Drones and Aerial Observation

New Technologies for Property Rights, Human Rights, and Global Development

Clear and secure rights to property—land, natural resources, and other goods and assets—are crucial to human prosperity. Most of the world’s population lack such rights. That lack is in part a consequence of political and social breakdowns, and in part driven by informational deficits. Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), also known as drones, by virtue of their aerial perspective, are able to gather large amounts of information cheaply and efficiently, as can unpowered aerial platforms like kites and balloons.

That information, in the form of images, maps, and other environmental data, can be used by communities to improve the quality and character of their property rights. These same tools are also useful in other, related aspects of global development. Drone surveillance can help conservationists to protect endangered wildlife and aid scientists in understanding the changing climate; drone imagery can be used by advocates and analysts to document and deter human rights violations; UAVs can be used by first responders to search for lost people or to evaluate the extent of damage after natural disasters like earthquakes or hurricanes.

Earlier this year, New America launched a website, drones.newamerica.org, which comprises a database of such uses of drones, as well as the first comprehensive compilation of global drone regulations. In conjunction with this July 22nd Symposium, New America has published a primer that discusses the capabilities and limitations of unmanned aerial vehicles in advancing property rights, human rights and development more broadly. The primer contains both nuts-and-bolts advice to drone operators and policy guidance. The primer is available for download at drones.newamerica.org/primer.

Please join Anne-Marie Slaughter, New America’s president and CEO, for a half-day discussion of these important issues. Breakfast and lunch will be served.

This program is made possible by the support of Omidyar Network and Humanity United.

Follow the discussion online using #NewAmericaDrones and following @NatSecNAF.


Welcome Remarks:

Anne-Marie Slaughter, President and CEO, New America

Peter Rabley, Director, Investments, Property Rights, Omidyar Network

Mapping for Property Rights:

Aldo Watanave, Peruvian Ministry of Culture, on Peru

Janina Mera, Land Alliance, on Peru

Gregor Maclennan, Digital Democracy, on Guyana


Faine Greenwood, New America

Political Geography of Aerial Imaging: Ethics, Surveillance and Privacy:

Shannon Dosemagen, Public Lab
Lisa Ellman, Hogan Lovells
John Verdi, National Telecommunications and Information Administration


Konstantin Kakaes, New America

Practicalities of Mapping:

Walter Volkmann, Micro Aerial Projects
Mathew Lippincott, Public Lab
Nina Tushev
, Tushev Aerials


Rob Thompson, UAV Consultant

Drones and Conservation:

Serge Wich, Liverpool John Moores University

The Regulation of UAVs: Air Safety, Privacy and New Technologies:

Leslie Cary, ICAO
Ella Atkins, University of Michigan
Troy Rule, Arizona State University


Margot Kaminski, Ohio State University

Drones and Peacekeeping: the DRC and Beyond:

Konstantin Kakaes, New America
Walter Dorn, Canadian Forces College

Drones and Disaster Response

Patrick Meier, Humanitarian UAV Network
Abi Weaver, American Red Cross
C.J. Guinness, Unity Development Group


Craig Whitlock, Washington Post

The Future of Commercial Drones:

Darryl Jenkins, American Aviation Institute
Bradford Foley, Gannet International