Three more inductees into the Flying Labs Network

It is the year 2022, and WeRobotics are still relentlessly pursuing their mission of establishing flying labs hubs in as many countries as they can; the latest three Flying Labs took off in Asia, with Bhutan, Malaysia and Pakistan joining the family.

The Bhutan Flying Labs, which was officially announced to the world on Friday, will be under the aegis of Aero Tech Bhutan, a technology start-up that offers drone-based solutions and training to many organisations in the country. Its proprietors include Anuj Pradhan, an aerospace engineer, and Sangay Dorji, a Software Developer and drone pilot.

The two say they use robotics, data, and AI to help their communities; and their induction into the Flying Labs network will help them launch local and national projects that leverage drone technology to upskill their peers while executing impactful work.

“Inspired by His Majesty’s vision on digitizing the nation, Bhutan Flying Labs will focus on leveraging drone technology in every industry and training youth and government officials interested in urban planning, emergency and disaster response, search and rescue, and logistics—areas where job opportunities are ripe and drones and related technologies can have an outsized impact,” The new entrant said in a statement.

“The Bhutan Flying Labs team will work closely with the government on national cartographic or topographic projects. For example, the team could work with the National Land Commission Secretariat for survey and mapping, Thimphu City corporation for urban planning, or the Ministry of Agriculture & Forestry for precision agriculture. Drones are new in Bhutan, so as pioneers of the technology in the country, Bhutan Flying Labs plans to help the government explore use cases, mitigate risk, and develop sound policies.”

Bhutan Flying labs says it has already conducted a successful project with the Royal Office for Media to measure the volume of the Memhakha (a waste dumping site in Thimphu). The project wanted to forecast how long it would take to fill the landfill and surface ideas to reduce the amount of waste.

The team used the opportunity to train college students with survey background to use drones for aerial surveys and mapping—and demonstrate the differences between ground and aerial surveys.

“Bhutan Flying Labs has also worked on a traffic monitoring project to assess the number of vehicles moving through a given area. By calculating time gaps between cars, officials determine the hours where heavy traffic would cause congestion, assisting traffic police and first responders reroute to avoid these slowdowns.”

Meanwhile, in Malaysia, the new Flying Labs there said it would use its newly acquired superpowers to drive the local youth towards adopting and leading innovation in drone and robotics technology. They will especially target young people from rural parts of the country who, like most of their counterparts in most rural areas in the Global South, are usually bypassed by many technological advancement opportunities.

“Drones, robotics, and artificial intelligence have incredible ability to serve our communities,” Malaysia Flying Labs says. “In Malaysia, local experts aim to bring these rapidly evolving tools to address their neighbours’ most pressing challenges. The Flying Labs will train drone pilots and operators in all aspects of drone applications, safety, and compliance.

“Drone, robotics, and AI technologies rapidly evolve, especially in social development, community empowerment, environmental sustainability, and humanitarian relief. Therefore, the team’s core focus is capacity building, helping local experts better acquaint themselves with these technologies and practical applications.

“The team has already conducted trials for medical delivery and logistics by transporting vaccines and medicines to rural hospitals. They have also partnered with area farmers to spray pesticides and fertilisers to improve crop output and reduce manual labour.

“Nationally, Malaysia Flying Labs will be ready to assist in natural disasters and other crises where their drones and technical know-how will improve the country’s humanitarian response.”

Another Asian country where the Flying Labs has found a home is Pakistan, where software technology scientist Wajeeha Javed and her team passed the rigorous test to earn the rights the Flying Labs name in the country.

Like their fellow new family members in Malaysia, Pakistan Flying Labs will be working with the young people in the country who constitute the bulk of the working population.

“More than 60 percent of Pakistan’s population of 207 million is working age, with more youth preparing to graduate into the workforce every day,” said Pakistan Flying Labs at its launch in January. “As job functions change with the evolution of emerging technologies, youth must have early access and exposure to necessary training.

The newly launched Pakistan Flying Labs formed around this very idea. The team’s core focus is empowering youth with the knowledge, equipment, and tools they need to competitively engage in the science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields that will underpin their future livelihoods.”

Besides the founder Javed, other members of the flying labs in Pakistani include Director Obaid ur Rehman and Regional Coordinator Muhammad Afaq.  

“Pakistan Flying Labs will use the opportunity to engage youth with the potential for using robotics technology, drones, and data for social good. Recently, we performed a trial of an agricultural drone capable of performing various tasks, from spraying insecticide to surveying farmlands and assessing crop yields.

“In addition, the team intends to broaden its approach to new sectors, demonstrating to youth and young professionals how these tools might help them work more efficiently and effectively on a range of activities. Pakistan Flying Labs plans to organize training programs for grade-school and college students alike and support research projects and case study development to advance the field. Through these activities, more students and professionals will adopt what we now consider emerging technologies as everyday tools to benefit their communities and livelihoods.”

The three latest inductees bring the current standing number of Flying Labs to 36. Of these, seventeen are in Africa, eleven in Asia, seven in Latin America and only one – Spain Flying labs – in Europe.


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