Aerial Robotics in the Land of the Buddha


Buddhist Temples adorn Nepal’s blessed land. Their stupas, like Everest, stretch to the heavens, yearning to democratize the sky. I felt the same yearning after arriving in Kathmandu with our UAVs. While some prefer the word “drone” over “UAVs”, the reason our Nepali partners don’t like the word drone dates back some 3,000 years to the spiritual epic Mahabharata (Great Story of Bharatas). The ancient story features Drona, a master of advanced military arts who slayed hundreds of thousands with his bow & arrows. This strong military connotation explains why our Nepalis use “UAV” instead, which is the term we also used for our Humanitarian UAV Mission in the land of Buddha. Our purpose: to democratize the sky.

Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) are aerial robots. They are the first wave of robotics to impact the humanitarian space. The mission of the Humanitarian UAV Network (UAViators) is to enable the safe, responsible and effective use of UAVs in a wide range of humanitarian and development settings. We want to empower local partners with robotics. As Founder of UAViators, I had the honor of spearheading a unique and weeklong UAV Mission in Nepal last month in close collaboration with Kathmandu University (KU), Kathmandu Living Labs (KLL), Community Disaster Management Committee (CDMC) #9 Ward, Kirtipur, DJI andPix4D. This mission represents the first major milestone for Kathmandu Flying Labs.

Debris left over from the tragic earthquakes in April & Map 2015. Credit: Patrick Meier

Our friends at CDMC-9 invited us to survey their town of Panga, which had been severely affected by the earthquake just months earlier. They were particularly keen to gain access to better data. Very high-resolution aerial imagery of the area would —> Read More