OpenRelief: Open Source Software Contributes to Disaster Relief
Article by George Norman
On 11 Jun 2012
As you may remember, back in 2011, the LinuxCon Japan conference took place shortly after the country was hit by an earthquake and a tsunami. The developers and Linux fans that gathered in Yokohama to take part in the conference talked at the time about how open source software could be used to aid disaster relief efforts.

Among those who participated at the conference was Shane Coughlan, a consultant based in Western Japan. He found inspiration in the discussion and decided to do something about it.


A year later the fruits of that discussion were presented to the public. At the 2012 LinuxCon Japan conference that took place between the 6th and 8th of June in Yokohama, the OpenRelief project was presented – the aforementioned Shane Coughlan is the co-founder of the project.

The aim of the OpenRelief project is to come up with a low-cost, remote-controlled robotic plane that can be used to gather damage reports from hard-to-reach locations. The robot plane can be launched from footpaths to investigate and map disaster zones. By using sensors and open source software the robot plane is smart enough to recognize roads, people, and smoke; its sensors can measure weather info and radiation. The info the robot plane gathers can be easily shared with disaster management systems.

“Planning disaster relief efforts is like trying to see through fog. OpenRelief is a project to develop better communications tools for disaster relief efforts: the tools to clear the fog,” says the project’s description on its official webpage at “OpenRelief solutions will gather critical information for relief workers on the ground. This information will help the right aid to get to the right places at the right time.”

The project aims to reach the “Production Ready” development phase by December 2012. Right now the team behind the project is working on developing the robot plane and its sensors. Two prototypes have already been built; a second-generation design for the airframe is underway. The cost of building an airplane was under $1,000.

If you want to help out, technologists are needed to help with designing, refining, and advocating the project’s tools, and pro and volunteer relief workers are needed for designing, testing, and advocating the project’s solutions. Commercial enterprises are also needed to put the project’s solutions into production.

You can learn more about the OpenRelief project on its official website here.
A quick “What is OpenRelief?” PDF presentation is available here.
And a video that presents the project is available below.

Tags: Linux, Linux Foundationa, OpenRelief, LinuxCon Japan, project, disaster relief
About the author: George Norman
George is a news editor.
You can follow him on Google+, Facebook or Twitter

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