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New plans for sharing conflict zone data

WASHINGTON, DC: The U.N. Security Council has condemned the shooting down of an MI-8 helicopter in South Sudan while carrying aid from Wau in Western Bahr El Ghazal state to Bentiu in Unity state. Three Russian crew members died and a fourth was severely injured.

The loss of the helicopter (right) and crew coincides with an announcement by a U.N. International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) task force of plans to establish a new centralized system to share urgent and critical conflict zone risk information while making better use of its existing Notice to Airmen process.

UN MI-8 helicopter"This has been an especially productive two-day session on what were some very challenging objectives," said task force chairman David McMillan. "We saw some very strong consensus around the two specific projects we'll now be pursuing and I am very confident that we'll be submitting a very mature and practical set of proposals to the ICAO Council. These recommendations will help to ensure the safety of civilian passengers and crew, no matter what airline they are flying on or where they are flying."

The ICAO task force was convened in the aftermath of the downing of Malaysia Airlines' flight MH17 with a goal to refine the roles and procedures relating to the mitigation of conflict zone risks in civilian airspace. It will be delivering a preliminary report to the ICAO Council in October this year.

In a related move, the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) has released a study on the increasing use of drones as "life-saving technology" while a new generation of start-ups develop them for humanitarian use.

OCHA says portable micro-unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) have already been deployed in Haiti and the Philippines for mapping, improved situational awareness and needs assessment. While primary uses are data-collection and monitoring, research is underway on the delivery of goods, particularly smaller items such as vaccines.

The agency says peacekeeping and military actors are also increasingly interested in using UAVs to support mission mandates, including the protection of civilians: The U.N. mission in the DRC recently began using its own long-range UAVs for reconnaissance and data-gathering tasks, and has made the drones available to humanitarian agencies.

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