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Home Alumni Alumni News From security threat to humanitarian tool

From security threat to humanitarian tool

Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) have historically been linked to warfare, privacy concerns and security threats, but Shahab Moeini knows they can be much more.

‘‘The technology behind UAVs was originally developed for weapons, and a knife can be a weapon too — but it can also be a life-saving tool in the hands of a surgeon,” says Moeini, an instructor in the Bachelor of Science in Construction Project Management program in SAIT’s School of Construction.

A humanitarian weapon

Moeini has seen the potential good UAVs can do first hand. Before coming to SAIT, he worked with international humanitarian and disaster relief organizations in several war-torn countries, using inexpensive and easy-to-deploy UAV technology for humanitarian purposes during man-made disasters.

“UAVs provide a view of the world that we didn’t have before,” explains Moeini. “When an area is devastated by a storm, a flood or man-made disaster, this technology offers relief agencies a bird’s-eye view so they can assess the situation, survey the damage and decide where to focus on providing humanitarian aid — without the huge expense of putting helicopters in the air.”

But disaster situations are just one of the many positive uses for UAVs, from flying a defibrillator to a heart attack victim in a fraction of the time it would take to drive by ambulance, to giving firefighters an inside view of a burning building; from helping search-and-rescue personnel locate avalanche victims to detecting leftover land mines in post-conflict areas.

Testing at SAIT

Moeini is focusing on different applications of UAVs in collaboration with SAIT’s Applied Research and Innovation Services (ARIS) department, which is concentrating on further developing the technology. Their vision? Position SAIT as the go-to institution in Canada for all things UAV — testing, analysis and training.

“SAIT is perfectly positioned to work with public and private companies to develop the UAV technologies they need, while working in tandem with Transport Canada to help form safety regulations that will allow this technology to be widely used,” says John Fallavollita, director of ARIS. “It's something we're passionate about - something we think is incredibly worthwhile and could end up saving many lives." 

Written by Michelle Woodard