By Stephen Prendergast
One of the keynote speakers at the DRIVER+ Advanced Crisis Management Conference, held in Brussels in February 2020, was Patrick Meier, co-founder and joint CEO of WeRobotics/Flying Labs.
Flying Labs is a growing network of highly trained drone operators based around the world who can provide drone expertise for local crisis management efforts.
Data gathered from drone flights allows crisis managers to gather highly targeted, up-to-the-minute emergency data to help local emergency responders act more precisely and effectively in delivering support to local populations, often in remote, hard-to-reach and unmapped areas. The data gathered can also be used to map disaster zones and support a Common Operational Picture for all agencies involved.
All of this means that in the immediate period after a disaster event, local emergency services do not have to wait for foreign emergency responders to arrive; the expertise is already on the ground and able to deploy quickly and with greater local knowledge.
Flying Labs build local drones, data and AI skills through the provision of training for local groups, such as government services, not-for-profit organisations, research centres and universities. They also support these organisations in implementing their pilot projects and create replicable use cases for the humanitarian, health, environment and development sectors.
WeRobotics/FlyingLabs states that its mission is ‘to shift power from the global back to the local by ensuring that local experts with local knowledge and lived experience have the leadership opportunities they seek to implement technology for good projects themselves. This inclusion is key to accelerating the positive impact of aid, health, development and environmental efforts.
‘We co-create and facilitate a network of local knowledge hubs in Africa, Asia and Latin America to build on existing expertise in drones, data and AI, the Flying Labs network. The goal of Flying Labs is to accelerate the positive impact of humanitarian, health, development and environmental solutions locally. Flying Labs also expand local markets by creating new jobs and businesses that offer robotics as a service and support local ecosystems.’
The WeRobotics/FlyingLabs organisation has several strands to its work:
For improving disaster risk management by localising appropriate robotics solutions while developing the policy, coordination and data solutions necessary to ensure safety and effectiveness. These efforts include disaster risk reduction, preparedness, disaster response and recovery.
For improving public health services in remote areas by field testing and implementing appropriate cargo drone solutions while developing the policy, technical and data solutions necessary to ensure safety and effectiveness. These efforts include testing and improving a wide range of cargo drones solutions across different use-cases and environments.
EcoRobotics aims to e improve environmental efforts by localising appropriate robotics solutions while developing the policy, technical and data solutions necessary to ensure safety and effectiveness. These efforts include sustainable agriculture and fishery practices, nature conservation and climate change resilience.
DevRobotics aims to improve professional development opportunities in the use of appropriate robotics solutions by developing the policy, technical and data solutions necessary to create local “Drones-as-a-Service” markets and ecosystems. This reduces inequalities by addressing infrastructure needs and creating new local economies using emerging technologies.
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