Socially Responsible Drones

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by: Christopher Tang

Besides military and delivery drones, one wonders if drones can be used for socially responsible applications. Apparently, they can. Here are some applications:

1. Increase hurricane forecast accuracy. It is difficult to improve the forecast accuracy about the path and the strength of hurricanes to save lives. A team of scientists at the University of Florida is investing the use of a swarm of six-inch-long drones to ride through hurricanes to collect data on temperature, pressure, humidity, and location.

2. Improve search and rescue missions. Search and rescue missions are time-consuming, expensive, and often dangerous for the people involved. However, with the use of drones equipped with visual, audio, heat-sensing, cellular-sensing surveillance technologies, these missions can be more effective and efficient especially when there is a need to cover large areas of inaccessible terrain or at night.

3. Improve farming productivity. Due to the mountainous terrain in many rice-growing countries, it is difficult to monitor the health of the crops in a large area. Drone companies such as DJI have developed drones that can save time and cost and improve yields for farmers. Specifically, these drones can use cameras to spot where nitrogen levels are low, and use infrared light cameras to monitor plant health by analyzing photosynthesis is in various plants. Drone manufacturer

4. Reduce mosquito-borne diseases. To save lives, government agencies find it challenging to reduce the population of the most deadly animal – the mosquito. Spraying pesticides is expensive and time consuming in large areas. In 2016, USAID funded an organization called WeRobotics to develop special drones that can deploy sterile male mosquitoes to reduce local populations of mosquitoes by 90%. To pack as many mosquitoes as possible without damaging them, they put these mosquitoes to sleep by packing them in pre-cooled containers in low temperature. Once these mosquitoes are released in the area, the warmer external temperature will wake them up so that they can fly off to do the right thing.

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