Privacy Concerns Associated with Drones

In recent years, drones have transitioned from military-only applications into a strategic asset that is transforming a range of industries; agriculture, disaster management, humanitarian aid, and medical transportation and delivery. The use of drones has sparked a technological renaissance across multiple industries and dramatically improved quality and access to a range of goods and services. For example, in the case of Swoop Aero, the use of drones has connected regional and remote communities to basic healthcare and medical supplies, which has contributed to the reduction of inequality and attainment of universal healthcare as ascribed in the UN Global Sustainable Development Goals.

Despite great leaps in the realm of patient care, access and protection, which is attributable to the use of drone technology, there exists a deeply problematic ‘surveillance’ narrative that cites drones as the primary instrument of population management and control by national governments and private corporations.

Despite great leaps in the realm of patient care, access and protection, which is attributable to the use of drone technology, there exists a deeply problematic ‘surveillance’ narrative that cites drones as the primary instrument of population management and control by national governments and private corporations. The argument presented in this blog is that at the centre of this debate lies a critical misinterpretation of the range of outcomes achievable through the use of drones in a non-militaristic setting, and thus their intended application. The blog intends to differentiate the main activities associated with drones, namely surveillance, mapping and delivery as a method to show how and why Swoop Aero is a leader in aeromedical drone delivery and remains a trusted company in the preservation of individual and community privacy.

Mapping, Surveillance and Drone Delivery 

The term ‘mapping’ relates to the science of photogrammetry. This is where images are captured of geographical space from the air, in order to generate a 3D map of that area. This technique has uses in the areas of construction, land surveying and agriculture and is useful for providing an accurate geographical assessment and quantifiable measure of the land and infrastructure located within the designated space/image. Drones have been increasingly used for mapping and monitoring disaster sites, and in search and rescue operations. Examples of this include the wildfires in California in 2007, the Haitian earthquake in 2010 and at the nuclear disaster site in Japan in 2011. 

In contrast, surveillance implies an indefinite period of flying hours directed at a targeted population. Indeed, the central objective of aerial surveillance is to constantly watch over a targeted population from the air. The outcome of surveillance is then assessed according to how much information is collected on the targeted population and stored according to security objectives. For this reason, surveillance and privacy infringement have become mutually constitutive principles, which have 

The surveillance narrative was not produced in a vacuum. As a first instance, drones were deployed in Bosnia in 1994 to provide overhead surveillance for NATO conveys in the volatile region. Furthermore, NATO and the European Union (EU) have also used surveillance drones in their peace support operations, for example, in the Democratic Republic of Congo in 2006, the EU provided the UN Stabilisation Mission (MONUC) with four Belgian UAVs. EUFOR. The EU mission to the UN Mission in the Central African Republic and Chad (MINURCAT) used drones for aerial surveillance. The UN approved the use of drones by the MONUSCO mission to monitor the conflict in Eastern DRC in late 2012, though these were to be provided by member states, as the UN did not yet own any drones. The drones used in these instances were designed to last for hours in the air in order to track movements of armed militias, assist patrols heading into conflict and document atrocities on the ground. The information in all instances was collected, stored and analysed in order to inform the peacekeeping missions on the ground and minimise the threat of surprise attacks and civilian casualties. 

Drone delivery is a new phenomenon. Simply put, drone delivery refers to the use of a drone to deliver a good from point A to point B. It refers to a new logistics network that leapfrogs current infrastructure challenges to deliver a fast and effective service. The use of drones in commercial services such as food delivery has sparked a technological renaissance in consumer engagement and enterprise. The use of drone for delivery purposes is also noted in the humanitarian sector where food and medical supplies are being delivered via drone in order to provide those in remote geographical areas and conflict zones the necessary means to survive. In December 2018, Swoop Aero was the first company globally to deliver an immunization vaccine via drone. In 2019, Swoop Aero conducted flight operations in Vanuatu and the DRC, which were extremely successful in linking up geographically remote communities with essential health care supplies and vaccines. At present, Swoop Aero is in Malawi, in partnership with USAid and Chemonics to deliver essential medical supplies to local health facilities in order to better patient outcomes in relation to preventable diseases such as malaria and HIV/AIDS.

What sets Swoop Aero apart? 

At Swoop Aero, our mission is to transform the delivery of medicine to everyone, everywhere. Our priority is to deliver essential medical supplies to communities that due to geographical isolation; poor infrastructure, and ineffective health facilities, was previously made difficult. We want to emphasize the following: 

  1. We do not collect people’s data 
  2. We don’t sell people’s data 
  3. We do not use the drones to survey people
  4. We do not plan to enter these areas in the future . . . 

These pillars are crucial to our operations. We deploy safe, reliable and sustainable drone networks, which transform the healthcare, supply chain. Our goal is to enable on-demand healthcare with on demand logistics. In this sense, the communities we help are our end goal. We do not want, or have use for, their data to achieve our goal.


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