We’re thrilled to announce the launch of our newest labs in partnership with the GIS Lab at the University of the South Pacific (USP) in Fiji. South Pacific Flying Labs has received initial seed funding from the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT), the Atlassian Foundation and USP to demonstrate demand, impact and scalability in 2018. MIT Solve is also an important partner on this initiative, providing direct in-kind support. Pacific Flying Labs joins our existing network of labs in Nepal, Tanzania and Peru.
As WeRobotics, we’ve already worked across the South Pacific, including Fiji, Vanuatu, Tonga and the Cook Islands. This gave us the opportunity to meet with international, national and local organizations working in humanitarian aid, development, public health and environmental protection. We’ve witnessed firsthand the many challenges faced by Small Island States in the region: cyclones, floods, earthquakes, volcanoes and tsunamis, not to mention the growing impact of climate change. We’ve also witnessed the strong interest across the region in leveraging innovation and emerging technologies to address these growing challenges. This explains why we’ve already worked with both the Red Cross and the World Bank in the South Pacific.
Pacific Flying Labs will have a strong focus on empowering youth in the region with the skills they need to thrive in the 21st Century and to build local, long term capacity across the Pacific. This is why we’re excited to welcome Amrita Lal to the team, our youngest Flying Labs Coordinator yet! Amrita will coordinate all the activities of our Pacific Flying Labs in close collaboration with Dr. Nick Rollings at USP’s GIS Lab. Amrita is already well versed in robotics. She is a passionate drone pilot herself, having worked with RTK drones, photogrammetry and multispectral sensors. She’s fluent in the leading software platforms for imagery processing and analysis, and also has programming experience with Python. In addition, Amrita mentors USP’s geospatial students and serves as a tutor for the course on Geospatial Information Systems. What’s more, she also volunteers as a mentor at an all-girl orphanage and will be graduating from USP in coming months. We’re absolutely thrilled to be working with her — please join us in giving Amrita a warm welcome!
Amrita is already busy planning our first activities in early 2018. These will comprise hands-on training for youths and implementation of youth-led projects in Fiji. More specifically, youths will learn how to use aerial and marine robotics safely and effectively. They will also learn how to process and analyze the imagery they capture during their projects. These projects will focus on addressing local humanitarian and environmental challenges. Participating youths will then present their projects and results at our first ever Pacific Flying Labs conference in Fiji. The purpose of this full-day event is to bring all relevant local, national and international stakeholders to formally introduce Pacific Flying Labs and to formulate a joint, regional road-map to scale the labs across the region.
The Red Cross, World Bank, Secretariat of Pacific Community (SPC) and others have already expressed an interest in exploring joint projects with the Flying Labs. For example, we’re already in discussions with the World Bank about co-organizing both policy and technical trainings specifically geared towards aid and development professionals in the region. In addition, another partner has responded very positively to our proposal regarding a cargo drone demo in early 2018 given the compelling humanitarian need for rapid and affordable cargo deliveries between islands. So our full-day event will be used to move these and other possible partnerships forward and to ensure that the resulting roadmap for Pacific Flying Labs is a joint effort by all participants.
Many thanks to all our donors, DFAT, Altassian Foundation and USP for making this first phase of Pacific Flying Labs a reality in 2018!