How do we move things when it really matters? This Mobile Utopia Experiment explores the potential for using drones to transport vital medical cargo, such as blood. Cargo medical drones are already used in Rwanda. Could they be used in the UK? Could they be used to cross local Morecambe Bay in times of crisis?
We explore this high-tech concept in a low-tech way. On Nov 1-2 2017, at Lancaster University campus, we engaged passersby and Mobile Utopia Conference attendees in a five minute enactment and survey. Our goal was to foster conversations about the perception of and concerns related to cargo medical drones.
PART 1 - FLIGHT
Step into the DronePort
Don the magical yellow pinney
Transform into a professional drone operator
Visit the Blood Bank to identify your cargo payload
Identify which regional hospital needs your supplies
Undertake your flight (up to three attempts)
Complete post-flight assessment (aka survey)
PART 2 - POST-FLIGHT ASSESSMENT
This Mobile Utopia experiment was a chance to engage people on Lancaster University (UK) campus on the topic of cargo medical drones. The results of the informal survey varied (n 31) -- with some participants very much in favour of the idea:
Overall, participants were:
Drones were viewed as a potential tool for overcoming traffic and road works, connecting remote communities, and an overall means for faster and more efficient delivery. To this end, the skill of drone pilots in safely navigating drones, preventing crashes and cargo loss, and responding to unexpected situations was emphasized.
Participants supported the idea of drones using cameras to navigate safely, but also expressed concern about privacy issues:
This was a back-of-the-envelope public engagement experiment intended to engage participants in a high-level conversation about the potential for cargo medical drones in Lancaster, UK. The use of paper airplanes rather than an actual drone resulted in a qualitatively different experience. One key --- but by no means only -- difference being noise. The initial receptivity suggests the need for a more realistic simulation and deeper participant engagement.
Stephanie Sodero is a postdoctoral researcher in crisis mobilities at Lancaster University's Centre for Mobilities Research.