High-tech support for humanitarian aid

Humanitarian aid organisations are increasingly seeking technological support for their work in crisis and disaster areas. New technologies, such as satellite remote sensing, robotics or communication technology, help the helpers to make the care and rescue of people in need as effective as possible. This applies not least to relief operations carried out under extreme conditions. In order to jointly develop solutions, the German Aerospace Center (DLR) has initiated a special event: Around 80 scientists, humanitarian actors and sponsors have come together for the "DLR Humanitarian Technology Days", which are currently taking place from 6 to 7 February 2019 in Oberpfaffenhofen.

"DLR takes its social responsibility seriously and supports urgent humanitarian tasks worldwide. Applied research and technological developments help to alleviate people's suffering. For practical humanitarian aid, DLR can contribute its expertise in the fields of space travel, aviation, energy, transport, security and digitisation. This can only be achieved through close dialogue and cooperation with humanitarian aid actors, and this event is an important element in this context," said DLR Executive Board Chairman Prof. Dr. Pascale Ehrenfreund at the start of the Humanitarian Technology Days.

The guests were also welcomed by Prof. Dr. Stefan Dech, Director of the German Remote Sensing Data Center. The group of participants includes the United Nations (UN) with representatives of UN SPIDER (United Nations Platform for Space-Based Information on Disaster Management and Emergency Response), the UN Office for the Peaceful Utilization of Space (UNOOSA) and the UN World Food Programme (WFP), the Federal Foreign Office, the German Society for International Cooperation, the German Agency for Technical Relief, the Red Cross and eight international non-governmental organizations. DLR will present its expertise from all DLR research areas at the "Humanitarian Technology Days". During the two-day "matchmaking", decision-makers, practitioners and developers can exchange ideas and create the basis for long-term partnerships and forward-looking project ideas.

The use of high-tech in humanitarian aid is still a young field of research and development, and DLR is one of the pioneers in this field. In particular, the German Remote Sensing Data Center has many years of experience in the field of disaster control and civil security. It is becoming increasingly important for aid organisations today to be able to act proactively, to recognise crisis situations early on and to use risk knowledge preventively. The latest generation of earthquake observation satellites provide valuable data that can be specifically generated and processed by DLR. For food security forecasts, for example, experts can map periodically recurring crises such as droughts or floods globally. DLR can also support humanitarian tasks in many other areas. The possible application spectrum of the technology competence ranges from logistics for people and relief goods to semi-autonomous convoys, dealing with the causes and consequences of climate change, avoiding the causes of flight through development and assistance on site and the decentralized energy supply of refugee camps or SOS Children's Villages in crisis areas.

UN World Food Progamme intensifies cooperation

With the UN World Food Programme (WFP), DLR has already carried out various projects for several years. The successful cooperation is now to be intensified. During the Humanitarian Technology Days, the two partners signed an agreement on the development and implementation of technologies for the Zero Hunger mission.

"WFP has an extremely important mandate: to fight hunger worldwide. The 'Memorandum of Understanding' ensures long-term cooperation in order to make the best possible use of the latest research results and technological developments from all DLR research areas in the fight against hunger. Only through implementation partners such as WFP can this be effectively achieved," explains Prof. Ehrenfreund.

"821 million people have to go to sleep hungry every night. In the face of conflicts and natural disasters, we need new approaches and new technologies to help these hungry families more quickly and sustainably in the future. Partners like DLR are particularly critical and we are looking forward to innovative, creative solutions that DLR and our Innovation Accelerator will jointly develop," says Robert Opp, Director for Innovation and Change Management at the WFP.

The goal of the agreement is to develop and implement key technologies to defeat global hunger by 2030. In particular, innovations from the fields of space travel, aviation, transport, digitisation and security are to be applied. Another focus is on joint thought leadership, the networking of research and development activities and the development of new forward-looking projects.