Fiji Flying Labs envisions a future where local communities are equipped with the knowledge and the needed skills to use drones, data, and robotics for disaster response, emergency and environmental management, and solving complex social challenges. Officially launching this month, Fiji Flying Labs aims to achieve this vision by becoming a community technical and training hub for building local capacity for emerging technologies, like drones and AI.
Fiji Flying Labs team already has several notable projects in their portfolio from working with South Pacific Flying Labs, including an effort to combat Dengue Fever. Dengue alone is ranked by the World Health Organization (WHO) as the most significant mosquito-borne disease globally—and the most rapidly spreading—with a 30-fold increase in global incidence over the past 50 years. In 2019, Fijian experts field-tested a new drone release mechanism every week for fourteen weeks, covering 18 square kilometers or the equivalent of 373 full-sized football fields each week. The scientific results, which the World Mosquito Program (WMP) meticulously produced, showed that Wolbachia levels (a harmless bacteria that inhibits the spread of Dengue) amongst the native mosquito population increased over time and remained high during and even well after the release campaign, thus protecting the local population from infection.
Fiji Flying Labs continues the critical work of South Pacific Flying Labs, which established a local drone and robotics capacity with many community projects and support for Fiji disaster responses. Fiji Flying Labs is led by an experienced team of local experts who pioneered commercial drone use in Fiji and the Pacific, including the Fiji Flying Labs Coordinator Richard Russell, Flying Labs Coordinator & Chief Remote Pilot Salmen Chand, and Flying Labs Administrator Srikanth Rangdal.
Working with local partners, Fiji Flying Labs plans to organize various hands-on drone training and workshops for small businesses, schools and universities, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and government agencies. For example, Fiji Flying Labs is currently working with partners on pre-and post-disaster mapping of communities and agriculture and high-yielding crop analysis for farmers and growers.
The teams’ focus areas include:
- Localizing the safe, responsible, and purposeful use of drones and robotics for social good applications;
- Supporting STEM programs in schools with drones, robotics, software, and coaching;
- Providing technical and operational support to drone projects for last-mile, humanitarian, and medical deliveries;
- Engaging with the Civil Aviation Authority of Fiji (CAAF), the Fiji Drone Operators Association (FDOA), and other professional organizations to improve aviation standards and policies for safe and responsible drone use in our communities and public spaces; and
- Supporting the local small business ecosystem as they create jobs and economic opportunities through drones, robotics, data analytics, and processing software products.
Through these programs, Fiji Flying Labs will engage different community members to promote responsible technology use and impart generations of Fijians with the skills to adapt and leverage innovative drone and robotic technology to solve future local challenges.
Join us in welcoming Fiji Flying Labs to the Global Flying Labs Network!