Tech Corner: Drones

Will drones make MAF obsolete?

“Drones can be a complimentary tool to our existing aircraft,” said Danny Hulls, MAF application administrator and former pilot. “They would never replace MAF’s traditional aviation services, but they will be an effective tool.”

Case in point: the drone airstrip survey.

School children watch a drone flown by Danny Hulls at Maletsunyane Falls in Lesotho. Photo by Jon Wilkins.

Every three years, pilots have to inspect all of MAF’s airstrips (other than major, Class 1 airports). This requires the pilot to walk the airstrip—a laborious task. Danny has been working to use drones to provide an aerial view to streamline this process.

The drone flies high into the sky and takes around 250 high-resolution pictures that are stitched together and overlaid on Google Earth. This allows MAF staff not only to get a detailed, bird’s eye look at the airstrip, but also lets them see how the strip is changing over the years—e.g., tree and vegetation growth, buildings, roads, etc.

“This would make airstrip surveys much less time-consuming,” said Danny.

And drone airstrip surveys are just the beginning. The possibilities for MAF to use drones are endless.

“Down the road, drones might be able to deliver and pick-up packages, and bring medication, vaccines, blood samples, passport stamps, and more to remote locations,” said Danny. “The biggest potential is for reaching areas that don’t have an existing airstrip.”

There are some things the drone won’t be able to do such as measure the softness of the airstrip, which is especially important in places like Papua, where the soil isn’t as dry as in Lesotho. And when it comes to building relationships and sharing the love of Christ, a drone is no match for an MAF pilot.

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