Disposable Drones May be the Answer to Autonomous Delivery
Limited access to laboratories and clinics in underdeveloped regions have left a large portion of the population with no access to medical care. In rural environments, it is not always possible to transport specimens or medication within the necessary time frame for patients to be treated. Therefore, the use of drones for delivery of medication or vaccines have been proposed in various forms in order to improve patient care.
[Image Source: Zipline]
Medical delivery drones are intended to improve on and eventually replace motorized vehicle delivery. The delivery of specimens to and from laboratories and clinics can increase accessibility and potentially save lives.
Drone delivery comes with a few drawbacks, however. The units are expensive and can only carry small payloads. Besides, the range is a fraction of what a motorbike or car can achieve. To increase the range, one must increase the size of the battery. However, this affects the drone negatively by adding weight to it.
[Image Source: Otherlab]
The United States military's experimental technology arm, DARPA, may have found a way to mitigate some of these drawbacks. The organization is currently funding a research project that is investigating the use of disposable drones made out of cardboard.
These 'paper planes' will significantly reduce the cost of the flying units beyond the need for their return. This means that the drone doesn't have to haul batteries for a return trip. Without the need for a return, the drone can travel up to twice the distance.
The cost of the drones is further reduced by taking on the form of a fixed-wing glider. The motorless drones would then have to be launched from an aircraft replacing a parachute package-drop.
[Image Source: Otherlab]
The glider designed by Otherlab contains small electronics to maneuver the glider to its delivery point. In addition, DARPA's Unrecoverable Systems Program ICARUS, in collaboration with Otherlab, intends on constructing the glider out of a mushroom-based material that is biodegradable.
While the glider can't compete with rotary drones in terms of payload and precision, it may be a step towards a more sustainable method of delivery.
[Featured Image Source: Otherlab]
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