3 tips for NGOs considering a foray into drone use

A member of "Serve On" holds up a drone control to help identify areas that are worst-hit by the earthquake in Nepal. Photo by: Jessica Lea / DFID / CC BY

BANGKOK — Though the use of drones for humanitarian aid is still relatively new, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies has been heavily exploring how best to utilize the technology.

The world's largest humanitarian network is currently experimenting with drone use across several countries and sectors, including a partnership with Land Rover to create a roof-mounted drone that can take off and land while the vehicle is moving, a concept being tested in Austria. A partnership with aerospace company Airbus, meanwhile, is looking at medium-range, light-payload cargo drones to deliver medication and vaccines.

Aarathi Krishnan, regional innovation and futures coordinator for the IFRC in the Asia Pacific, is the first to say that the organization must be careful to adopt drone use only if it provides a valid addition to existing efforts — and only if teams are first properly trained in how to utilize emerging tech.

“Something that’s really clear to us is we have to build the right types of skill sets within our own organization because it’s not just about piloting drones; it’s about analyzing the imagery that comes out of it as well and being able to use that analysis for effective decision making,” Krishnan said.

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About the author

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    Kelli Rogers

    Kelli Rogers is a global development reporter for Devex. Based in Bangkok, she covers disaster and crisis response, innovation, women’s rights, and development trends throughout Asia. Prior to her current post, she covered leadership, careers, and the USAID implementer community from Washington, D.C. Previously, she reported on social and environmental issues from Nairobi, Kenya. Kelli holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri, and has since reported from more than 20 countries.