SxSW: Drones for Good

The Media Innovation Studio and friends travelled to Austin in March this year to participate in one of the world’s large tech, innovation, music and film events – the South by South-West festival.

Clare Cook chaired our Drones for Good panel, which featured Darren Ansell, UCLan’s space and aerospace lead for the Engineering Innovation Centre, Dickens Olewe, founder of African Skycam and Ben Kreimer from Nebraska Lincoln University’s Drone Journalism Lab. The session was produced by Media Innovation Studio researcher John Mills.

The panel drew on its own expertise from Europe, Africa and north America to explore the potential of web-connected drones, how they offer new and engaging ways for citizens, storytellers, journalists and organisations to utilise UAV technologies. The panel tackled contentious issues of ethics, privacy and safety, it asked what are the dangers of eyes in the sky, and can positive UAV uses re-energise a potentially sceptical public?

The team, who spoke to a packed session in Austin, received positive feedback from the floor. Lisa Ellman, former advisor to President Obama and co-chair of the Unnmaned Aerial Systems practice group at Hogan Lovells, tweeted: “Amazing panel on drones 4 good and journalism all over the world! @sxsw #uavs4good @AfricanSkyCAM @benkreimer #drones #uas #SXSWInteractive”.

Ben Kreimer reflected on the panel, stating: “As this is a formative time for drones and drone regulations, it’s crucial that we both share our work and talk about the legal situation of drones so that the technology has a bright regulated future. When people have a concrete idea of how drones are used in the civic sphere for good (again, not just how they could be used), and then become informed of the regulatory situations around the world, specifically the legal hurdles that exist, I am hopeful that they will start speaking out in favour of the technology, even if it’s just informal talk between friends, family and co-workers. Word will spread and the pro-drone movement will grow.”

The team continued to present our Drones for Good work during the course of 2015, and is looking to new iterations of AeroSee and collaborations in 2016.