After 18 months of hard work and impressive achievements, South Pacific Flying Labs has successfully established a local capacity in drone/robotics in Fiji. WeRobotics thanks the University of the South Pacific for their partnership and hosting South Pacific Flying Labs at the USP Geospatial Unit during this joint work. Special thanks in particular to Amrita Lal, Coordinator of South Pacific Flying Labs, and her team: Kolora, Aleen, Tarish, Semisi, and Wais. WeRobotics would also like to thank all stakeholders and partners in Fiji for their collaboration and support of South Pacific Flying Labs. We are also very grateful to the Australian Government, Atlassian Foundation, and the MIT Solve partnership for their strong support and partnership throughout the past 1.5 years. We are equally pleased to have their full backing for the next exciting chapter of South Pacific Flying Labs. On January 1, 2021, South Pacific Flying Labs moved to Papua New Guinea Flying Labs. The drones and equipment acquired through the project in Fiji have also moved to Papua New Guinea. Papua New Guinea Flying Labs will serve as the main point of contact for others in the region who wish to co-create their own Flying Labs. The USP Geospatial Unit will naturally continue to operate as a university research program. WeRobotics will continue to actively promote both USP and Fiji as an exciting place for innovation and leadership.
Winner of the MIT challenge on Youth, Skills & the Workforce of the Future, South Pacific Flying Labs empowered the region’s youth through a range of programs, including Fly Like a Girl and Aerial Adventures, among others. South Pacific Flying Labs also demonstrated drones and aerial data’s potential by working with the Fiji Red Cross after Cyclone Keni, the National Disaster Management Office of Fiji on Tsunami preparedness, and other disaster projects such as assessment of landslides.
South Pacific Flying Labs also worked with the World Mosquito Program and WeRobotics to reduce Dengue in Fiji by using cargo drones. This involved the design, testing, and deployment of a custom release mechanism along with many months of community engagement and awareness-raising. South Pacific Flying Labs also focused on conservation work, using underwater drones for coral reef studies and marine mapping and aerial drones to monitor forest degradation or assess climate change vulnerability through mapping.
The leadership team of South Pacific Flying Labs in Fiji comprised 4 females and 2 male CASA certified remote pilots (Amrita & team: Kolora, Aleen, Tarish, Semisi, and Wais). The team was very involved within the community and organized two South Pacific Robotics for Good Conferences, bringing together key experts from government, NGOs, the private sector, and academia to connect them to the growing drone community in Fiji. Under Amrita Lal’s leadership, South Pacific Flying Labs also obtained an Asia Pacific Spatial Excellence Award in the category of ‘People and Community.’ Also, Amrita Lal was named as ‘Woman to Watch’ in UAS. The team also worked closely with neighboring Papua New Guinea Flying Labs, so the move to Papua New Guinea is a natural evolution for South Pacific Flying Labs.
Special thanks again to Amrita and her team for their partnership, passion, drive, and sense of humor. While Amrita has since joined WeRobotics full-time to lead the YouthRobotics Program, we will miss the rest of her team very much and hope to have the opportunity to work with each of them in the future. In the meantime, if you’re looking for CASA-certified drone pilots with serious, direct hands-on experience in using drones for both mapping and cargo across multiple sectors, including disaster response, public health, agriculture, environmental protection, and more, then please get in touch ASAP so we can connect you directly!
Sincerest thanks to MIT Solve and DFAT for their strong support and partnership. We’re excited to continue this journey with them in Papua New Guinea and beyond!
South Pacific Flying Labs is funded by the Australian Government Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade’s (DFAT) innovationXchange (iXc). In 2017, innovationXchange partnered with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Solve initiative and Atlassian Foundation to help communities and governments prepare for the future of work. South Pacific Flying Labs was awarded pilot funding under phase 1 of the ‘Youth, Skills and the Workforce of the Future’ Challenge. Phase 2 of South Pacific Flying Labs funded by DFAT built on the successful Phase 1 proof of concept.