Where We’re Going, We Don’t Need Roads: Drones in International Development

By Aaron Milner

Introduction

Poor infrastructure and weak logistics limit development effectiveness.  Governments invested over $130 billion in official development assistance (ODA) into the world’s poorest countries in 2015, but billions of people still lack access to food, water, healthcare, internet, and electricity.  Traditional development often cannot deliver immediate results to communities, tax payers, and investors.  Developing countries plagued by financial and political instability wait in limbo for long-term development project completion to provide basic public goods.  New technology, however, expedites development delivery.  Private companies are experimenting with technological alternatives to traditional infrastructure—such as drones, also known as unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs)—to reach more people for less money.  Beyond expense, drones are a flexible development tool.  The same network that patrols South Africa for poachers can track drought patterns.  Whereas an expensive road is permanent to one location, drones can cover vast geographies in a short time to achieve diverse goals.

This post explores how cost-effective and creative technology—specifically drones—could solve large-scale issues and jump start progress in developing countries.  A survey of the various companies using drones leads into an analysis that explores the question:  Do developing countries need to undertake expansive infrastructure projects to reach their initial goals?

Zipline

Photo courtesy of Zipline

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