WeRobotics Global 2017

WeRobotics Global 2017 was a great success – read about it in our recent blog post.  You can find video recordings of the sessions, as well as the speakers’ slides, below on this page. And if you’re interested in our next WeRobotics Global event, stay tuned for announcements on our website, social media pages, and google group.


The shift from manually controlled technologies to more autonomous and intelligent systems has important implications for those of us working on humanitarian, development, environmental, resilience, and public health projects around the world. Robotics is already leading to significant gains in productivity and efficiency in other industries. The ability of robotics to radically scale human work is what makes this new technology so important for social good projects. At the same time, the introduction of robotics does present important challenges.


WeRobotics Global brings together leading practitioners working at the intersection of robotics and social good efforts. The purpose of WeR Global is to highlight some of the most promising projects in the robotics for social good space along with the main lessons learned, continuing challenges and future trends. The experts meeting will include talks from leading humanitarian, development, environmental and public health professionals along with input from leading robotics experts and companies that specialize in aerial robotics (drones), marine robotics and ground robotics.


This unique meeting will be kept small (under 50 participants) to maximize interaction and learning. Representatives from the following groups have been invited: UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), World Food Program (WFP), World Bank, FAO/IAEA Insect Pest Control Lab (IPLC), Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), Medair, University of Pennsylvania’s General Robotics Lab (GRASP), Amazon, Facebook, Uber, Starship Technologies amongst others.


WeR Global is invite-only. We are holding a select number of spots for external experts to join us. If interested, kindly email peter@werobotics.org with a one paragraph application explaining why you should participate in this global experts meeting.

Session 1 Videos

Introduction - Patrick Meier

Session 1 featured our Flying Labs Coordinators, and opened with Patrick Meier’s convening presentation which provided an overview of WeRobotics and the big picture context for social sector robotics. Patrick introduced the three Flying Labs Coordinators, and spoke about the unique skills and expertise they’re helping to build locally, strengthening the WeRobotics Network as a whole and paving the way for any potential future labs to join. Patrick’s presentation slides.

Tanzania Flying Labs - Yussuf Said Yussuf

Tanzania Flying Labs coordinator Yussuf Said Yussuf spoke about his lab’s use of aerial robotics for disaster damage assessment following the earthquake in Bukoba, and for coastal monitoring, environmental monitoring, and forestry management. He also emphasized the importance of community engagement, and previewed some new projects that Tanzania Flying Labs is working on such as mangrove monitoring for the Department of Forestry. Yussuf’s Presentation Slides

Peru Flying Labs - Juan Bergelund

Peru Flying Labs coordinator Juan Bergelund presented the work of the labs in the Amazon Rainforest, which is a joint effort with the Peruvian Ministry of Health. Together, they are field-testing the use of affordable and locally repairable flying robots for the delivery of antivenom and other medical payload between local clinics and remote villages. Juan noted that Peru Flying Labs is gearing up to carry out a record number of flight tests this summer using a larger and more diverse fleet of flying robots. Juan’s Presentation Slides

Nepal Flying Labs - Uttam Pudasaini

Uttam Pudasaini showed how Nepal Flying Labs has been using flying robots for agriculture monitoring, damage assessment and mapping of property rights. He also gave an overview of the social entrepreneurship training and business plan competition recently organized by Nepal Flying Labs. This business incubation training has resulted in the launch of 4 new Nepali start-up companies focused on Robotics-as-a-Service. Uttam’s Presentation Slides

Session 2 Videos

Introduction - Sonja Betschart

Session 2 was entitled “Aerial Robotics and Social Sector Solutions”. The first speaker was WeRobotics co-founder Sonja Betschart, who began the panel by explaining the importance of the sector focus that the Flying Labs have taken, and how that enables us to find relevant demand. Sonja’s Presentation Slides

IFRC - Aarathi Krishnan

Aarathi Krishnan from the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies spoke about a recent joint project with WeRobotics; looking at cross-sectoral needs for various robotics solutions in the South Pacific. The Federation is exploring at the possibility of launching a South Pacific Flying Labs with a strong focus on women and girls. Aarathi’s Presentation Slides

Pix4D - Lorenzo Martelletti

Lorenzo Martelletti from Pix4D addressed the role of aerial robotics in agriculture, giving concrete examples of successful applications while providing guidance to our Flying Labs Coordinators. Lorenzo’s Presentation Slides

The Wall Street Journal - Sally French

Sally French, who has reported for the The Wall Street Journal, spoke about the use of aerial robotics in news gathering and investigative journalism. She specifically emphasized the importance of using flying robots for storytelling. Sally’s Presentation Slides

Duke Marine Lab - David Johnston

Lastly David Johnston from Duke Marine Labs closed the panel with an overview of their projects in nature conservation and marine life protection, highlighting their use of machine learning for automated feature detection for real-time analysis. David’s Presentation Slides

Session 3 Videos

UNICEF - Judith Sherman

Session 3 of WeRobotics Global was called “Transforming Transportation”. The first speaker was Judith Sherman from UNICEF who highlighted the field tests being carried out in Malawi, using cargo robotics to transport HIV samples in order to accelerate HIV testing and treatment. UNICEF has also launched an air corridor in Malawi to enable further field-testing of flying robots. Judith’s presentation slides.

Médecins Sans Frontières - Oriol Lopez

Second was Oriol Lopez from Médecins Sans Frontières, who shared their approach to cargo delivery using aerial robotics. Oriol shared examples from Papua New Guinea (PNG) and emphasized the importance of localizing appropriate robotics solutions that can be maintained by community members. He also called for the launch of PNG Flying Labs. Oriol’s presentation slides 

WeRobotics - Patrick and Adam

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) was unable to attend WeR Global, so WeRobotics cofounders Patrick and Adam gave the talk instead. WeRobotics is teaming up with IAEA to design and test a release mechanism for sterilized mosquitoes in order to reduce the incidence of Zika and other mosquito-borne illnesses. Patrick & Adam’s presentation slides.

Llamasoft - Sidharth Rupani

Sidharth Rupani from Llamasoft closed the session with a strong emphasis on the need to collect and share structured data, especially to be able to accurately compare the cost-benefit-analyses of cargo delivery via aerial robotics versus conventional means. Sid used the analogy of self-driving cars to highlight how problematic the current lack of data vis-a-vis reliably evaluating the impact of cargo robotics. Sid’s presentation slides.

Session 4 Videos

Digger Foundation - Thomas Dalla Piazza

The fourth and final session of WeRobotics Global was called “Beyond Aerial Robotics”. We wanted to go beyond the current trend of flying robots (drones/UAVs), and invited speakers from companies that specialize in unique applications of robotics technologies.First up was Thomas Dalla Piazza, representing a Swiss nonprofit organization called the Digger Foundation. Thomas showed how us how they convert heavy construction vehicles into semi-autonomous platforms for the purpose of clearing landmines and debris from conflict zones such as Iraq and Syria. Thomas’ Presentation Slides

OpenROV - David Lang

Next, the co-founder of OpenROV, David Lang, gave a talk on the use of marine robotics, sharing real-world examples of citizen scientists using his company’s robotics platform for social good. David also provided us exciting updates on the new Trident diving robot, as well as quick look at a few amazing new computer vision algorithms. David’s Presentation Slides

Science in the Wild - Ulyana Horodyskyj

Ulyana Horodyskyj of Science in the Wild was unfortunately unable to attend the event, so Patrick from WeRobotics gave the talk instead. The focus was on the use of swimming robots to monitor glacial lakes in the Himalaya. The purpose of the effort is to identify cracks in the lake floors before they trigger what local villagers call the tsunamis of the Himalaya. Ulyana’s Presentation Slides

Planet Labs - Andrew Zolli

The closing talk of WeRobotics Global 2017 was given by Andrew Zolli, representing Planet Labs. Andrew highlighting how space robotics (satellites) are being used across a wide range of social good projects. He emphasized the importance of integrating both aerial and satellite imagery to support social good projects, and also raised an interesting point regarding the current state of drone technology. Andrew’s Presentation Slides