By Andrew Schroeder
Lying just to the southwest of Sri Lanka in the Indian Ocean, Maldives is one of the planet’s most beautiful and most threatened countries. Composed of nearly 1200 islands on 26 atolls, Maldives is at once among the most widely dispersed countries by surface area (most of which is water) and one of the most sparsely populated. As residents of the lowest-lying country on Earth, the roughly 300,000 Maldivian citizens know all too well the dangers of rapid climate change, sudden intense storms and rising sea levels which eat away at their coastlines with alarming clockwork regularity.
This coming week (May 22-27) WeRobotics will join our colleagues at DJI and UNDP (United Nations Development Program), along with nearly two-dozen Maldivian government, private sector and non-governmental organizations, to explore ways that aerial robotics technology can enable innovative adaptations to climate change, improved environmental management and enhanced resilience to natural disasters. Drones are already common sightings above the clustered guesthouses and ocean swells, but until now they have not been put to work systematically to enable disaster responders to survey damage, or to create high-resolution elevation models to guide settlement and infrastructure planning. Those types of projects and many others will be up for discussion within the framework of sustainable public-private-NGO partnerships.
As we’ve learned from crisis response events, global health, development and environmental protection projects time and again, the best way to sustain impactful technological innovation is by co-creating institutions with strong local involvement and support. We call these partnerships “Flying Labs”. Over the next week we’ll try to figure out whether a Flying Lab can emerge and play a helpful role in addressing the challenges of Maldives. We’ll be sharing that process of investigation, conversation and exploration with you through our blog and social media channels, so follow us on Twitter @WeRobotics for updates.