RESET Special: Drones and Satellites for Good – How Drones and Satellites Are Helping the World

Are drones and satellites the environmental protectors of tomorrow?

From the bottom of the ocean to the outer reaches of the galaxy – the possibilities offered by drones and satellites are practically unlimited. Unmanned aerial vehicles are no longer only used in war zones. Equipped with cutting-edge technology, they are also valuable aids in the fight against pollution and social injustice. They can expose polluters and even locate people buried under rubble. In our RESET Special 'Drones and Satellites for Good', we will introduce projects that use satellites and drones towards sustainable development.

Autor*in Anna Rees, 07.13.15

Over our heads they hover, unnoticed and almost silent. Derided as devices of warfare or espionage, satellites and drones have garnered a bad reputation – but this is only half the story. A closer look at unmanned aerial objects makes one thing clear: they pack the most up-to-date technology into the smallest possible space.

Although the use and the technology of satellites and drones may be very different, their origin stories draw many parallels. Both technologies were, in their infancy, used mostly for military purposes. Satellites however quickly developed into flying message transmitters, becoming an important tool for space exploration. It did not take long before weather and spy satellites became indispenable in the field of planetary observation. Since the 1970s, satellites have also offered us some of the best technology available to analyse climate change and its effects, such as melting sea ice and changes in ocean temperature.

As a much more recent technological platform, drones struggle to shed their image as enemy spies. Yet in recent years, as technology advances and prices drop, drones have grown in popularity with people using them for a number of purposes, including activities that work towards the greater good. It is estimated that the global commercial drone market will be worth 1 billion USD by 2018.

Drones and Satellites: the Environmental Protectors and Development Aids of Tomorrow

Today, drones and satellites enable fast, remote access to a particular area, allowing activists, scientists and aid workers to compile reports, analyse situations and obtain data about a region, issue or disaster faster, more objectively and more securely than having teams of people on the ground. Beyond monitoring and observation, drones and satellites can also be proactively used to help get medical supplies to those in need, plant trees, alert authorities when environmental crimes are being committed and assist healthcare professionals predict patterns of disease.

Over the coming weeks, we at RESET wish to introduce projects which use drone and satellite technology to influence a shift towards a sustainable world. The initiatives we will cover include: the ambulance drone, which brings medications to people who live kilometres away from proper roads; and DETER, a project using satellite technology to detect polluters in the Brazilian rainforest.

We also chatted with Emanuele Lubrano, the co-founder of Drone Adventures, to find out how the organisation is using drones to build dams and count animals in the Savannah. Alongside this, we spoke with Julian Braun from the University of Applied Sciences in Potsdam, Germany about the survey he conducted on drones in cities and what he believes we can expect from this technology in the future.

Each article from our five-week RESET Special can be found here: Drones and Satellites for Good!

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