Tag Archives: emergencies

It’s a bird, a plane … an edible aid drone

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 Reuters Foundation.

“You fly (the drone) and then eat it,” he said in a phone interview.

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 (Islamic State).”

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.

Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, covers humanitarian news, women’s rights, trafficking, property rights, climate change and resilience. Visit http://news.trust.org.

Pets can donate blood too

Today’s pets benefit from an array of medical technologies developed for humans. But not many pet owners realize a relatively old standby — blood transfusion — is commonly used in veterinary settings.

There are many scenarios in which veterinarians use transfusions to save lives.

Patients who have experienced trauma resulting in life-threatening blood loss are the most frequent recipients. But transfusions also help pets with cancers that destroy blood cells and to prolong the lives of pets with kidney diseases. Many cases of poisoning, which sometimes kill by interfering with an animal’s blood-clotting ability, can be dealt with by blood transfusions.

In order to meet the veterinary need for blood, it’s necessary for pets to donate blood. Some veterinary clinics have their own blood donation program, allowing you and your cat or dog to help save the lives of others.

Dr. Carrie Stefaniak at Lakeshore Veterinary Specialists, in Milwaukee, is in charge of her clinic’s donation program. She says that finding donors can be tricky.

“It is challenging due to lack of awareness of donor programs and sometimes (due to the required) time commitment,” she says. “While we keep a supply of blood products on hand, on occasion a fresh whole blood donation may be needed at a moment’s notice and that need could arise on weekends, holidays or in the middle of the night.” 

Ideal donors have an even temperament, display a relatively high level of comfort in a veterinary setting and meet specific weight and health criteria, which are assessed as part of the extensive screening process. 

Once it is determined the pet will make a successful donor, some training is necessary. For dogs and cats to donate successfully, they will have to learn to experience the donation process as a positive activity. Heather Clingan, a certified veterinary technician at Lakeshore, works closely with Stefaniak in the clinic’s donation program. She says the process of drawing blood starts with the proper positioning.

“Dogs usually lie on their side during the donation,” she says. “And cats often sit in a sternal position, lying on their chest, not their side.”

The process lasts 10 to 15 minutes. Once completed, many treats and plenty of attention are given to the pets to ensure they associate the experience with something positive.

Clinics offer benefits in exchange for donations, including discounts and special services. Lakeshore’s donors receive a physical examination with each donation and an annual evaluation of the donor’s blood work. The clinic also offers reward credits.

“I know that the blood Booker donates helps saves lives in emergency situations,” says Laurie Verrier, whose dog Booker is a regular donor at Milwaukee Emergency Center for Animals in Milwaukee. That’s the most rewarding aspect of enrolling your pet in a blood donation program, she says — the knowledge of providing a valuable service to your veterinary community by helping to save lives and by contributing to veterinary research and progress. (Editor’s note: Laurie Verrier is an account executive with Wisconsin Gazette.)

As the field of veterinary medicine continues to grow and specialty services become more common, the need for blood donor programs will continue to grow stronger, Stefaniak says. And she predicts pet owners will rise to the need.

“More and more pets are seen as family members and people are more personally and emotionally invested in their care,” she explains. “Pets offer so much to enrich our lives — companionship, affection, loyalty and daily laughs. In return, we are fortunate to possess the medical advancements to make their lives as happy and as comfortable as possible.”

You can learn about the blood donation programs in your area by asking your veterinarian, who will be glad to help connect you with the closest facility. Before you know it you and your furry companion could be saving the lives of other pets in your community.

What’s your pet’s type?

Just like humans, dogs and cats have blood types. It’s helpful to know your pet’s blood type in case of an emergency.


Feline blood types fall into three groups: A, B and AB. Since about 90 percent of domestic cats have type A blood, cats are relatively easy to match. Type B is usually found in more exotic purebreds. Just as with humans, AB is the rarest type.

Cats don’t have one blood type that can be used as a universal donor.


Canine blood types are more complicated that a feline’s. There are more than 13 canine blood types, but the vast majority fall into eight categories that are coded according to “DEA,” an acronym for Dog Erythrocyte Antigen.

Those types are:
DEA 1.1
DEA 1.2

DEA 4 and DEA 6 appear on the blood cells of 98 percent of dogs, making canines of this blood type the primary donors. Dogs that are DEA 1.1 positive are universal recipients and DEA 1.1 negative pooches (a category that includes 60 percent of greyhounds) are universal donors. But that universality comes with a caution: Blood from DEA 1.1 positive dogs should never be transfused into DEA 1.1 negative dogs.

Source: Compiled from Internet sources.