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Review article: Biomedical intelligence

Vol. 149 No. 1314 (2019)

Reflecting upon the humanitarian use of unmanned aerial vehicles (drones)

DOI
https://doi.org/10.4414/smw.2019.20065
Cite this as:
Swiss Med Wkly. 2019;149:w20065
Published
05.04.2019

Abstract

Nine years after the earthquake in Haiti and the appearance of the concept of “humanitarian drones”, it remains a poorly discussed yet highly controversial issue. Emergency mapping and light cargo deliveries to inaccessible areas are only some of the most popular ways in which drones are currently used for post-disaster relief and health crisis management by first responders around the world. On the other hand, every single successful use for drones is always followed by controversy about the problems caused by that very same, initially successful, use. However, examples of good practices will contribute to the investigation, study and analysis of the ways in which new, cutting-edge technologies such as drones can be implemented and adapted to meet the needs and requirements of humanitarian organisations and local communities affected by disasters. The issue is how and under what circumstances drone use can potentially fulfil humanitarian functions, particularly in the aftermath of a disaster, and how this type of technology could be deployed in non-violent, ethically desirable ways as part of the humanitarian response. In conclusion, it is questionable whether the benefits of using drones outnumber the moral obstacles they raise, and whether they will eventually be considered an inseparable part of humanitarian aid as well as a cutting-edge technological toy.

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