John Aldridge, associate leader in the Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief (HADR) Systems Group at Lincoln Laboratory, discusses his work and the role of technology in the HADR space.

Nestled on the fifth floor of MIT's Lincoln Laboratory, among one hundred or so labs with approximately 4,000 scientists and engineers doing applied research and development on behalf of the US government and MIT, sits John Aldridge, Associate Leader of the Humanitarian and Disaster Relief Systems Group. Generally, groups within the Laboratory focus on a specific technology area (e.g., lidar, radar systems). But this group occupies a more nuanced position, tasked with implementing cutting-edge research and technology to an underserved mission area.

Aldridge contends that, as a nation and a global community, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief tend to get short shrift. "We often invest resources in technology development for other missions, but we tend to neglect humanitarian assistance and disaster relief. The adoption of technology in those areas is very difficult," he says.

Rather than providing direct aid, the Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief Systems Group supports the volunteers and professionals on the front lines. It is a team of 30 people focused on building and implementing tools to help make on-the-ground stakeholders more effective and efficient. Whether that means designing a new sensor system or a decision support system that distills data into practical and applicable information, the Group is a vital aspect of the support structure.