From delivering life-saving drugs to mapping sites for refugee camps, drones have massive potential for global health.
A new report from the Foundation for Responsible Robotics says that, despite their reputation for invading privacy and endangering aircraft, drones could benefit society in many ways as long as they are used appropriately.
Worldwide, drone sales are booming, totalling $13.1 billion in 2016, says the report. And the global drone industry has been estimated at around $127.3 billion.
The report says that use of drones in global health falls into two categories: data acquisition and cargo delivery.
Speaking at a press conference to launch the report, the authors called for the responsible use of drones.
Denise Soesilo, co-author of the foundation report, said: “There’s a potential to do truly good things with this technology but there’s also the potential to get it wrong. The private sector cannot lead these discussions [on proper drone use]. They have to come from civil society and the public.”
The report highlighted the work of various organisations including Unicef, the World Food Programme and Médecins Sans Frontières, which used drones to map an area in Malawi partially cut off from floods but for which there were few detailed maps. The organisation then used the data it had retrieved to work out where people were living and what assistance was needed.
A drone company in Rwanda is delivering life-saving blood in the world’s first national drone delivery network.
Drones also have a key role to play in search and rescue operations and disaster response, said the report. But volunteer drone operators must co-ordinate with professional emergency responders, as well as consult existing guidelines and professional codes of conduct.
Ms Soesilo said that in the aftermath of the Nepal earthquake in 2015 well-meaning good Samaritans turned up with newly-bought drones, with the intention of helping the rescue efforts.
“These people must be trained and they must be co-ordinated very closely with official rescue operations. You can ground all the helicopters in an area if there’s an unregulated drone flying somewhere,” she said.
Aimee van Wynsberghe, co-director of the Foundation for Responsible Robotics, highlighted the concept of “disaster tourism”.
“People are using drones to go to an area of a disaster, whether it’s a fire or an emergency, and tracking what’s going on,” she said.
But Dr van Wynsberghe added that drones, even when used by official agencies, could also cause psychological harm and more research was needed in this area.
“It would be irresponsible to proceed with drones on a massive scale without knowing the psychological consequences,” she said.
Noel Sharkey – the foundation’s co-director and professor emeritus of robotics and artificial intelligence at Sheffield University – characterised the regulations governing the use of privately-owned drones as “chaos”, whether that is in Europe, the United States or the developing world.
And he warned that inappropriate use could lead to a public backlash.
“We must not throw the baby out with the bathwater. It is now clear that the responsible use of this technology could be enormously helpful to humanitarian work and environmental protections. When we have natural disasters, starving people in conflict or emergency need for medicines, drones can come to the rescue,” he said.
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Article Source : https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/0/improper-drone-use-causing-chaos-skies/