LONDON, Feb 20 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - 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, their designers said on Monday.
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, they said.
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.
"Food can be component to build things," Nigel Gifford, an
ex-army catering officer and founder of UK-based Windhorse
Aerospace, the company behind the design, told the Thomson
"You fly (the drone) and then eat it," he said in a phone
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.
"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
Parts of the 3 metre (10 ft) by 1.5 metre (5 ft) 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.
($1 = 0.8020 pounds)
(Reporting by Magdalena Mis @magdalenamis1, editing by Ros
Russell; Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the
charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian
news, women's rights, trafficking, property rights, climate
change and resilience. Visit news.trust.org)