Drones in Humanitarian Action

Commercial drones, or unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), are increasingly used in a wide range of humanitarian contexts. For years, WeRobotics (and before it the Humanitarian UAV Network) provided professional, in-person trainings in Africa, Asia, Latin America, Europe and the US to improve the safe, responsible, coordinated and effective use of drones to support humanitarian efforts. Trainees have included humanitarian professionals from dozens of organizations including: 

United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UN/OCHA), UN Development Program (UNDP), UNICEF, World Food Program (WFP), Emergency Telecommunications Cluster (ETC), International Organization for Migration (IOM), Direct Relief, NetHope, Medair, Global Medic, USAID, FEMA, AAAS, MIT Lincoln Labs, European Commission, ACF International, Catholic Relief Services (CRS), local universities and national & local stakeholders including National Disaster Management Organizations in Peru, Myanmar, Malawi, Mozambique, Nepal, Dominican Republic, Maldives, Fiji, Seychelles and beyond.

With the launch of the WeRobotics Online Training Institute, WeRobotics is now making this unique training available online to even more organizations and professionals. The online training, Drones in Humanitarian Action, has been prepared by the AidRobotics Team at WeRobotics. Together, this team brings over 40 years of professional experience in humanitarian aid, complex emergencies and humanitarian technologies. WeRobotics will continue to provide in-person trainings through their growing network of Flying Labs in Asia, Africa, Latin America and the South Pacific in addition to customized trainings for partner organizations. 

The new online training launched by WeRobotics is instrumental for anyone engaged in—or expecting to support future—disaster response efforts. The course will be of equal interest to participants who want to better understand what it takes to lead humanitarian drone missions safely, responsibly and effectively. As such, the training is also ideal for drone companies including pilots working in the commercial space. That said, no background in disaster response or drones is required for this foundational course.

Overview of Humanitarian Drone Training

Our online training represents the first ever online professional course specifically dedicated to humanitarian applications of drones. The 7-week training comprises 7 key modules, which cover the following important topics:

  • Drone Technologies and Mission Planning
  • Mapping Drones and Information Products
  • Cargo Drones and New Solutions
  • Humanitarian Principles and Codes of Conduct
  • Survey of Drone Deployments in Humanitarian Aid
  • Humanitarian Drone Missions: Lessons Learned & Best Practices
  • Drones in Humanitarian Action: Localization and Coordination
  • Aerial Data Interpretation and Analysis
  • Future Trends in Drone Technologies and Applications

The online training will also include a dedicated module on Technical Basics of Drone Pilot Certification, which will cover the following topics:

  • Rules of the Air
  • Safety
  • Airspace
  • Flight Permissions
  • Basic Chart Reading
  • Meteorology
  • Aircraft Knowledge
  • Airmanship

The WeRobotics training on Drones in Humanitarian Action are built on the first ever trainings on humanitarian drones provided by the Humanitarian UAV Network (UAViators) between 2015-2016. These professional trainings were given by WeRobotics co-founders Dr. Patrick Meier and Dr. Andrew Schroeder, and included trainees from the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UN/OCHA), WFP, International Organization for Migration (IOM), Direct Relief, NetHope, Medair, Global Medic, USAID, FEMA, AAAS, MIT, European Commission, ACF International, Greenpeace and many more.

How To Register and More

The online training on Drones in Humanitarian Action will be given in June and July 2018. Registration will open on May 1. Certificates of completion will be provided to participants who successfully pass the training. We plan to offer this training several times a year and already plan to introduce other trainings in the future including trainings on the use of Cargo Drones in Public Health and Drones in Environmental Action.

The online training on Drones in Humanitarian Action was prepared by the AidRobotics Team at WeRobotics. The team—Joel Kaiser, Dr. Patrick Meier and Dr. Andrew Schroeder—brings together over 40 years of experience in humanitarian aid, complex emergencies and humanitarian technologies.

Joel Kaiser: Over 15 years of field experience in humanitarian assistance and disaster response in over a dozen countries and including 4 years pioneering the humanitarian use of drones. Joel has extensive experience in humanitarian coordination, and advanced studies in emergency management. Prior to WeRobotics, Joel worked as an emergency response specialist with several different humanitarian agencies including the Canadian Red Cross, Food for the Hungry and Medair. Has led disaster response teams in many humanitarian crises including Haiti, Myanmar, Nepal, Philippines, Somalia, Iraq and Syria. Since 2013 these responses have involved the use of drones to improve operational decision-making. Holds an MA in International Development with a focus on Complex Emergencies from Simon Fraser University. Was one of the lead experts running the recent humanitarian drones workshop in Malawi with UNICEF and earlier with WFP in Myanmar. Joel is on the core team of the Humanitarian UAV Network (UAViators) and has played a key role in developing the International Humanitarian UAV Code of Conduct.

Dr. Patrick Meier: Over 15 years of experience in humanitarian technology. Spearheaded the coordination of drones in the aftermath of Category 5 Cyclone Pam in Vanuatu and the 8.0 Earthquake in Nepal. Co-directed the WeRobotics workshops on humanitarian drones for UNICEF in Malawi and for WFP in Peru, Myanmar and the DR. Coordinated and evaluated cargo drone field tests in Peru and the DR. Spearheaded the Open AI Challenge with the World Bank to use AI for the automated analysis of aerial imagery and previously directed applied research on related projects including a year-long study for the Red Cross on the use of drones for disaster risk management. Served as long-time consultant to the World Bank's UAVs for Resilience Program. Founded the Humanitarian UAV Network (UAViators) and previously developed & provided hands-on professional trainings on humanitarian drone missions to a wide range of humanitarian professionals. Also co-authored the most comprehensive report on Drones in Humanitarian Action and played a key role developing the first humanitarian drone trainings and the International Humanitarian UAV Code of Conduct. Received advanced degrees in International Affairs from The Fletcher School of Law & Diplomacy and Columbia University's School of International and Public Affairs. Authored the book, Digital Humanitarians, which has been praised by experts from the UN, Red Cross, World Bank, USAID, DfID, Harvard, MIT, Oxford and more.

Dr. Andrew Schroeder: Over 10 years of experience in humanitarian and public health emergencies, logistics and disaster response, with extensive expertise in data-analytics, geospatial data and Geographic Information Systems (GIS). Internationally recognized leader in GIS, data science and applied epidemiology for humanitarian aid and global health. Directly engaged in relief efforts following numerous disasters including Cyclone Nargis (Myanmar), Haiti Earthquake, Japan Earthquake/Tsunami, Typhoon Haiyan (Philippines), Ebola Outbreak (Sierra Leone and Liberia), Nepal Earthquake, Hurricanes Matthew, Maria, Irma and Havey (Caribbean) and Wildfires (California). Founded the Nethope's UAV Working Group. Co-directed the WeRobotics workshops on humanitarian drone for WFP and co-directed UNDP drones for disaster resilience project in the Maldives. On the core team of the Humanitarian UAV Network (UAViators) and previously provided hands-on professional trainings on humanitarian drone missions to a wide range of humanitarian professionals. Played a key role in developing of the International Humanitarian UAV Code of Conduct. Received advanced degrees in social analysis and public policy from New York University and the University of Michigan.

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