With Thanksgiving in the U.S. almost a week away, it’s time to reflect on the year past with gratitude. At AirMap, we have a lot to be thankful for — exciting industry progress, our fast-growing AirCrew, and of course, drones themselves.
Undoubtedly, we’re thankful for the promise of on-demand Slurpees and autonomous flying cars. But beyond the latest gadget or tech trend, drones are going to great lengths to make the world a better place.
This year, please join us in giving thanks for the awesome organizations committed to humanitarian drone efforts. Here are a few examples of drones doing good.
Early HIV Diagnosis
Thirty percent of HIV-positive infants globally will die within the first year of life if not treated, according to UNICEF. That number jumps to 50 percent by the second birthday. And if a child survives her first very difficult years, she will likely experience stunting, cognitive delays, physical development delays, and ill health.
Treatment is possible, but only through early diagnosis. Unfortunately, early life HIV testing in Malawi comes with many challenges, including poor infrastructure and costly transportation. By taking flight, drones offer a compelling solution.
UNICEF partnered with drone manufacturer Matternet to transport HIV testing supplies between Malawians and laboratories. So far, the results have been excellent. UNICEF looks forward to reviewing their research with the hopes of expanding the program later this year.
“This was not about introducing a new technology, this was about getting HIV+ babies onto treatment,” said Judith Sherman, Chief of HIV and Aids at UNICEF Malawi. “Drones happen to be the technology that we think will help that process work better.”
When a devastating earthquake in Haiti threatened the life of his future wife, Patrick Meier desperately sought up-to-date crisis maps showing the impact of the disaster. When he couldn’t find one, he made it himself, according to NPR.
Back then, he relied on crowdsourced content from citizens on the ground. Today, he uses drones.
Drones are more effective and efficient at capturing up-to-date, detailed imagery that can be stitched together to create 3-D models of a given region. This is a fast, cheap, and effective way of surveying damage after a disaster.
Through his nonprofit WeRobotics, Meier has carried out dozens of successful disaster relief missions and has begun training first responders on how to use drones themselves when an emergency takes place. Meier is also the founder of UAViators, a humanitarian network for drone pilots.
Medical Supply Delivery
According to drone manufacturer Zipline, more than two billion people lack adequate access to essential medical products due to terrain and infrastructure challenges. Over 2.9 million children under age five die every year due to preventable injuries or illnesses. Up to 150,000 pregnancy-related deaths could be avoided each year if mothers had reliable access to safe blood.
In response to this crisis, fixed-wing drone manufacturer Zipline established a national medical supply delivery service in Rwanda last month.
Set up near the country’s medical supply warehouses, Zipline drones get medical supplies to clinics and hospitals faster and more efficiently than ground vehicles, given Rwanda’s poor infrastructure. The impact to curable diseases, injuries, and infections is immediate, ultimately resulting in lives saved.
“Too many people die from very curable diseases or injuries,” Zipline’s CTO and co-founder Keenan Wyrobek told TechCrunch. “When you think that most blood and vaccines need to be refrigerated, we have another problem. We focused on speed and reliability [with drones] to solve that problem.”