The government of Nepal recently cut down on drone use over the disaster areas.  This came as a surprise to many, but it should not have.

IRIN delivers an in depth article about the perils and pitfalls surrounding drone use in disaster areas.

Looking at the media reporting on drones helping in disaster recovery, one might not think this possible. But the recent earthquake in Nepal has shown some of the limits of these efforts. There are now at least ten international teams trying to help the earthquake-stricken nation.

The limits of drone use are beginning to show.

Chaos

It starts at the disorganization among the helping hands. This has been reported on by irevolution, too. A publication that was very positive about the “Digital Jedis” flocking to disaster areas before.

The article continues with a critical assessment of the use of the drones seen in Nepal. Commercially available drones like the Phantom 2 simply can only fly for a very limited time, in optimal conditions, and might be of less use than common methods.

Last but not least comes a look at the actual organizations and privateers in the area.

Opportunities for Data and Profit

Organisations such as the humanitarian UAViators might be above suspicion. The loose collaboration of individuals might mean more hindrance than help, though.

Commercial operations such as Skycatch might be trying to help, but one might wonder as to hidden motives. The Indian government’s fear of data like photos and maps taken for further commercial use could be well-founded.

Other groups, like the California-based Team Rubicon, link to actual intelligence efforts. In this case, the data mining firm Palantir Technologies. Official Website | Wikipedia

Not a ban

Even though the harder line against drone use in Nepal has been reported on as a “ban”, it isn’t.

The government uses licensing and permits to protect security relevant areas from drones, coordinate efforts, and be able to take a look at who is flying the machines over their airspace.

All these are valid concerns for any nation.

Growing up

Drones will be an important -if not vital – part in the future of disaster recovery. With this comes the need to coordinate, and regulate these efforts however well intentioned they might be.

A critical look at the possible misuse, working out a strategy to coordinate with governing bodies, and adherence to the laws are part of the maturation process for any technology.

Drones will be no exception.

Not even in diaster areas.

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