Relief and Disaster Drones: Commercial Logic as Humanitarian Logic?

Conference paper

Sandvik, Kristin Bergtora (2013) Relief and Disaster Drones: Commercial Logic as Humanitarian Logic?, presented at Spy in the Sky: Regulatory Issues of Drones and Unmanned Aerial Systems, May 23, 2013.

The dire humanitarian consequences of the dronewars have in recent years become familiar. In contrast, there has been much less public discussion about the potential humanitarian uses of drones, so-called relief or disaster drones, for a range of missions that are today untertaken by volunteers and rescue dogs, or manned ships, airplanes and helicopters. Unmanned aerial vehicles, UAVs, popularly known as drones, offer the humanitarian community a range of possibilities with relation to crisis mapping, search and rescue, and some way off into the future, cargo and relief drops. How should the humanitarian community grapple with current and evolving developments of drones for humanitarian purposes, and how can it benefit from the technological advances that UAVs and other unmanned and/or automated platforms entail without giving further legitimacy to a UAV industry looking for civilian applications of drones developed for military purposes? In order to begin to address this challenge, this paper offers an overview of current and foreseeable uses of relief and disaster drones before highlighting the need for a more thorough reflection on humanitarian drones by reference to the commercial logic underpinning the technology transfer from the military to the civilian and humanitarian fields, and the systematic attempts by the UAV industry to rebrand itself as a humanitarian actor.

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