Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) commonly known as drones - are aircraft systems that fly remotely without an on-board pilot. Their versatility, mobility and relative-low cost make this technology in Emergency Preparedness and Response (EPR) activities increasingly common.

UAS have the potential to increase efficiency and safety in humanitarian contexts by enabling faster data collection, greater data accuracy and safer monitoring as well as providing innovative delivery systems for aid.

As a technology-driven cluster, the ETC explores and integrates, when appropriate, new solutions to ensure timely, predictable and effective coordination and services for disaster response.

UAS can greatly improve the quality and efficiency of humanitarian response through assessments, rapid data analysis for decision-making and the provision of technology solutions to support humanitarians and affected communities.

The ETC, in its capacity as a coordination body, assists in gathering common ICT requirements as well as liaises with different organisations and government entities including for country-level regulations. The cluster’s strong position to provide the local coordination of drones on behalf of the humanitarian community, has been recognised by the wide network of partners. During the Annual ETC Plenary Meeting in May 2018, the global ETC partners unanimously adopted UAS as an ETC service.

Humanitarian UAS Coordination

In line with its 2020 strategy, the ETC will create an emergency response environment that provides humanitarians, citizens and governments with a seamless, resilient and principled communications experience.  This involves a willingness to leverage new and innovative technology, systems and process to find the best communications solutions for people impacted by disasters.

Through the integration of UAS into its Service Catalogue, the ETC will ensure an integrated and collaborative approach for the use of drones within each of the identified operational themes and sectors while reducing duplication of efforts and improving safety of the humanitarians, but also the affected populations.

As an ETC service, UAS coordination will also allow the response community to have access to greater assessment and data analytics capacities within their sectors. To ensure drone use in EPR activities reflects the operational needs and requirements of the response community, the ETC will integrate the use of UAS in three primary areas:

  • Standards and policy-setting: Consolidation and dissemination of standards; where necessary, development of standards and policies; identification of “best practices”.
  • Building response capacity: Training on coordination, piloting and data analysis as well as system development at the local, national, regional and international levels; establishing and maintaining surge capacity and stand-by rosters; establishing and maintaining material stockpiles.
  • Developing partnerships for services delivery: facilitation and support of the response community by working more efficiently and effectively in a coordinated manner with all actors; ensuring partnerships with both operational and strategic partners who have the capacity to contribute to the development of each sector.

The ETC will share relevant information on future UAS capacity building activities including trainings and workshops in Q1 of 2019. 

For more information, contact the Global ETC Team at Global.ETC@wfp.org