and UAV experts to address these questions."
UAViators is the culmination of his efforts, and brings together over 1,000 members in over 70 countries globally. By actively supporting an international volunteer network of professional, civilian and responsible hobbyist UAV pilots, UAViators hopes to bring a social conscience to the commercial drone industry. With an Advisory Board consisting of the European Commission, UN, Red Cross and World Bank, UAViators is a strong and growing network.
The UAV Humanitarian Project Award aims to recognize these committed individuals and show powerful companies and governments the many uses of drone technology.
Editor’s note: The April/May 2015 issue of Homeland Security Today features two reports on the humanitarian use of UAVs, The Unmanned Helping Hand: The Role of UAVs in Disaster Recovery, and, Transforming On-Demand Emergency Communications with Drones: The Needs, Analyses and Solutions.