When I first went freelance in 2008 I decided to specialise in the emerging field of social media for emergency management. This was, on reflection, a terrible idea because I was attempting to sell people a solution to a problem they didn’t agree they had (for more on terrible business decisions see my blog on how to fail at freelancing)
If I were launching a freelance career now and wanted to be similarly unsuccessful I would specialise in how drone (or Unmanned Aerial Vehicles or Unmanned Aerial Systems) technology will impact on emergency management.
Unmanned or remote control aircraft have been with us for many years and governments have been making increasing use of them. Until recently civilians were limited to model aircraft which are difficult to fly without training and have limited capability.
Advances in technology mean that UAVs can fly autonomously, take still photos (and monitor other factors) and stream and sound over large distances. Costs are falling and availability is increasing.
Why emergency planners should care
There are many, many positive uses for drone technologies.
The UAViators network is attempting to create an effective framework for the use of drones for humanitarian purposes.
The West Midlands Fire and Rescue Service has used a drone to identify people in need of rescue, direction and speed of fire spread, rendezvous points, access and egress to the incident ground evacuation zones and other issues around incidents. (for more on this read West Midlands Fire Service employs Unmanned Aerial Systems to protect responders).
There are several obvious anti-social or malicious use cases for drones, to harass or attack others. The use of drones by terrorists is seen by some as an increasing risk.
Regulation (in the UK)
In the UK UAV flights are regulated by the Civil Aviation Authority and they provide guidance on the rules for different sizes and uses of aircraft.
The Information Commissioner has provided guidance on drones and data protection.
Find out more
There is an All Party Parliamentary Group on drones.
There is a thriving community of people designing, building and printing drones.
The tech blog Mashable has a regular “Drone Beat” news section.
Here’s a vido of the demonstration.