Sending Drones to Disaster Zones

Seneca College partners with GlobalMedic to offer drone training

Adam D'Addario/Seneca Journalism

By: Adam D’Addario

The sound of drones humming filled Seneca College’s King Campus gym Saturday as the College begins its partnership with Etobicoke-based charity, GlobalMedic. The charity was founded 20 years ago and responds to natural disasters around the world.

GlobalMedic will provide pilots and drones to Seneca to help the success of the College’s drone programs. GlobalMedic’s pilots will also have the opportunity to practice flying at Seneca’s King Campus.

The Campus offers indoor training facilities as well as lots of outdoor space that is safe and away from people.

Humanitarian Aid

Adam D’Addario/Seneca Journalism

GlobalMedic’s original purpose was primarily medical deployment, but it has since shifted to offer a variety of services, including search and rescue with the deployment of drones.

Dan Cyr, who works for GlobalMedic, says, “we can, and do, deploy into countries and take imagery to provide to the local authorities so that they can do damage assessment, do emergency mapping, and assist in search and rescue if needed.”

The purpose of Saturday’s flight was to train the pilots in an environment confined by walls and a ceiling. According to Cyr, the targets that were set up around the gym required pilots to “very precisely control the flight of the aircraft but also control the camera and the settings on the camera to be able to identify the targets.”

Earthquakes in Turkiye and Syria

Cyr says these exercises would come in handy in a disaster zone like in Turkiye and Syria which were devastated by earthquakes last month. A disaster that GlobalMedic is currently responding to.

He says, “in that scenario, given that there are a lot of buildings with damage, they may still be standing, but they’re not safe to send anybody into because they could fall at any time.”

Adam D’Addario/Seneca Journalism

Cyr adds, “what you can do is take small drones, like the ones we’re working with today, and actually fly them into the building to look for anybody that needs help.” Cyr himself recently returned from Turkiye, where he partook in this exact scenario.

But for countries like Syria, delivering humanitarian aid can be much more complicated. After the earthquakes ravaged northern Syria, it was reported that delivering aid to the war-torn country would be a challenge.

Cyr says while this does pose a challenge for GlobalMedic, it is not impossible. “Syria is, unfortunately, still in an active war. But we have partners in Syria, and we have, for several years now, been shipping and supplying aid in Syria. Much of it ships through Turkiye.”

He adds that the type of aid they send to the country is a mixture of “food aid, hygiene kits, water filtration units, some of the simple, basic necessities of life that really do help people to get along.”

Given GlobalMedic’s track record, Cyr believes the partnership between the charity and the college could be very innovative. Saturday’s flight was just the beginning. On April 22nd, Seneca College’s King Campus will host another flight training session. This time outdoors.

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