How Medair used UAVs to help in the Typhoon Haiyan aftermath
Medair is a humanitarian organisation, that helps people who are suffering in remote and devastated communities. The charity’s work is most prominent in countries struck by war and natural disaster: Iraq, Syria, Madagascar and Haiti are all examples.
Most recently, Medair have been working in the Philippines, which was struck by Typhoon Haiyan on 8 November 2013. The momentous storm killed more than 5,600, damaged one million homes and left almost four million people displaced. Medair have been doing their utmost to help those people, and UAVs have played a fundamental role in their activities.
Rob Fielding, Head of Technology and Innovation at Medair, is the man responsible for integrating UAVs with the charity’s work. Medair began by working with startup company senseFly and partnering with their not-for-profit drone ventures. Rob Fielding then spearheaded a 3 week mission in the Philippines, where senseFly UAVs were used to map out areas that had been hit by the typhoon.
The mission was a resounding success – GPS maps were created and printed in next to no time, which was essential for Medair, who needed to help locals as soon as possible. They located the worst hit areas in record time and began providing aid immediately after. Subsequently, Medair used UAVs to monitor the progress of communities over the coming months, which allowed them to continue their support and ensure that the ongoing change was sustainable.
The maps were even useful after the charity’s initial work was done. Because they were cheap and easy to obtain, Medair were able to pass all maps on to local authorities, who’d never had the facilities to map out their local areas in such detail before.
By pioneering the use of UAVs in charity work, Medair have gained valuable publicity, which has increased donations and had a positive impact on the voluntary work that they do. Rob Fielding has called for other humanitarian charities to follow Medair’s example and integrate UAVs with as many of their projects as possible.
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