If you had asked me a month ago how nonprofits could use drones, I might have come up with one or two ideas—including delivering medicine and supplies in remote areas. I’ve heard about an organization testing this in a region of Africa where roads become impassable during certain seasons. It’s a clever application of inexpensive technology to solve a problem.

But how relevant is it to the majority of nonprofit organizations?A drone flies across a sunset.

At this year’s Minnesota Council of Nonprofits Communications & Technology Conference, a session about drones won me over. In fact, I prattled about it so much that evening that my husband accused me of “droning on.” (Editor’s Note: I wanted to cut this pun, but Karen is the Executive Director.) Henry Schneider and Jeff Achen shared a bunch of examples of how nonprofits of many types are using drones, including the following:

  • Search and rescue in flooded areas
  • Documenting environmental damage to buildings
  • Tracking wildlife migration patterns
  • Building and programming drones in youth programs
  • Capturing or live streaming video from walkathons or rallies

The presenters also did a live drone demonstration, and shared details on the technical considerations for buying and flying drones—both as a hobby and commercially. Here’s a word to the wise: Unless your nonprofit plans to use drones very regularly, don’t try to do this yourself. You can hire a professional drone pilot to shoot video for only $250-350 for a 20-minute flight, which makes it affordable for almost any nonprofit to inspect a difficult-to-reach area or capture a few stunning aerial shots for your documentary. (Just make sure the pilot is properly licensed and insured.)

Are you using drones in your nonprofit work? How? Does this give you any ideas?

Let us know in the comments…