Humanitarian aid agencies often rely on ground transportation or airdrops to deliver humanitarian aid to remote locations. Within active combat zones, entering via the ground or air can be dangerous. During the Siege of Aleppo, research was done on other existing solutions which could be used to deliver humanitarian aid, one of which was autonomous parachutes used by the military. They could be dropped from higher up, keeping planes out of range of anti-aircraft weaponry. However, these products are meant to be recovered and can be very costly. [1] Therefore it was clear humanitarian aid agencies needed a low-cost, disposable method of delivering humanitarian aid to active combat zones.

Speaking with industry experts provided more insight regarding other use cases for potential solutions as well. Christopher Allsop, a disaster management coordinator for Red Cross, described the last mile case where communities outside of larger settlements or where failed infrastructure has cut them off may need assistance delivered to them. He also mentioned a use case for regions affected by health epidemics where geography or political instability restricts access, or in some cases fear of contamination.

Further end-user research provided insight regarding the logistics of implementing this kind of solution. The product may require being shipped in large quantities, which means the shipping volume may need optimization. If the product is shipped in parts and requires assembly, it must be easy to build in the field with minimal training. For delivery, it can be assumed the product should fit in boxes and loaded onto shipping pallets. It is essential the product be field serviceable in case of issues, including the exterior body. If a component breaks, it must be easily fixed or replaced.

From here we were able to establish criteria to determine the optimal solution. In short, the solution should minimize the cost per ton of aid delivered (minimize product cost and cost to deliver), should maximize accuracy in reaching its destination, and should minimize risk of injury during delivery to operators and in the landing zone.

  1. F. Busse, Aleppo and Beyond: Options for Delivering Humanitarian Aid in Dangerous Conditions. MIT Lincoln Laboratory, 2016.