By Widia Lestari
In February, I visited a hamlet called Ponggang in West Java in Indonesia to conduct research on renewable energy potentials and collecting community aspirations. This was to assist in a research project for the Australia-Indonesia Centre led by Dr Sebastian Thomas from the OEP. I was equipped with a drone to document our journey in the village, a piece of equipment used by the Sustainability Lab @ Melbourne (SL@M). I never thought a drone could be a big help and bring any impact to the community, but it is. The drone connected us in a certain way with the community that a direct communication cannot deliver. It is true that we got closer to the community just by letting them accompanying us during the flight, but the impact of the video footage is significant. The local people experienced a different perspective of their hamlet, how beautiful it is looking from bird’s eye view, and I could tell how proud they are about their environment. Importantly, the drone can be used as a communication tool. The aerial video footage gives a sense to the local people on where they live and the condition of their hamlet, lush and in a secluded area; far away from medical centres, schools, and market. It is heartbreaking when one of the elders said, “Oh, I just realise that we live in the hinterland. If something happens to us will anybody notice?” This question though started an optimist discussion between the local people on how they need to be more productive and encourage more people to participate in developing their hamlet, so their kids will experience a better condition than what they have today. I think this is an important conversation because it addresses the local concern with community aspiration for the solution.