Drone Crash!

author: Emily Jacobi
date: 2015-04-28
title: Drone Crash!
image: https://images.digital-democracy.org/assets/guyana-tessa-soldering-1600@2x.jpg

"But it survived!"

When your colleague has traveled 5,000 miles to South America to work with a remote indigenous community using their own custom-built drone to monitor deforestation, the last thing you want to receive in your inbox is an email titled “Drone Crash!” That’s the problem I get for working with someone with a classically British sense of humor.

Luckily, the first thing Gregor wrote in the body of the email was that although the drone crashed, it didn’t break. The gamble we took last fall – in deciding to help our partners build their own drone rather than purchasing a pre-built one, appears to be paying off. Here’s the rest of the report from Gregor in the field:

"We were flying today up at 180ft and I think a gust of wind rocked it forwards, dislodged the batteries, shifted the weight forwards and sent it into a dive, and then the batteries fell out and it just fell to the ground. Amazingly after a 180ft fall all that happened was the air speed sensor fell off and could be fixed with a bit of glue. We got it up flying within 30 mins 🙂 It’s flying so beautifully right now, like a graceful eagle soaring on the thermals over the village. Going to continue training and learning over the next few days."

Like a graceful eagle soaring on the thermals over the village. And not just any eagle – one that our partners built themselves, know inside and out, know how to fix when it comes down, and will be using over the coming months to monitor the ongoing destruction . The Wapichana live in a remote area along the vast Brazil border, and they face all sorts of challenges – from mining to logging to illegal cattle stealing from across the border. All we can really do is bring them spare parts for the drone, support them with technical skills trainings and help them identify how to best leverage technology to support their community’s long-term goals. Working with the drone is a big experiment – just like gathering satellite data, which can often be shut-out for days or weeks due to cloud cover. But it’s an experiment we think is more than worth doing, and we’re excited to learn lessons along the way. And I for one am thrilled that the Wapichana’s drone has survived to fly another day.

For more on the construction of the drone and how our partners are using it to monitor deforestation, check out our previous blog post and video, We Built A Drone.