Drones can be useful to deliver food or medical supplies to remote areas, but it is sometimes problematic to retrieve them after drop-off. APSARA could be the solution: the one-way drone is made of biodegradable material and can simply decompose after use.
Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), commonly called drones, are increasingly part of our daily lives. They can take breathtaking aerial shots, film wedding videos or even dance and light up as an american Flag during Lady Gaga’s Super Bowl halftime show. But beyond their artistic value, they can also make important humanitarian contributions such as helping refugees arriving by boat or delivering medical supplies.
One of the problems when using drones for emergency release is the rate of return. Very often drones can get damaged, stolen or lost, which leads to high replacement costs in addition to the pollution caused by drones that were left behind.
A group of self-described “mischievous scientists, practical dreamers” from San Franscisco may have found a solution. The Otherlab team received funding from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) and designed cardboard airplanes that can be filled with supplies. The gliders are called Aerial Platform Supporting Autonomous Resupply Actions, or simply APSARA.
APSARA gliders are made of cheap materials and suitable to carry different kinds of products needed for humanitarian support, from blood and vaccines to batteries. The small drones can be programmed with GPS coordinates and dropped from an airplane.
The APSARA gliders are made of heavy-duty cardboard and can be re-used. However, if they cannot be retrieved it is not a problem because they are biodegradable, and they are extremely cheap to make. The Otherlab team is even studying the possibility of using cardboard impregnated with fungal spores to accelerate the decomposition of abandoned drones. As for the electronics inside of the gliders, DARPA is testing ways to have them dissolve after landing.
ASPARA gliders could be a breakthrough in disaster relief, allowing for the quick distribution of supplies in remote areas without littering the area with broken drones or parachutes.
You can see an APSARA glider in action in the video below: