Drones4Good Committee Member Lindsay Barbieri (U-Vermont) launches fixed-wing drone for ag-data collection.

International Data Week (IDW) will be co-located with SciDataCon, CODATA and Research Data Alliance’s (RDA) 12th Plenary in Gaborone, Botswana, November 5-8, 2018. IDW is set to be a unique gathering of data professionals from all corners of the earth. Since many have begun to use drones/RPAS/sUAS1 as serious data-collection platforms, and because Botswana is rich in wildlife and biome diversity, we have decided to host a combined drone datathon and hackathon the week before IDW at a nearby wildlife sanctuary.


We hope that #Drones4Good@IDW will be held Sunday, October 28 through Friday, November 2 (funds pending), and will include a full week of sensor and platform experimentation, transnational community-building and data capture.

Weather permitting, evenings in this remote location will be perfect for stargazing, so we expect the activities will be especially appealing to astronomers and astrophysicists who are involved with earth observation, climate and weather mapping.

Who should apply? Data and domain scientists. Academic, nonprofit and industry researchers and developers. All who are interested in accelerating science and innovation through the use of research drones for data capture.

What are they in for? A unique combined hackathon and datathon during one full week where participants will fly drones, collect data, network, learn from each other, and strengthen the international community that is involved with scientific drone data capture. Specific themes include: #EarthScience, #Conservation, #Agriculture and associated #DroneDataChallenges.

When is it again? Just before IDW: Sunday, October 28 to  Friday, November 2, 2018.

Where will it happen? A wildlife sanctuary just outside of Gaborone, Botswana.

How will it be paid for?  We need sponsors! If you would like to help, please visit: Drones4Good@IDW-Sponsors. Otherwise, individual costs should not exceed $500 USD, and will cover the week’s lodging, meals and transportation to and from the venue. 

Space is limited! Register your interest by completing this form by September 30. Depending on whether or not we find sponsors, we will determine whether or not to proceed by Sept. 30 (check this site for updates).

The format for #Drones4Good@IDW was inspired by the International Society for Atmospheric Research Flying Week (ISARRA). Consequently, while we will focus on unique data management challenges that RPAS can present (see the RDA sUAS Data IG for more information), we also intend to foster science and engineering innovation. The nature reserve personnel will provide us with daily weather and game briefings, space to explore sensor type and placements on various platforms and a range of environments and land surfaces over which to fly and capture data. 

Photo by Lindsay Barbieri (U-Vermont): Atmospheric Science Drone Campaign ISARRA LAPSE-RATE in Colorado, US

RPAS offer the basic advantage of access to otherwise inaccessible and rugged terrains. But they are also capable of collecting higher spatial and/or temporal resolution data, which reduces the impact of data collection on the environment, and lowers the risk for workers and equipment. In many cases, they make data capture possible where it would otherwise be infeasible, and can drastically reduce the response time in cases where lives are in jeopardy.

These factors make RPAS a key technology worth highlighting and developing at IDW18, which bears the theme: Frontiers of Global Science.

And, there’s more! International Data Week Events

Local and international groups are collaborating to plan multiple RPAS-related sessions before, during and after IDW. Gaborone, Botswana, as a destination, is the perfect place for a convening of scientists from the developed and developing world where all can focus on common technological, environmental and other challenges that RPAS can help resolve.

If you are planning to attend IDW the following week, please note the drone-relevant SciDataCon Sessions: Emerging tech in Agriculture, Cross disciplinary drones for good in the developing world, and the RDA sUAS data Interest Group (IG) session where a report on flying week activities will be presented. Check the IDW website for updates and program information.

Planning Committee​​

Chair: Jane Wyngaard

Lindsay Barbieri

Rodger Duffett

Elizabeth Leake

Tshiamo Motshegwa

Kagiso Sematho

Lillian Okui

Don Sullivan

Committee:  Chair: Jane Wyngaard (Notre Dame/RDA), Lindsay Barbieri (University of Vermont), Rodger Duffett (Climate System Analysis Group-CSAG, South Africa), Elizabeth Leake (STEM-Trek), Tshiamo Motshegwa (U-Botswana), Kagiso Sematho (DataLabs), Lillian Okui (DataLabs), and Don Sullivan (NASA Airborne Science Program).

Photo by Lindsay Barbieri (U-Vermont): Atmospheric Science Drone Campaign ISARRA LAPSE-RATE in Colorado, US

Participant information:

STEM-Trek is currently searching for sponsors. Once facilities costs are satisfied, remaining funds will be awarded as travel grants for those who would otherwise find it cost-prohibitive to participate.

Otherwise, we expect the cost, per person, to be no more than $500 for lodging, meals and transportation to and from the venue. Attendees will be required to sign a code of conduct regarding personal behavior, flight operations and data use. Watch this site for updates.

In collaboration with the Research Data Alliance’s sUAS Data Interest Group, the University of Botswana, Gaborone-based Data Labs, STEM-Trek Nonprofit, additional local collaborators and future sponsors, we invite you to register your preliminary interest in #Drones4Good by completing the online application form


The Civil Aviation Authority of Botswana (CAAB) governs the flying of RPA/sUAS in Botswana. Those who wish to fly will be required to provide an application for a temporary permit, pay the ~$25.00 USD fee, present proof of police clearance and present their RPA for inspection at a local police station upon arrival. We are working with local authorities to expedite this process on Sunday, October 28. Accepted applicants will be provided with detailed requirements and procedures. A summary of CAAB RPA regulations can be found here.

Check this website and watch the STEM-Trek FaceBook and/or LinkedIn community sites for updates.


1RPAS/sUAS = Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems, Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems

Photo by Wei Pan on Unsplash