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Drones for Humanity: World Economic Forum Looks to Future Benefitted by UAVs


Drones for Humanity: World Economic Forum Looks to Future Benefitted by UAVs

Drones for Humanity: World Economic Forum Looks to Future Benefitted by UAVs


The World Economic Forum tracks and discusses the future form of society, providing a platform from which governments, institutions, companies and other organisations can help shape that path, and no more so than through the Centre for the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

The Centre has now recognised the potential of drones within this landscape, and as such has launched a ‘Drone Innovators Network’ at an event at ETH Zurich in Switzerland, a country that is increasingly known as a centre for drone technology.

As technology advances and unmanned vehicles integrate with other disruptive technologies – AI, blockchain, augmented reality and so on – there is great potential and risk for countries.

Legislation and regulation of these ground-breaking technologies can take a while to take shape in a manner which allows these devices to truly benefit society, with laws often differing substantially from country to country and sometimes overly restrictive.

“Drones and autonomous flying vehicles, key parts of the fourth industrial revolution, provide an opportunity to revolutionize mobility networks,” says Klaus Schwab, Founder and Executive Chairman at the World Economic Forum.

For this reason the Drone Innovators Network has been formed, to address the challenges by bringing together stakeholders from across government and industry to network on research topics, discuss and decide best practices and develop innovative policies.

“The Drone Innovators Network launch event at ETH Zurich brings together government, industry, academia, and civil society to co-design the principles and protocols which will maximize the benefits to society and mitigate the risks of drone technology,” says Schwab.

The network forms part of the World Economic Forum’s Shaping the Future of Mobility System Initiative, and includes partners from all walks – or rather flights? – of the drone ecosystem: big names like NASA, Airbus, Boeing, DJI, Amazon and UNICEF form the backbone of the list.

Drone solution providers like AirMap, Kespry, Matternet, Precision Hawk and Zipline along with a range of related telecom, cargo, even Larry’s Page’s elusive Zee Aero are joining the fray.

Timothy Reuter, Head of Drones at the World Economic Forum Centre for the Fourth Industrial Revolution, underlines the role that have drones have to play for the good of society.

“It’s all about access to airspace. Drones are playing an increasingly important role in saving lives, promoting food security and enabling economic growth,” he says.

Faced with challenges such as unmanned traffic management, drone registration and commercial integration, regulators have a lot to gain from the guidance of the network.

“There are challenges ahead for businesses and regulators,” says Jana Rosenmann, Head of the Unmanned Aerial Systems at Airbus Defence & Space.

“We need a place for both to share learnings and best practices. The Drone Innovators Network will help further the conversation to accelerate the use of drones around the world,” she says.

Switzerland is the location for many new drone initiatives, underpinning the WEF’s choice to launch the innovative network there.

Last year the drone logistics company Matternet began delivering medical diagnostic samples in collaboration with Swiss Post.

The country will also be the first to benefit from the EU project U-Space, an unmanned traffic management (UTM) system to be created through a collaboration between Switzerland’s airspace controller Skyguide and AirMap, the Californian airspace management startup.

Yesterday, the first demonstration of the UTM by the Swiss Federal Office of Civil Aviation alongside Matternet, Parrot and senseFly took place, using geofencing technology to ensure pilots do not inadvertently enter restricted airspace.

Such developments are sure to bring much needed accountability and trust to the industry, says the WEF.

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Cite this article as: Sarah Whittaker, "Drones for Humanity: World Economic Forum Looks to Future Benefitted by UAVs," in, June 27, 2018,

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