10 Non-Aggressive Uses of Drones

Sophie Collings

10 Non-Aggressive Uses of Drones


The proposed drone regulations published this week by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) restricting flying rights for commercial drones, has put multinational corporations such as Amazon at the forefront of the great drone debate in the USA. The drone craze is at the cusp of taking off in the United States, with much controversy but also great anticipation.


Drones and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) were first brought to American attention when the U.S. conducted its first drone strike in Yemen in 2002. Since then, drone strikes in Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan and Somalia have been heavily publicized as part of  counter-terrorism campaigns under both President Obama’s administrator and President Bush’s. As a result, drones have been greatly associated with aggression, conflict and terrorism. The recent crashing of a drone in to the White House lawn has further fueled debate and uncertainty, with fears over privacy, surveillance and public safety a fundamental concern among the general public. The Consumer Electronics Association’s predicts that domestic drone sales this year will increase by 55%, compared to 2014. This  figure has left many people alarmed and confused. What use could a drone be to a typical American?  With an increase in drone use across the country, an increase in public debate, and a fundamental lack of information surrounding the uses of UAVs, there is an unequivocal need to provide scope of the uses of drones. Here are 10 examples of proposed and current drone uses worldwide. By providing an insight in to the varying types of drones and how they are used around the globe, people can gain a wider understanding of the phenomena in which to make an informed judgement.

1. Natural Disaster Response –Haiti and PhilippinesAn official of the Center for Research and Technology Volcanoes Development (BPPTK) releases a drone quadcopter to monitor activity from the Mount Sinabung volcano at Sibintun village in Karo district

Drones are especially beneficial in emergency situations as they are able to fly into dangerous environments and provide invaluable information to NGOs and response teams. People on the ground are provided with a real-time view of an area which includes live night footage and through the use of infrared cameras, survivors can be located and help deployed to their exact location. Thermal imaging cameras that are used to see through smoke are particularly useful in volcanic eruptions and earthquake induced explosions. Drones were used to collect data to aid disaster relief in Haiti after the devastating earthquake in 2010. The Air Force dispatched its “Global Hawk” drone to provide geospatial data of the damage in Port-Au-Prince to relief organizations. Similar drones were also used in the Philippines in 2013 to collect damage data on the region after it was hit by Super Typhoon Haiyan.

  2. Global Climate Change Reduction – Amazon Rainforest

JapanErdoBioCarbon Engineering, a company in Oxford, United Kingdom, has developed drone technology to tackle global climate change. The company aims to use drones in order to upscale reforestation, planting billions of trees a year using ‘Precision Forestry” in the Amazon. The drones will provide detailed geospatial information to aid in planning and management, generating site specific terrain data, topography information and soil types to produce 3D maps of the areas, outline landscape design and planning patterns to implement. BioCarbon Engineering believe that by using drones to then plant seeds, they could increase plantation rates from 3,000 by human planters to 36,000 a day.

3. Space Research – MarsMars

At the California institute of technology, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory are developing a drone that will be used to collect vital information on Mars. The solar-powered drone will be able to provide views of Mars that would otherwise be impossible to see, giving researchers a much more detailed insight into the terrain and physical environment of the red planet.

 4. Extreme Weather Research – Florida

drone hurricaneResearchers at the University of Florida send drones into storms to collect data on temperature, humidity and pressure. Providing invaluable information of large storms that would previously be impossible to gain. There has also been collaborations between the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration, Northrop Grumman and NASA to utilize drones to aid research into the atmosphere and oceans to uncover meteorological secrets critical to improving weather forecasts. Drones can be used to collect information data in remote areas where data is scarce and in the atmosphere’s most difficult to reach zones.  The data received can then be integrated into prediction models, improving resolution and reliability of extreme weather predictions.

 5. Wildlife Conservation – Namibia, Sumatra, Germanyrhino

With hopes of reducing poaching of rhinos in Africa, the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) have collaborated with Google with plans to launch surveillance drones in the skies of Namibia.  High resolution night and day vision cameras will be flown near waterholes and places where wildlife gather to send real-time footage to surveillance teams on  the ground.

orangutanDrones are also used by researchers in Indonesia to study the endangered Sumatran Orangutan from above. The views drones provide from above the tree tops supply invaluable information that can help inform future conservation. Drone technology is also being piloted in Germany in hope to protect the 100,000 young deer killed annually by industrial combine harvesters. The small aerial drones use infrared and digital sensors that can locate deer in long grass and inform farmers prior to cutting.

6. Precision Agriculture – Japanunnamed

Drones are used in precision agriculture to identify areas that need water, fertilizer and spray and deliver what is required to the exact location identified. Drone use in agriculture however is not a recent phenomena, unmanned helicopters have been used in Japan for over 20 years. The Ministry of agriculture in Japan promoted their use and thus 40% of rice crops in Japan are sprayed by UAVs. Cameras can also spot low levels of nitrogen among crops, allowing farmers to view growth rates.  And through infrared cameras, photosynthesis efficiency van be observed, giving farmers an unprecedented opportunity to monitor their plant health.

7. Reducing Water Contamination – Ottawa

JapanThe authorities patrolling the beaches of Petrie Island Ottawa, have developed a strategy to deter geese using drones. Geese contaminate water with their droppings which consequently feeds and spreads the bacteria E.coli, which can be harmful to swimmers. Through the use of UAVs with custom lights and sounds, geese are successfully moved away from the water thereby reducing contamination.

 8. Search and Rescue  – Canadaalpsdrone

High resolution camera equipped search and rescue drones are used to locate injured individuals in remote areas. Using video technology, search and rescue teams can also survey extensive terrain much more cheaply than using manned helicopter operations. In May 2013, a search and rescue operation utilizing such drones successfully located an injured man in Saskatchewan, Canada and have since continued in successfully aiding search and rescue missions.

9. Life Saving – Netherlands

1414540757343_wps_24_epa04466923_a_woman_givesA graduate from Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands, has presented a potentially life saving drone, named the Ambulance drone. The UAV is aimed to locate and fly directly to a patient at over 4 miles per minute, equipped with a built-in defibrillator. Similar technology is currently being developed at the Harvard-MIT Division of Health Sciences and Technology in Massachusetts whereby vaccines will be deployed to remote areas by the press of a button on a cell phone.

10. Law enforcement –  North Dakotapolicedrone-1

Grand Forks Police Department in North Dakota use drones to enforce the law and pursue criminals. The drones are specifically fitted with a real-time camera, thermal imagery and sensors to aid in law enforcement. Drones have been utilized in various situations including locating missing persons, providing useful intelligence of a crime scene by being flown overhead to take digital photographs and locating two suspected criminals who had escaped from a local jail. Drones can also be beneficial to aid with bomb threats, hostage situations and armed criminal pursuits.

Drones are extremely versatile devices that have an array of astounding functions.  By showing the huge scope of their capability and some alternative uses that are not so readily publicized, people can gain a more rounded understanding of UAVs, and how the increase of drone use in the U.S. can impact their life, whether positively or negatively.

(Sophie Collings, 2/19/15)


10 Facts that explain The Syrian Humanitarian Crisis

10 Facts that explain The Syrian Humanitarian Crisis.

(Sophie Collings, 5/2/15)

Angelina Jolie’s recent visit to meet Syrian refugees in Iraq, reminds us again of the huge global issue of refugees, asylum seekers and conflict.

blog 1The world is getting a glimpse of one of the biggest humanitarian crises in history, with the struggles of millions of Syrian people publicized briefly in our daily headlines. People will sympathize with the articles they read online, the videos they see on their timeline and the news coverage they watch on their televisions, until the next news piece is shown and the scenes they have seen and read about become a distant memory. The horrific images they have seen may stay etched in some people’s minds, but the stories, facts and figures are lost and forgotten. For this reason, here are 10 concise facts about Syria, the Syrian conflict and the humanitarian crisis that everyone should know and remember.

 1. Syria is a country in the Middle East. The location of Syria means that the conflict not only impacts Syria but has a huge effect on its neighboring countries Lebanon, Israel, Jordan and Iraq of which Syria shares its border.

blog 3              blog 2

2. President Bashar al-Assad’s regime was contested sparking the violence in March 2011. By July, army defectors had loosely organized the Free Syrian Army and many civilian Syrians took up arms to join the opposition. Divisions between secular and Radical Islamic fighters, and between ethnic groups, continue to complicate the politics of the conflict.

blog 5      blog 4

3. Since its inception, the number of active fighters has grown from 1000 to an estimated 100,000. Secular moderates are now outnumbered by Radical Islamic and Jihad combatants, with people from across the world heading to Syria to join the fighting.blog 6

4. As of January 2015 an estimated 191,000 people have been killed in four years. This is more than double all US combat deaths in Korea, Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan combined.

blog 8

blog 7

5. 7.6 million people have been displaced within Syria, more than 45 % of the country’s population.

blog 9            blog 10

6. Syrians are now the largest refugee population in the world. There are 3,725,658 registered Syrian refugees.  95% are in just five countries Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq and Egypt.

blog 11

7. Lebanon receives the highest amount of refugees from Syria. Every fifth person in Lebanon is a Syrian refugee.blog 12

8.  Only 4% of Syrian refugees are in Europe.  blog 13

9. More than half of all Syrian refugees are under the age of 18.

blog 14              Syrian Refugees; Lebanon; Tripoli; North Lebanon; refugees; registration

10. The biggest refugee camp is in Jordan, Zaatari with over 83,994 refugees registered there.

blog 16
 But the majority of refugees, about 70% live outside camps.

blog 17         Syrian Refugees; Lebanon; Tripoli; refugees; Registration

Sophie Collings (4/2/2015)

American Geographical Society to Award Van Cleef Memorial Medal to Dr. Edward Malecki

 The Van Cleef Memorial Medal, awarded by the American Geographical Society (AGS), is one of several prestigious honors given by the Society.  This award recognizes outstanding original work in the field of urban geography.  Dr. Edward Malecki, Professor of Geography and former Director of the Center for Urban and Regional Analysis at the Ohio State University, will receive the Medal on the 19th of November during the AGS Fall Symposium, Geography 2050:  Mounting an Exhibition to the Future, to be held at Columbia University’s Low Memorial Library.

The Van Cleef Memorial Medal was established in 1970 through a gift from Dr. Eugene Van Cleef, Professor of Geography at the Ohio State University (OSU).  Dr. Van Cleef, recognized as one of the pioneers of the study of urban geography, gave the first course in urban geography in an American University in 1923 and published the first book by an American geographer on urban themes in 1937.  The award is conferred on scholars who have done outstanding original work in the field of urban geography, preferably though not necessarily, in applied rather than theoretical aspects.  The last time the Van Cleef Memorial Medal was awarded was in 1999.  It is a fitting tribute to Dr. Van Cleef’s career that his institution continues to specialize in urban geography and host outstanding scholars, notably Dr. Malecki, who are worthy of his Medal.

Dr. Malecki spent almost forty years pursuing sustained research excellence in the study of cities and regional economic development. His research has embraced both the applied realm and the theoretical, in keeping with the intent of the tradition represented by Professor Eugene Van Cleef (also of the Ohio State University).  “World society is more urban than ever.  Thus, never before in history has the study of urban geography been more important than today,” noted Dr. Jerome “Jerry” Dobson, President of the American Geographical Society.  “Several key topics in our Symposium on the future of geography, during which Ed will receive his medal, are examples of how his research now serves as a base on which scholars and practitioners are helping to understand and plan urban centers,” added Dr. Dobson.

Professor Malecki has three degrees from The Ohio State University: B.A. in International Studies (1971); and M.A. and Ph.D. in Geography (1973 and 1975). During his career, he held positions at the University of Oklahoma, the University of Florida and OSU as Professor of Geography and Director of the Center for Urban and Regional Analysis (2001-2005). He has also held visiting positions at Wirtschaftsuniversität Wien and the University of Newcastle-upon-Tyne.  Professor Malecki has been recognized as the Dr. Martha L. Corry Faculty Fellow in Geography, at The Ohio State University, elected a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and received various Distinguished Scholarship Honors from the Association of American Geographers.  Professor Malecki is the author or co-author of five books. He has published more than 100 journal articles, more than 60 book chapters, and dozens of book reviews,

Established in 1851, the American Geographical Society (AGS) is the oldest professional geographical organization in the United States.  It is recognized world-wide as a pioneer in geographical research and education and has been awarding medals for outstanding accomplishments in Geography for over 117 years.  The mission of AGS is to advance geographic knowledge and the recognition of its importance in the contemporary world.  AGS fulfills this mission by promoting the use of geography in business, government, science, and education.  The goal is to enhance the nation’s geographic literacy so as to engender sound public policy, national security, and human well-being worldwide.  AGS stands for explicit recognition of the geo-spatial and temporal contexts that shape the real world and influence how it works.

Populations, Shifting Identity, and Well Being

The fifth pillar of Geography 2050’s agenda is Populations, Shifting Identity, and Well Being. Over the next few decades, the geography of human populations will change materially. Urbanization will continue, and the concentration of people in vulnerable coastal zones will increase. Already in 2010, 39% of the United States population lives on 10% of The U.S land area, (coastal areas) and it is expected to increase. The geography of human well-being will be re-written as health and wealth shift radically. Diseases such as Ebola have been projected to spread to new geographies and increase exponentially. Borders and sovereignty within borders will face and possibly succumb to new pressures as new social movements arise, reshaping identity. Demographics are expected to change in the world and the United States. What do you think 2050 will look like? Be part of the discussion at Geography2050.

Will Ebola follow poverty into Europe?

The most severe outbreak of Ebola is currently raging in West Africa, claiming an estimated (or underestimated) 2,630 lives and infecting at least 5,357 people as of Thursday, September 19th (WHO). Countries such as Liberia, Sierra Leone, Guinea, and now Senegal and Nigeria are having tremendous difficulty managing a disease with inadequate healthcare and welfare systems. These West African nations, in particular Guinea and Sierra Leone, are among the poorest in the world, when judging by percent living below the poverty line, GDP, HIV/AIDS prevalence, unemployment, life expectancy and infant mortality (all accessible through World Bank data). These factors have allowed a relatively containable disease to spurn out of control.

Ebola is not transmitted through the air or by water, but through contact with blood or bodily fluids (CDC). Thus, the director of the CDC, Tom Friden, has little fear of the virus’ introduction or spread in the United States. He stated in a September 2nd CDC Telebriefing, “We have helped laboratories around the U.S. become able to test for Ebola safely and accurately. That’s in place now so that testing can be done quickly. We don’t think Ebola would spread widely within the U.S. Routine health care infection control would probably prevent most transmission.”. Hospitals in the United States are adequately funded and numerous, and supplemented by a coordinated and extensive CDC, and other government agencies. The spreading of Ebola in West Africa has been so rapid due to the lack of these medical and governmental infrastructures.

For comparison I now draw to the continent of Europe, where a country like Greece has seen a painful collapse in government welfare and social programs, especially in the public healthcare sector. Under strictly imposed austerity measures, layoffs and closures of hospitals have been implemented throughout Greece in outstanding numbers. In 2013, 2,500 state hospital employees were laid off and remaining staff were given major cuts in funding making crucial hospitals provisions scarce, elongating remaining employees hours, and increasing contact with more patients. Hospital and healthcare center closures have occurred throughout the country. Marc Sprenger, the director of the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) was appalled visiting Greek healthcare centers in 2012, describing “I have seen places…where the financial situation did not allow even for basic requirements like gloves, gowns and alcohol wipes”. Hospitals are pressured with lack of staff as well as basic medical materials. Reuters reports “staff cuts mean as many as 90 to 100 patients a day wait in corridors with many unable to get treatment. In the chaos, some go untreated or come back again when they are far more seriously ill” (Kelland). In 2014, the Greek government announced and additional layoffs of 15,000 public sector workers, directly affecting 8,000 healthcare professionals with an undisclosed amount of hospital closures.

The collapsing healthcare system, an increase in HIV/AIDS cases over the last four years, (up 52% from 2010-2011), and the highest rate of unemployment in Europe, 27%, makes Greece fertile ground for an epidemic like Ebola to spread. Greece deals with many of the same infrastructural deficits as these West African nations collapsing under Ebola, as well as experiencing high unemployment and poverty. In addition, Greece is a central entrance point to Europe for migrants from Africa and the Middle East and the geographical factor only makes this case more troublesome. Often in areas of medical geography, diseases can be mapped by many variables. I believe Ebola has the potential to spread among impoverished nations throughout Africa, and could reach Europe’s most structurally and economically vulnerable nation.

Written by Selene Lawrence, an Undergraduate Geography student at Hunter College, City University of New York.


Kelland, Kate. “Basic Hygiene at risk in debt-stricken Greek Hospitals”. Rueters. 4. December 2012.http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/12/04/us-greece-austerity-disease-idUSBRE8B30NR20121204

Win $1,000 by mapping the future in support of Geography 2050



The MapStory Foundation is proud to sponsor the Fall Symposium of the American Geographical Society – Geography 2050:  Mounting an Expedition to the Future.  They are calling it a “multi-year strategic dialog on the vital trends that will reshape our nation and our planet.”  And, this inaugural event will be hosted by Columbia University’s Earth Institute, in the historic Low Library Rotunda, on November 19th in NYC.  You can learn more about this forward looking dialog at www.geography2050.org, and you can even register and be part of it.

Most of the content within MapStory.org addresses the past and the present.  But, in celebration of this unique event, we at MapStory are offering a $1000 prize for whomever posts the best future oriented MapStory about how our world will change by 2050.  The use of scientifically validated data on future trends is encouraged.  Yet, the narrative elements of the story will be just as important.

While the financial incentive of the prize is notable, the winning MapStory will also be played at the Geography 2050 Fall Symposium for the thought leaders in attendance.  The content and themes of your MapStory submission do not need to adhere to those of this inaugural event, and instead can cover any trends and underlying factors that you deem to be important to the future of our planet.

To participate, just publish your MapStory and tweet it to @Geography2050 with the hasthag #MapStory2050. Deadline for submission is November 15th.