It might sound like a Trumpian cure though certainly a great deal less dangerous than his disinfectant suggestion, and possibly more appealing to some than the real thing, yet Wings For Aid is, of course, not suggesting Jägermeister as a Covid-19 cure. Nor is this an advertisement for the beverage in any way. Instead, Wings For Aid has been using it to test its modified boxes and see if they can be deployed to safely drop vaccines whilst maintaining a given temperature at the same time.
Last year, Wings For Aid won TIACA’s first Air Cargo Sustainability Award in Budapest, Hungary, and has since been putting the USD 15,000 prize money to good use. The award-winning 40 x 40 x 60 cm cardboard drop box, which had already impressively stood the test of delivering unbroken raw eggs after being dropped from a height of 100 meters, has now been modified to include insulation material developed by Trip & Co so that its contents can be kept cool.
Testing, testing, 1 – 2 – 3…
Wings For Aid has been working with the German Aerospace Center (DLR) to see if it can safely transport vaccines in future. “It was one of the things that we invested the [TIACA prize] money in, to see whether we could make the kind of insulation to keep the product okay, because we know can already drop it [without damage], but now we also wanted to test the insulation,” Barry Koperberg, Founder and General Manager at Wings For Aid, explained at TIACA’s ACF – Drones4Cargo webinar on 09DEC20. Pointing to a video running behind him, he went on: “This is actually a fridge at the DLR. When you open the fridge, there are no vaccines, but there's Jägermeister, which has the small bottles that you can drink. And we thought it appropriate to drop,” not wishing to risk lives using real vaccines during the testing.
Optionally piloted aircraft can carry six 20 kg boxes
Barry Koperberg explained the process: the “vaccines” were first cooled in the fridge, then loaded into the cardboard box with its standard crumple-zone and now modified to include Trip & Co insulated lining. The box, capable of carrying 20 kg, was then loaded, three boxes on each side, on the optionally piloted aircraft, which flew to a height of 100 meters over the DLR’s test field near Berlin, where it launched the boxes. “And the good news is, everything intact!”, he commented, showing Johann Dauer, the DLR Project Lead of ALAADy (Automated Low Altitude Air Delivery), recovering a perfectly undamaged (single use) drop box, and later Wings For Aid’s lead engineer, Aleksey, unpacking a full box of unbroken Jägermeister bottles from inside. “So, the good thing is that the Jägermeister survived, and now we have a Jägermeister in the office every Friday!” There are obviously perks to the experiment that go beyond the tremendous success of the test drops.
Confident to carry out medicine and vaccine drops in future
“So, we are confident that obviously our prospect customers like the UN and Red Cross are more interested in food as Svilen [ Rangelov, CEO Dronamics, speaking earlier in the session about humanitarian missions and drone applications for difficult to reach areas] pointed out, but we can now transport medicines as well, and also under a certain insulating condition,” Barry Koperberg summarized. He underlined the flexibility of deploying drone flights, enabling access to the over 20 million people in areas still beyond normal access (another 100 million are served with air drops already), allowing scalability in loads, safe transport (as opposed to putting human pilots at risk in adverse weather conditions or difficult regions), speed, and cost-effectiveness, and above all urged “If we create societal value as an industry, that will bring us flight hours, it will bring acceptance at the general public, and we can grow this fascinating industry. And indeed, turn aircraft into more intelligent machines for the benefit of all.” Drones are on the brink of a technological breakthrough.
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