19 Ways Drones Helped Make the World a Better Place in 2022
BY Zacc Dukowitz28 December 2022
At the end of each year we like to step back and look at all the ways drones have made a positive impact throughout the world.
These stories include actual drone missions, such as a man’s life being saved by a drone delivering a defibrillator after he suffered cardiac arrest, or all of the ways that drones helped with the disaster response in South Florida after Hurricane Ian ravaged the area.
We’re also covering new ideas for how drones can be used for good, including a plan to help keep women walking home at night safer with drones, as well as plans to reduce gun violence in the city of Las Vegas by deploying drones immediately to places where shots are fired.
Here are our top 19 drones for good stories from 2022.
1. Saving a Drowning Boy’s Life by Bringing Him a Life Jacket
Drones can get to struggling swimmers faster than people, carrying them life preservers that can help save their lives. In the video above, a 14 year-old boy receives a life jacket that’s dropped down to him from a drone in Valencia, Spain. The drone was designed to do exactly this kind of work, helping those in danger of drowning stay afloat until a human lifeguard can get there. Drones are being used this way at 22 beaches in Spain, and also at beaches in the U.S.—read the article linked below to learn about a similar program in San Mateo, California.
2. Helping with Disaster Response and Recovery
A Verizon drone flying over Sanibel Island following Hurricane Ian | Credit: Verizon
After Hurricane Ian tore through South Florida in October several different drone teams rushed in to help in a variety of ways, demonstrating just how important and helpful drones can be for disaster response.
In the wake of Hurricane Ian, drone teams helped in the following ways:
- Universities and emergency responder programs helped find victims in search and rescue work using drones, as well as using them for damage assessments.
- Power companies did infrastructure and utility inspections by drone so they could get back up and running as fast as possible.
- Telecommunications companies used drones to locate damage that needed to be fixed by providing on-demand inspections of the hardest-hit areas.
- Drone hardware and software companies provided extra support and free access to resources to aid public safety efforts after the hurricane.
Follow the link below to learn more about each one of these efforts.
3. Studying Climate Change
In the short documentary above, VICE News covers a research expedition to Iceland made to study the effects of climate change. Researchers used Flyability’s Elios 3 to make 3D maps of ice caves on the Vatnajökull glacier, collecting baseline data for the condition of the glaciers that will be compared to future data to track changes to the glacier happening over time.
4. Saving a Lost Dog—with a Sausage Delivery
This year a Search & Rescue team in Hampshire, England helped reunite a lost dog with its owner by tying fresh sausages to its drone, and using them to lure the dog to safety. Before trying the sausages, volunteers from a local organization called the Denmead Drone Search and Rescue (DDSAR), as well as officials from the coast guard, fire department, and law enforcement, had tried to reach the dog, but it was located in a boggy area and ran from them when they approached, potentially placing her in more danger. Once volunteers came up with the idea of dangling sausages from the drone, the dog soon followed it to higher ground, and to its very relieved owner.
5. Protecting Wildlife from Poachers
Credit: Utah DWR
This year, Utah’s Division of Wildlife Resources (DWR) announced plans to launch a new drone team to help protect wildlife. The team’s focus will be on locating wildlife that has been illegally removed from protected areas, helping biologists with wildlife surveys, and documenting crimes, including poaching. It may also support other public safety work in the area, including search and rescue efforts.
6. Protecting Women from Being Attacked
Drone Defence proposed a new way to use drones for good this year—helping stop attacks on women. Called AeroGuard, the drones will carry spotlights and thermal cameras, and could be summoned to a specific location using an app. If a woman feels threatened, she could use the app to get an AeroGuard drone sent to her location. From there, the drone will shine its spotlight down while recording and live streaming what’s happening, deterring would-be attackers in the process.
7. Curbing Litter from Cigarettes
Credit: Clean Up Britain
An organization called Clean Up Britain (CLUB) partnered with Ellipsis Earth this year to reduce litter from cigarette butts in the city of Bristol, England. The first step they took in the effort was to get a baseline for how much of this kind of litter was present by using drones to survey the city. With clever advertising slogans that employ the word ‘flicker’ to refer to those who flick their cigarette butts on the street, the campaign aimed to decrease litter by increasing a sense of civic responsibility.
8. Saving People’s Lives by Delivering Defibrillators
In Sweden at the start of this year a man suffering from cardiac arrest was saved by a drone delivering an Automated External Defibrillator (AED) to his location. A doctor happened to be driving to work at a local hospital in the city of Trollhättan, Sweden when he saw a man collapsed in his driveway. When the doctor called for help the drone was deployed to the location of the call. The doctor was able to start defibrillation using the delivered AED before an ambulance arrived, saving the man’s life. The drone that made the delivery is from Everdrone, a Swedish company that makes drones solely for delivering AEDs.
9. Improving Safety on Roads
This year the North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT) launched a pilot program that planned to use tethered drones to help make roads safer. The drones will be tethered to IMAP (Incident Management Assistance Patrol) vehicles and be used to help responders assess incidents, provide situational awareness, and assist with traffic management during accidents.
10. Studying Dolphins—Without Bothering Them
Researchers from the University of Aberdeen in the U.K. found a way to determine whether bottlenose dolphins are pregnant using drone imagery this year. The approach is pretty straightforward, and involves measuring the width of a dolphin’s body using aerial photos. Information about pregnancy can help researchers better understand the health of individual dolphins, as well as track the impact that environmental factors might be having on the dolphin population as a whole in a given area.
11. Helping with Reforestation in Brazil
Brazil’s oldest university, the Federal University of Paraná (UFPR), announced plans this year to use XAG agriculture drones in a reforestation effort called the Arboreto Project. The drones will be used to speed up the reseeding process by dropping seeds of native plants from the air. The drones were initially used in a trial, after which the approach was considered for a wider roll out.
12. Reducing Radiation Exposure
Credit: Norwegian Coast Guard
Five ships in the Norwegian Coast Guard began carrying drones equipped with radiation sensors this year to measure radiation exposure. The source of the potential radiation are vessels powered by nuclear reactors, such as nuclear-powered military submarines and civilian ships. In the event of an accident on the water, these drones can help ensure that resulting radiation leaks are identified and contained as soon as possible.
13. Predicting Volcanic Eruptions
From Iceland to Tonga to the Canary Islands, there have been lots of volcanic eruptions over the last few years—and they often seem to happen with almost no warning. But what if we could forecast these events? New research being conducted by NASA this year aims to do just that. Flying a drone made by Black Swift Technologies BVLOS (Beyond Visual Line of Sight) at the Makushin Volcano in Alaska’s Aleutian Islands, scientists working with NASA started working on a way to perform routine monitoring of volcanoes in 2022, with the goal of helping authorities warn communities about the onset of dangerous volcanic eruptions.
14. Collecting Rare Plant Samples for Research in Hawaii
This year researchers unveiled a custom, remotely-operated robotic arm called the Mamba that’s made to be suspended from a drone for collecting rare and endangered plants. The Mamba is about the length of a fishing rod and it has eight propellers and a cutting mechanism. This new arm helped revolutionize the conservation work scientists do on high cliffs and other extreme habitats, including work done on cliffs in Kauai that would otherwise be inaccessible. The Mamba was made in a collaboration between scientists at the National Tropical Botanical Garden (NTBG) in Hawaii, engineers at Outreach Robotics, and researchers from the University of Sherbrooke in Quebec, Canada.
15. Finding a Lost Snowboarder in Utah
Credit: Weber County SAR
This year a search and rescue team in Weber County, Utah used a DJI Matrice 30 to find a missing snowboarder in record time. Before the team had even left the parking lot they’d found the snowboarder, shining a spotlight on him to let him know help was on the way. Not only did the drone help find the snowboarder, it also helped the team map out the safest route off the mountain. Normally this type of operation would have taken eight hours, but it only took four thanks to the drone.
16. Removing Carbon from the Atmosphere
DroneSeed, a drone company that makes drones for planting trees, got into the business of selling carbon offsets this year. Carbon offsets are an intentional reduction of carbon in the atmosphere through storage, which happens either via land restoration or the planting of trees. In its biggest sale of offsets yet, DroneSeed sold Shopify 50,000 metric tons of offsets this year, which means that it will remove that amount of carbon from the atmosphere by planting trees.
17. Saving a Drowning Couple by Helping to Locate Them
The Mesquite and Garland Police and Fire Departments in Texas teamed up to perform swift water rescues this year after sudden flooding occurred in the area. When the Mesquite Police Department received a distress call from a drowning couple they quickly went to the wooded area where the couple said they were—but couldn’t find them. Mesquite officers subsequently asked for support from the Garland Police Department’s drone unit. Using a drone, they were quickly able to find the couple holding onto a tree and save them.
18. Reducing Gun Violence
Police in Las Vegas, NV announced plans this year to use drones for reducing gun violence. In the plan, drones will be deployed to the scene of any location where a gun has been fired so they can capture identifying details about shooters. 11 chronic areas for gun violence have been identified within Las Vegas. 400 drones will be placed in these areas, ready to fly quickly to the location of a gunshot. Shots will be tracked using gunshot detection technology from Shotspotter, which will then relay GPS coordinates to a local drone, allowing it to get to the location of the gunshot in under a minute.
19. Finding Fossils of “Sea Dragons”
This year scientists found the 180-million-year-old fossil of an ichthyosaur, commonly called a sea dragon, at a water reserve in Rutland, England. At 32 feet long with a 6-foot skull, the skeleton is the largest and most complete that’s ever been found of a sea dragon in the U.K—check out the drone footage in the video above to get a sense for just how massive this ancient creature was.