Tag Archives: planes

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.

Super Bowl jet-setters get top-flight treatment

For some travelers visiting Arizona for the Super Bowl, the trip may be just as memorable as the game.

Hundreds of luxury jets will arrive at the eight airports around metropolitan Phoenix by kickoff on Feb. 1, adding to the thousands of flights expected over the weekend. The Federal Aviation Administration and area airports have been planning for the influx for the past year.

Private jet-setters will receive VIP treatment. Many travel with companies that allow individuals and businesses to own a portion of an aircraft or to buy flight hours and that lavish perks on customers including goody-filled swag bags, a concert by country group Lady Antebellum, complimentary cocktails and high-end catering once they emerge from their Lear Jets and Gulfstreams.

“We’ve got a team that greets every airplane. We do roll out – it’s maybe not red carpet – but there is carpet that’s rolled out,” said Eric Lampert, NetJets’ vice president of flight operations.

The boost in private jet traffic for the Super Bowl is a sign of how the big game has increasingly become a VIP event, from the many celebrity parties to tickets running several thousand dollars.

Starting Thursday, NetJets will have a temporary furnished lounge where customers can relax with complimentary food, drinks, television and Wi-Fi. They will also get a Super Bowl goody bag and admission to a party Saturday night in Scottsdale with Lady Antebellum as the headline entertainment.

Dallas-based Flexjet has hired Press, a Phoenix-based food truck, to serve complimentary Italian street eats to passengers starting Thursday. The specialty menu will include mini sausage-bread-pudding muffins, caprese salad skewers and raspberry-filled bombolones, which are Italian doughnuts.

“These little details really matter,” said Megan Wolf, Flexjet’s vice president of customer experience. “They’ll remember years later that we had this really great food truck and how fun it was, and they’ll tell their friends. So, it makes a difference.”

Commercial travelers should not worry that their departures Sunday or Monday will get pushed aside in favor of their luxury counterparts. Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport, the main hub, has parking space for 250 private jets. The movements of private jets will be based around commercial traffic, which has priority, airport spokeswoman Heather Lissner said.

The area will be inundated with between 1,200 and 1,400 private and commercial flights, but plans are in place to handle the load, Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Ian Gregor said.

The FAA, airport operators and aviation businesses have collaborated on a reservation system to manage the flights, especially on Sunday with many of the expected departures. Every flight will be scheduled in an orderly fashion to prevent air traffic control systems from getting overwhelmed, Gregor said.

The FAA will add staffing and operating hours at air traffic control facilities as needed, he said.

The Super Bowl is the grand finale in a week that includes the Waste Management Phoenix Open, a golf tournament in the Phoenix suburb of Scottsdale. Both events will have the Scottsdale Airport dealing with an expected 54 percent increase in corporate jet traffic, meaning more than 520 additional aircraft.

That was the increase seen when both events took place in Arizona in February 2008, airport spokeswoman Sarah Ferrara said.

Ferrara, who was not employed by the airport in 2008, said she is looking forward to seeing two to three flights taking off every few minutes.

“I just hear the departures are going to be fantastic – these beautiful jets departing one after another,” Ferrara said.