While drones are now more accessible than ever, communities around the world, especially in the Global South, still struggle to translate drone data into effective solutions that drive action and impact. Data analysis can be time consuming, costly, and complex—and often does not account for local and cultural nuances. Additionally, the proliferation of drones has led to a number of ethical challenges with privacy and data protection, further hindering the potential for drones to improve lives.
Today, with the generous support of Omidyar Network, we’re excited to announce that the Unusual Solutions Competition is now open to students, scholars, nonprofits, for-profit companies, and innovators globally. The competition, now accepting submissions through August 31, 2019, will award US$235,000 to innovators using drones and data to address pressing local challenges in humanitarian aid, public health, land rights, conservation, agriculture, resilient urban planning, and more.
Through the Unusual Solutions Competition, WeRobotics and Omidyar Network aim to spark original, scalable solutions to address these issues. In particular, the competition encourages solutions from areas that typically receive lower investment and have higher barriers to entry—Latin America, Africa, Asia and Oceania. Applicants do not need to be technical drone experts nor own a drone. However, they must understand the challenge they want to tackle and possess deep knowledge of the communities they intend to serve.
One of the greatest challenges we face in the ‘drones for good’ movement is creating an enabling environment in local communities, powering the critical behind-the-scenes work that goes far beyond the exciting photos we often see of drones in flight. Since 2016, WeRobotics and the Flying Labs Network have worked with NGOs, government agencies, universities and other institutions in more than 20 countries, providing on-site training, online courses and collaborating on projects to integrate the use of drones in disaster response and risk management, public health services, environmental efforts and more. We know firsthand that it is the data analysis and community and stakeholder engagement—not the drones themselves—that lead to real solutions. This competition will contribute much needed funding toward an enabling environment that is adapted to the needs of the Global South. And help build a stronger foundation for local innovators to improve their work for and with local communities.
We have only scratched the surface of what geospatial data and analysis can do for local communities.
“We have only scratched the surface of what geospatial data and analysis can do for local communities,” said Peter Rabley, venture partner at Omidyar Network. “However, for drone technology to reach its full potential, we must build more local capacity, enabling more people to effectively and ethically harness the vast troves of data that these tools can produce. We look forward to the inspiring ideas that the Unusual Solutions Competition will unearth, helping create a sustainable and economically viable drone and data sector in emerging economies.”
As part of the competition, nine finalists will receive US$15,000 each and support from mentors to turn their ideas into concepts pitched to an expert jury in early 2020. The grand prize winner will receive US$100,000 to finance their solution.
To learn more about the Unusual Solutions competition and submit a proposal, please visit unusualsolutions.org.