Wired Magazine asks the question, where are the drones that could be delivering supplies to Puerto Rico right now, bypassing the logjams that are currently preventing much needed supplies from being delivered? Good question. Where are you, drones?
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WITH THE CRISIS in Puerto Rico unfolding—and expanding—daily in the wake of Hurricane Maria, the scale of the devastation is coming into horrifying focus. It’s not just that the American territory has been, by many accounts, “destroyed.” It’s that crucial relief supplies aren’t reaching the island……
Which brings up the question: Where are the drones that could pick up the slack? We’re now decades into the age of unmanned aviation. Military drones whisk across oceans to spy on enemies and launch missiles. Amazon, FedEx, and their ilk are clamoring for the right to deliver running shoes and pizza to your front lawn via quadcopters.
Just this spring, the US Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory showed off a disposable one-way drone. The glider launches out of a cargo plane, carries up to 700 pounds of cargo, has a range of 80 miles, and can land within 150 feet of its target. The Marines say these Tactical Air Delivery drones would cost as little as $1,500 to $3,000 per copy.
“It’s not just about a fancy camera and about the data, but it’s also about how the technology can be used as force multipliers,” says Brett Velicovich, a former military intelligence officer who consults on drone adoption. “If the roads are down and there aren’t enough helicopters out there, we should be using drones to do the work. This is not sci-fi technology. It exists now.”
Or, take Nautilus. The Richmond, California-based startup is developing an amphibious drones the size of a Boeing 777 that can haul as much as 200,000 pounds of cargo, taking off from an airport and pulling into a port. The company is now testing a 30-foot prototype that can carry 700 pounds, which itself would be a perfectly useful load in a crisis. Even the smallest of loads can be accommodated: A company called Zipline has launched a drone service in Rwanda, Tanzania, and Switzerland, delivering blood supplies and medicine.