Growing OpenAerialMap with Responsible Imagery

Posted by:
Nate Smith
Date posted:
Feb, 13 2017
Related Project:

HOT is working to grow OpenAerialMap to be a long-lasting open imagery resource to OpenStreetMap and humanitarian communities. With new funding from the Humanitarian Innovation Fund and our recent announcement about coming out of beta, HOT and the OAM community is actively working to increase the availability of openly licensed imagery. Ensuring and guiding responsible imagery collection is a critical part of our work going forward. As a part of this work, last month HOT joined the Swiss Foundation for Mine Action (FSD) for a discussion on drones in humanitarian action with regional humanitarian aid groups in Amman, Jordan. FSD has recently published the Drones in Humanitarian Action report that covers case studies and reviews the use of UAVs to collect imagery (as well as other uses) in humanitarian operations. The workshop was conducted as a part of engaging with the humanitarian community to share and discuss best practices for responsible drone usage and imagery collection. 

Topics of discussion

In Amman, the conversation focused on conflict settings and how to assess and mitigate risk associated with imagery collection. The goal of the workshop was to share best practices around flying and collecting imagery. Three key threads of conversation were discussed: 

    • What are the best practices and guidelines around flying UAVs and collecting imagery in humanitarian and conflict settings? 
    • How can risks in flying or sharing imagery be mitigated? 
    • What are the regulatory considerations when operating UAVs and collecting imagery near conflict or within conflict settings?  

FSD captured in their workshop summary that a key point within all these threads was the lack of an enabling regulatory environment. These regulatory considerations significantly dominated the conversation. In Jordan, for example, there is no documented regulation or rules for flying UAVs. FSD, New America, UAViators, and other groups have come together to track global regulations in the Global Drone Regulations Database. A full summary from the workshop is available from FSD. 

These types of discussions are not limited to a humanitarian or conflict setting. These are critical discussions that UAV companies and groups, like UAViators, have been addressing through establishing documents like the Humanitarian UAV Code of Conduct. HOT through the PacDID project has been working on building upon that document by looking at guidelines for quality imagery collection which include privacy and security considerations.

New funding and a call to action for responsible imagery collection

Last month also marked the announcement of new funding from the Humanitarian Innovation Fund. HIF has provided OAM the opportunity to continue to grow and offer open imagery as a service to the OpenStreetMap and humanitarian community. As a part of this work and together with the PacDID project, we’ll be working to share and support individuals and organizations looking to conduct responsible imagery collection through guidelines and resources. 

We’re inviting the HOT community to join in with us to help write guidelines, discuss issues, and encourage responsible UAV flying and imagery collection. Watch or join our Slack community or Gitter to get involved and participate in the work.