Drones Doing Good in the Rainforest

The Peruvian Amazon has already lost over 1 million hectares of forest in the last 15 years, and indigenous communities are seeing their water grow more polluted by the day and their lands dry up.

Last year, residents of the indigenous northern Peruvian communities that populate the Amazonian rainforest between Yurimaguas and Lagunas noticed the beginnings of a new highway running through their lands. New roads through the Amazon often mean that logging and mining companies are preparing to move into the region.

The Interethnic Association for the Development of the Peruvian Rainforest (AIDESEP), an indigenous rights organization, recently partnered with Oxfam to deploy a drone to indigenous communities facing land rights infringements. The drone enables community members to track changes to their land and provide precise location data for where these changes are occurring.

The drone program, says Oxfam program manager Neal McCarthy, is still very much in the pilot stage. AIDESEP holds the drone at its main office in Lima, and deploys it out for use when one of the 109 indigenous communities it coordinates with detects an invasive development to document. (AIDESEP has operated another independently funded drone since 2015, but its capabilities and scope were more limited.) With around $25,000 in funding from Oxfam, AIDESEP sourced the drone and hosted trainings through the Amazonian rainforest to instruct community leaders in how to use it.

Why its hot

Drones can deliver packages and drop tear gas on protesters, but what good can they do. It’s good to see noble uses of drones and given that they are a relatively cheap technology, they should be more accessible to under-served communities.