National Geographic : 2017 Jun
PHOTO: JEFFREY KERBY | EXPLORE | PROGRESS Drones were created as a tool of combat: Militaries use them to spy and even to assassinate. But as with so much military technology, unmanned aerial vehicles are becoming consumer items. Recently consultancy firm PwC estimated that the global drone industry may be worth $127.3 billion. In December, Amazon made its first delivery by drone, bring- ing a TV streaming device and a bag of popcorn to a customer in the U.K. Among the most eager to harness the power of remote-controlled aircraft are aid and service organizations—those performing dangerous humanitarian HIGH-FLYING HELP By Nina Strochlic and conservation tasks in the world’s hard-to-reach areas. Drones are mon- itoring vultures on the steppes of Mongolia, delivering medical supplies in Rwanda, and searching for lost civilizations in Brazil. One week after the Amazon delivery, UNICEF and the government of Malawi announced a plan to open Africa’s first testing site for humanitarian drones in 2017. On the 25-mile-wide airfield, companies can examine how drones fare on a range of assignments—tracking people fleeing disasters, for instance, or bringing cell phone networks to remote areas. “A company testing drones in a warehouse in San Francisco is not facing the same challenges,” says UNICEF’s Andrew Brown. “What’s produced here will work anywhere in the world.” Jane Goodall Institute staff launch a drone to map forests in the Republic of the Congo’s Tchimpounga Nature Reserve.