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Most humanitarians favour the use of drones in disaster zones

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The Swiss Foundation for Mine Action (FSD), in partnership with CartONG and the Zoï Environment Network, has just published a survey that shows what humanitarian professionals think about the use of drones in humanitarian crises.

The survey was distributed in English, French and Spanish to humanitarian professionals working in 61 different countries, and 194 humanitarian responded. A majority of survey respondents expressed confidence that drones have the potential to strengthen humanitarian work.

The first of its kind, this survey measures perceptions of the use of drones in humanitarian action. The Swiss Foundation for Mine Action (FSD) undertook the survey between 15 November 2015 and 15 January 2016.

A majority of survey respondents expressed confidence that drones have the potential to strengthen humanitarian work, and that drones can greatly enhance the speed and quality of localized needs assessments, while a significant minority viewed the use of drones in humanitarian work unfavourably. Importantly only roughly one in ten respondents had actual experience with drones in humanitarian settings.

The reasons cited for a negative perception fall into three general categories – concerns that the technology creates distance between beneficiaries and aid workers; the potential association with military applications; and the lack of added value delivered by the use of drones.

The potential improvements respondents identified include extending the reach of monitoring, assessments and the delivery of essential relief items where access is limited or hazardous for humanitarians on the ground. For these and other uses, respondents viewed drones as a tool to improve – but not replace – the work of ground teams.