Harnessing the technology available to us these days can prove particularly useful when it comes to immediate disaster response, particularly in the event of natural disasters especially where sites may be inaccessible for people for some time, or where phone and internet systems may be disrupted. In such instances, drone technology really provides many benefits.
And now a team of engineers at MIT have succeeded in designing a drone that can fly for five days to help provide far-reaching communications support for those on the ground. The unmanned aerial vehicle resembles a thin glider and boasts a 24ft wingspan, able to carry up to 20 pounds of equipment while flying at an altitude of 15,000ft.
Before this development, the US Air Force was working alongside the team at MIT to develop a design for a long-duration UAV that ran on solar energy. However, it was decided that while this would be workable in summer, the winter months would require the device to carry more batteries, thus making it bigger and heavier.
“These vehicles could be used not only for disaster relief but also other missions, such as environmental monitoring. You might want to keep watch on wildfires or the outflow of a river. I think it’s pretty clear that someone within a few years will manufacture a vehicle that will be a knockoff of this,” Team Leader John Hansman commented
However, late last year risk management expert Matthias Garschagen of the United Nations University Institute for Environment and Human Security told the Thomson Reuters Foundation that devices like smartphones and drones are no substitute for ensuring that basic infrastructure is in place – infrastructure that some countries around the world have been lacking for years.