Future aid relief to be delivered via edible drones
Edible drones filled with food, water or medicine could become the primary method for delivering supplies to stranded people in disaster relief areas.
The Pouncer, a custom built drone created by aerospace company Windhorse, is claimed to be a relatively cheap way to deliver life-saving supplies during humanitarian emergencies such as when remote areas are hit by natural disasters or conflict.
50 kg of food can be stocked inside its compartments, approximately enough to feed 50 people per day. Each drone costs around £150, with a total cost of around £500 per deployment when accounting for the cost of the planes used to get them in the air and the supplies delivered.
The frame of the prototype version of the drone is made of wood but the designers are planning to use edible materials in the next version.
“Food can be component to build things,” said Windhorse founder Nigel Gifford. “You fly (the drone) and then eat it.”
With up to 40 km reach, the drone can be launched from an aircraft or catapulted from the ground with an accuracy of about 7 metres giving it an advantage over air drops - often used as a last resort in emergencies.
“In combat zones like we have in Aleppo or Mosul nothing will work except what we have,” Gifford said.
“With parachuted air drops the problem is you can’t guarantee where the loads will land.
“In Aleppo we could have put aid straight into some of the streets and we could have done that out of the sight of ISIS (Islamic State).”
Parts of the 3 metre by 1.5 metre drone, designed by the team behind Facebook’s solar-powered internet drone Aquila, can be used as fuel or shelter.
The Windhorse team includes Bruce Dickinson, entrepreneur and lead singer of the heavy metal band Iron Maiden and a former Airbus executive, Andrew Morgan.
Gifford said several humanitarian agencies, including medical charity Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF), International Rescue Committee, Oxfam and the World Health Organization, have already expressed their interest in using the drone.
In December Windhorse presented the Pouncer to Britain’s aid minister Priti Patel, hoping to attract help with financing.
“We’re waiting to hear back from them,” Gifford said.
He said the Pouncer would undergo initial testing in May and should be ready to be deployed on its first mission by the end of the year.
In December, the government of Malawi and UNICEF announced that they were researching how drones could be used in the country to assist in natural disaster situations such as droughts and floods.