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Monday, 20 February 2017 12:00

Edible drones filled with food, water or medicine could soon become indispensable in humanitarian emergencies Featured

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Edible drones filled with food, water or medicine could soon become indispensable in humanitarian emergencies by delivering live-saving supplies to remote areas hit by natural disasters or conflict.

With 50 kg (110 lb) of food stocked inside its compartments, each drone costing 150 pounds ($187) would be able to deliver enough supplies to feed up to 50 people per day specifically in combat zones like South Sudan or areas that cannot be reached by vehicles or aircraft due to natural disasters as well as those afflicted by conflict.

The 9-foot-drones are autonomous and fly on their own with synchronized GPS technology, meaning multiple can be released at once and delivered accurately to a number of affected areas.

They can be launched from a distance, travel up to 120 knots (138 mph), and are highly accurate when gliding. This gives aircrafts attempting to drop food up to 35 km of distance to drop the goods away from a target site, decreasing the risk the delivery aircrafts take when providing aid

The frame of the prototype version of the drone - called Pouncer - is made of wood but the designers are planning to use edible materials in the next version.

While the fuselage can carry enough food, water, and fuel for up to 50 people, the aircraft itself is made up of edible, starch-based thermoplastic that can also be used for shelter or additional cooking fuel.

Not only are the drones a great way to meet affected areas’ food requirement, they are also cost-effective, costing just 500 Euros per non-recoverable drone and 5 Euros per kilogram of food provided. However, the company also aims to make the assembly simple and even cheaper, with the largest frame aimed to cost under 100 Euros. Regardless, these are cheap, multi-use, and highly revolutionary aid drones that can feed, fuel, and even shelter those missing those basic needs.

With up to 40 km (25 miles) reach, the drone can be launched from an aircraft or catapulted from the ground with an accuracy of about 7 metres (23 ft), giving it an advantage over air drops - often used as a last resort in emergencies.

Parts of the 3 metre (10 ft) by 1.5 metre (5 ft) drone, designed by Windhorse Aerospace, the company behind the behind Facebook's solar-powered internet drone Aquila, can be used as fuel or shelter.

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.

Sources: Reporting by Magdalena Mis,  editing by Ros Russell, TRF, AAF.



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