As more press releases emerge detailing the extent of Drone Strikes across the middle-east, from both RAF and USAF/CIA drones, it is more important than ever to show the other side of the drone industry- the side that is pioneering for better healthcare, better disaster response and better environmental protection through their efforts. Detailed below are 4 of the most exciting, inspirational companies and organisations that are taking the world by storm- or will be soon!
Conservation Drones is a brilliant non-profit that leverages technical UAV expertise to assist various excellent ecology and biology projects across the world. This has involved practical data collection, such as working with the Ugalla Primate Project, part of the Jane Goodall Institute Tanzania, as well as training up organisations and individuals to make impacts themselves. Having operated in dozens of countries across the world, from the Democratic Republic of Congo to Suriname, Indonesia to Nepal, Conservation Drones have amassed an incredible amount of knowledge on the use of UAVs in an ecological context.
Led by the notable Professor Serge Wich, of Liverpool John Moores University, Conservation Drones often use their airframes that they have developed themselves to achieve their goals in the field. From lightweight, rugged platforms ideal for carrying across the jungle, to big, long-range endurance platforms, this organisation is truly at the forefront of environmental UAV innovation and design.
This is a new company, but believe me, you are going to hear ALL about them in the coming years. Launching fully in early 2017, EnviroDrone seems to offer something a little different, offering an end-user orientated approach to geospatial data collected by drones. Not only will they offer their own all in-one UAV system, integrated with multiple sensors, they also propose an in-house software solution, making the data more easily accessible to those who need it on the ground. EnviroDrone possibly heralds a different approach to ConservationDrones, offering a more commercial option in comparison to the latter’s relatively democratised approach. If it takes the difficulty out of geospatial data collection and analysis across environmental industries, it could be hitting a very valuable, untapped niche in the market- and are thus are well worth keeping an eye on during their launch year. Based in Canada, it is worth noting that they have collaborated with Conservation Drones in the recent past.
Led by the impressive Dr. Patrick Meier, best known for his work on open-source disaster mapping, We Robotics is at the forefront of democratising geospatial technology across developing countries. Far from keeping UAV technology and skills in the hands of the privileged few in the west, WeRobotics uses ‘FlyingLabs’ to help scale the impacts of development, humanitarian and environmental projects. This involves the direct transfer of technology from partners including Parrot and DJI, as well as skills transfer through training sessions.
The Flying Labs are created with training and technology from We Robotics, collaborating together on initial operations with local organisations, providing initial impacts. The Flying Lab then takes up the torch after We Robotics leave, working on their own projects with local social and environmental-good organisations. Across developing and at-risk countries, the approach removes existing barriers to technology, and puts incredible geospatial technology in the hands of those who need it most.
I’m a big fan of Patrick Meier- he has some excellent Ted Talks as well as a great book (‘Digital Humanitarians’) that are all well worth a look if you are interested in this field.
In a similar ‘development’ vein, Zipline is the company that is seriously making waves in the global media. Raising some $25 million in venture capital, Zipline is starting operations in Rwanda this year, and is widely regarded as one of the great hopes on the drone industry. Why? Zipline could change everything we know about healthcare logistics.
Rwanda is known as the land of a thousand hills for a reason. It’s beautiful if unforgiving topography makes logistics by road especially challenging, and with healthcare, that can cost lives. Enter Zipline, using cost-effective drones to deliver blood samples, vaccinations and medicines to health centres across the country. Taking infrastructural issues out of the equation, Zipline really does represent a pioneering new concept in healthcare logistics that should have great value across the world.
Think of the number of nations with infrastructural gaps, poor road networks and major remote settlements- there are several in Central Africa alone, before you even consider the likes of Myanmar and Nepal. This is an incredible concept, my only worry being that they overstretch themselves too early. They say they are looking to expand into other countries this year already- I would want to ensure the success longevity of the Rwanda project first. This is a competitive field, however, and other companies will soon be snapping at their heels- and with $25 million in funding, one would assume they have done their due diligence.
(All images taken from respective websites, unless otherwise noted).