LOS ANGELES - Plastic foam, plywood and some other plastic parts could make the difference between life and death.
These are the materials that make up a delivery drone created by DASH Systems. The California company also describes its lightweight aircraft as an unmanned aerial vehicle or glider.
It can be used to deliver up to 20 kilograms of food, medicine or other essential supplies to people in need in areas that traditional shipping and delivery companies cannot reach. And because it's made of low-cost materials, it's disposable, so there is no worry about getting it back.
"Many times, we found that during times of crisis or humanitarian need, it's very, very difficult to get supplies into remote regions," said Joel Ifill, chief executive officer and co-founder of DASH Systems.
"Couple that with reduced or destroyed infrastructure. Those are the areas and circumstances under which this system really shines," said DASH Systems co-founder Joe Caravella.
The system's aim is targeted, precision delivery. There is a built-in Global Positioning System device that provides enough accuracy to land the vehicle in the courtyard of a hospital.
"You can always fly an airplane overhead, so we help bridge that gap. Using our technology, you can throw a package out of an airplane and have it land right at the area of use," Ifill said.
The DASH Systems delivery drone will go to places too dangerous or remote for other global shipping services such as FedEx or DHL.
"So, for instance, a delivery in South Sudan or Puerto Rico — oftentimes every traditional carrier will say no. Organizations are willing to pay the fair market value for those trips. They just do not have the solution," said Ifill.
Ifill thought of this solution while working on smart bombs at a previous job.
"Actually, I felt bad about essentially making technology that was designed to harm and kill people. So, I wondered what else could I do with the technology of a smart bomb, something that can launch from an airplane and land within inches. And I thought, 'Why can't I use that same technology to deliver packages and goods?' "
DASH Systems says its unmanned glider is unlike other methods of delivery to remote places that have been developed thus far.
"There are a variety of parachute-type systems where you can drop things out of airplanes. We're hoping to improve the whole operation, both with deploying it at the right time and then guiding the package to where it needs to be, to be more accurate than anything currently on the market," said Caravella.