AERIAL FUTURES: Humanitarian Drones – The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

swissnex Boston continues their AERIAL FUTURES: THE DRONE FRONTIER series with an event examining the impact of drones on the humanitarian sector.

Event Details


swissnex Boston
420 Broadway, Cambridge , Massachusetts 02138 United States


May 15, 2018 from 6:00 pm to 9:00 pm America/Cambridge Bay (UTC-07:00)



Keynote: Humanitarian Drones – The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

swissnex Boston continues their AERIAL FUTURES: THE DRONE FRONTIER series with an event examining the impact of drones on the humanitarian sector. Drones hover at the central intersection of the modern technological renaissance, allowing for new and imaginative applications of AI, flight technology, 3D imaging, and other burgeoning fields. These curious machines have an increasingly large presence in our anticipated future, bringing both incredible opportunities and new challenges. For humanitarian sector, they allow relief workers to be more informed, more effective, and to access and help previously unreachable populations.

The evening will feature a keynote presentation followed by a panel discussion. In the keynote, Dr. Patrick Meier will provide a frank, first-hand overview of the humanitarian drone space since Typhoon Haiyan — a Category 5 Cyclone that devastated the Philippines in 2013. While his talk will cover the most important developments over the past 5 years since Haiyan, the core of his talk will focus on the most recent developments — and in particular on the most pressing current and future challenges vis-a-vis the responsible, coordinated and effective use of drones in humanitarian action. These include regulations, codes of conduct, complex emergencies, localization, turf wars, artificial intelligence and more. This talk will not be about abstract concepts or speculations. Instead, Patrick will draw directly from his first-hand operational experience in coordinating drone teams after major disasters and from the first-hand experience of WeRobotics and their global network Flying Labs. This will be a blunt, frank and direct talk from one of the leading experts in the field.

Following Patrick’s kenote, there will be a panel discussion on the topic featuring expertise in the fields of AI, machine learning, aerial imaging and computer vision, and academia.


6:00pm Doors open
6:30pm Introduction and keynote
7:00pm Panel discussion followed by networking reception
9:00pm Doors close


Patrick Meier, PhD – Executive Director, WeRobotics
Keynote Speaker

Patrick serves as the Executive Director and Co-Founder of WeRobotics, which scales the positive impact of humanitarian aid, development and environmental projects through the use and localization of appropriate robotics solutions. An internationally recognized expert and consultant on Humanitarian Technology and Innovation, his book, Digital Humanitarians, has been praised by Harvard, MIT, Stanford, Oxford, UN, Red Cross, World Bank, USAID and others. Over the past 15 years, Patrick has worked in the Sudan, Somalia, Kenya, Uganda, Liberia, India, Philippines, Kyrgyzstan, Nepal, Timor-Leste, Turkey, Morocco, Western Sahara, Haiti, Peru, Vanuatu, Fiji, Tonga and Northern Ireland on a wide range of humanitarian projects with a number of international organizations including the United Nations, Red Cross and World Bank. More details on LinkedIn.

Faine Greenwood – Researcher, Signal Program, Harvard Humanitarian Initiative

Faine Greenwood is a Research Assistant for UAVs at the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative’s Signal Program. Ms. Greenwood coordinates the Signal Program’s research around the use of UAVs in humanitarian action. She was the co-author of the 2015 Drones for Aerial Observation primer for the New America Foundation and took a leading role in researching New America’s accompanying UAV regulation and UAV case-study databases. She is currently actively involved in studying the development of regulatory and ethical frameworks for the responsible use of UAVs in multiple pre- and post-disaster contexts. Ms. Greenwood has an MA in Communications from Stanford University, and a member of the Humanitarian UAV Network (UAViators). She is also an experienced amateur drone pilot and 3D map maker, including expertise in Drone Deploy software and related platforms.

Jake Porway, PhD – Founder and Executive Director, DataKind

Jake is a machine learning and technology enthusiast who loves nothing more than seeing good values in data. He founded DataKind™ in the hopes of creating a world in which every social organization has access to data capacity to better serve humanity. He was most recently the data scientist in the New York Times R&D lab and remains an active member of the data science community. He holds a B.S. in Computer Science from Columbia University and his M.S. and Ph.D. in Statistics from UCLA.


Lily Bui

Lily Bui is a PhD student in MIT’s Department of Urban Studies and Planning and has an M.S. from MIT’s Comparative Media Studies. Her work focuses on disaster risk reduction planning on urbanized islands. She is a researcher foor the MIT Civic Data Design Lab and MIT Urban Risk Lab, where she works on projects at the intersection between information systems and disaster risk reduction. She has served as a research fellow at the National Disaster Preparedness Training Center in Honolulu, Hawaii; the Department of Natural and Environmental Resources in San Juan, Puerto Rico; SensingCity, a smart city initiative in Christchurch, New Zealand; and Making Sense EU and SmartCitizen at Fab Lab Barcelona in Spain. She serves as an affiliated expert on urbanization for the U.S. Naval War College Humanitarian Response Program and is a staff officer in the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary.