How drones can help local people solve the world’s biggest problems
When Dania Montenegro stepped out of the boat onto Gardi Sugdub, a tiny Caribbean island off the coast of Panama last fall, it was hurricane season. She walked through ankle-deep water on flooded dirt pathways through the densely populated island. While the storm battered the island for hours, Montenegro took care to make sure her drone stayed dry and its batteries stayed charged. She is an engineer for nautical sciences and the coordinator for Panama Flying Labs, an organization that uses drones to collect data and make maps that will help communities across Panama find solutions to some of their most vexing challenges — from climate change, to reforestation, to saving breeding grounds for turtles.
Flying Labs like Montenegro’s exist not just in Panama but all over the world. Together, they create a large network of organizations based in countries throughout Latin America, Africa, and Southeast Asia that use drones to capture a lot of data that has historically been inaccessible to the people who live in the places most impacted by climate-related disasters, pandemics, and the like. That’s why Montenegro made the several-hour journey from her home in Panama City to this remote island with a drone in tow.