Drones for overcoming distances
Hardly any other technology creates more ambivalent associations in the mind: There are images of drones circling the rooftops of metropolises as parcel delivery vehicles, detecting land mines in crisis regions or delivering medicines to remote areas. But there is also the image of drones as weapons-and not without reason, as recent conflicts prove.
Drones that can operate on land, in the air and on water are becoming increasingly “smart” and cheaper to purchase. As a result, drones can increasingly operate autonomously, and their use is becoming easier thanks to electronic assistance systems.
Due to their universal capabilities, drones are now providing support in a variety of development cooperation contexts.
Three overarching areas of application can be distinguished:
Factors such as maximum flight duration, range or payload limit the number and type of goods that can be transported. For the widespread use of drones, regulations are increasingly necessary to enable smooth operations in the aviation sector. Providing spare parts is still a challenge in many parts of the world, as production is dominated by a few countries.
The use of drones must be considered holistically. It is not enough to “only” deliver emergency medicines to remote hospitals with drones. Local health workers must also be trained. Drone pilots and technicians must be educated to fly, repair and build the drones. Also governments need to be advised on the legal requirements for operating drones for civilian purposes.
As part of the Drone and Data Aid project, the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) supports the drone sector in Malawi. With the help of drones, more than a tonne of vital medical supplies have been airlifted to remote regions, covering more than 40,000 km. The initiative is supported by the African Drone and Data Academy.Project website