New Humanitarian Aid Delivering Drone Will be Edible

New Humanitarian Aid Delivering Drone Will be Edible

Outlandish movies, in particular in the sci-fi genre are often far more fantasy than fact, even when you fast forward 30 years, however, there are exceptions. The time-traveling cinematic sequel Back to The Future Part II (1989) was prescient in its depiction of several types of technology, including drones. In the film, a bulky camera drone operated by USA Today hovers as the town’s bad guys are arrested. Of course, the cumbersome drone bears little resemblance to streamlined models that actually exist today. It seems like real-life drones have received a bad rap due to accidents and the potentially serious risks they pose. Possible risks include crashing and damaging property, being shot down, hacked, hijacked, malfunctioning, not reaching their intended recipient, and other negative scenarios. Disaster aid delivery drones may change the world’s perception of these too often unpredictable gizmos.

Inexpensive and Edible

Engineer Nigel Gifford is behind the U.K.-based company Ascenta that sold an early version of solar-powered drones to Facebook for £12.5 million ($20 million) in 2014. He is now CEO of Windhorse Aerospace, a startup company designing an inexpensive, edible drone to deliver aid to people in remote parts of the world. No—this drone is not a fantastic chocolate prop that would be at home in the film Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. For now, the term edible means the drone, dubbed the Pouncer, will deliver food and other humanitarian supplies to disaster zones. In the future, Gifford hopes parts of the frame and even the electronics will be made of food, so indeed, the drone will literally be edible!

The Pouncer is designed for one-way delivery, so after it carries out its primary duty, it can be broken down and recycled. Gifford envisions people in desolate regions of Nepal and other difficult-to-reach areas using the multipurpose drone in several ways. The lightweight plywood frame can be chopped up and used as kindling to light a fire for warmth or to cook the delivered food. The surface of the wings are covered in the same kind of plastic found in clear containers at grocery store salad bars. Once the food is stored in the airframe, it will be wrapped in the same type of plastic. The wings which protect the meals while in flight can double as protective shelters on the ground.

Gifford says the current system is “wasteful and expensive,” employing a humanitarian daily ration (HDR). An HDR doesn’t recognize culture, religious beliefs, or diet of the people receiving aid; it simply contains 2,200 calories that too often go to waste. His goal is to create a more accurate, less wasteful drone that delivers appropriate food to recipients.

The Pouncer’s tiny onboard navigation system enables food to be delivered more precisely than current drones, within 22 feet from a target. The shape also helps the drone glide as far as 25 miles from a plane without a motor. That translates to staying safely away from conflict zones or other dangerous areas. If all of this sounds like a fictional plot device out of a sci-fi film, think again. Drones are already used to deliver blood for transfusions to Rwanda and birth control pills and contraception to people in Ghana.

Hey, from the sound of this remarkable concept, Pouncer is a drone that would make Marty McFly proud!

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