Drones are synonymous with military power, an association that must be shifted if global poverty is to be eliminated by 2030. Drones can do more than bolster military strength, they can save lives. Now it is imperative that their full potential be recognized.

Unmanned drones have minimal environmental impact, can deliver goods, survey land and, offer emergency response services to hard to reach areas. Drones could singlehandedly change how much international aid is carried out. And this is happening already. 

Here is are some ways drones are already helping to accomplish the Global Goals.

Global Goal 3: good health

Contraceptives for women in rural Ghana

Project Last Mile:  an organization run by a team of committed public health specialists, has been using unmanned drones to deliver contraceptives to women living in rural Ghana. These early missions have been so successful, that governments in Mozambique, Ethiopia, Zambia, Rwanda and Tanzania have expressed interest in creating their own variations of Project Last Mile’s program.

Fighting Zika

Zika: while this epidemic is fairly new, drones are being used to pinpoint where the Aedes Aegypti (the species of mosquito that carries the virus) lives.  The Brazilian government is allowing drones to circulate throughout the capital city for three months to pinpoint outbreak spots.

A photo posted by Julian El Yafi (@elyafi_) on

If drones are successful at helping eliminate Zika, imagine how they could be used to stop malaria.

Case study: Syrian Airlift Project

This Project takes on Global Goals 2: no hunger and and 3: better health

Imagine if on-land aid convoys could be bolstered with unmanned air deliveries.  The delivery of food and medicine to besieged areas of Syria would become faster and more plentiful.  This use of drones has some development barriers but it is in the works. The Syrian Airlift Project, a is devoted to “ending starvation and medical deprivation as weapons of war.” They are working on the concept of the swarming airlift: when drones carry off small boxes of aid to “GPS coordinates agreed with contacts on the ground”.

Glitch in the idea:  for drones to be used in conflict settings, political permission to operate in locations must be obtained from all sides or risk being treated as military threats and potentially making a situation even worse.

Protecting the Earth:

Drones allows up close observation of land and sea animals, a task that is difficult for humans to accomplish. Drones as surveyors have helped calculate the size of species.

populations, their migration patterns and their overall health.

Global Goal 14: life below water  

Ocean-wise drones have helped:

-       Survey dugongs in Australia

-       Observe Sperm Whales and Orcas

-       Monitor penguins and leopard seals in Antarctica

Global Goal 15: life on land

On Land drones have assisted in:

-       Tracking poachers hunting rhinos and elephants in South Africa

-       Monitoring bird migration patterns

Change for a better world;

These are just a few ways that drones are changing our world.  Unfortunately, drones have many technical glitches and face international barriers.

The military possibilities alone make their expanded use a concern. Drones can cause plane collisions, be mounted with weapons, and are associated with bombing strikes like the predator drones. This image (and possibility for misuse) dominant the conversation around drones before most people even consider the devices as aid carriers.

Even when a pro-aid usage argument is made reports outlining how drones can be used quickly become outdateddue to rapid technology advances

Technology moves fast.  Major companies such as Amazon, have paved the way for drones to be seen as goods deliverers, while the World WildLife fund has harnessed drones’ surveying capabilities. But most organizations are not this cutting edge--though they need to be.


 Problems aside, and at the risk of quoting from Star Wars, when the force of drones is used for good, drones may assist in accomplishing the biggest goal of all: eliminating extreme poverty.


Defeat Poverty

It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s a drone -- and it’s delivering international aid!

By Katherine Curtiss