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Airborne Drones Could Provide Innovative Method Of Delivering Food, Medicines

In a Foreign Policy opinion piece, former U.S. Ambassador Jack Chow, who served as a special representative for HIV/AIDS under former Secretary of State Colin Powell and currently is a professor at Carnegie Mellon’s Heinz College of Public Policy, examines the challenges of delivering humanitarian aid and how “[t]he technological versatility of airborne drones, the flying robots that are already transforming warfare, … has the potential to revolutionize how humanitarian aid is delivered worldwide.” He describes the work of several start-up companies looking to employ drones for such a purpose, saying “waves of aid drones might quickly deliver a peaceful ‘first strike’ capacity of food and medicines to disaster areas.”

Chow says drones could be used to quickly deliver emergency vaccines in the event of a disease outbreak, transport antiretroviral medications to areas that experience stock-outs, or provide “real-time” information on disaster-affected regions. “Imagine: Instead of traditional government-to-government models of aid delivery, ridden with inefficiencies and corruption, drones could provide the basis for group-to-group networks of aid delivery, thus building communities rather than bolstering bad rulers,” he writes. Though “there are risks” — such as drones being targeted for attack in conflict situations — “[w]ith their powerful sensors, aid drones could validate deliveries, help promote transparency, and build trust. A new means of softening the impacts of disaster and disease could even help to stabilize good governments,” Chow says, concluding that “future ‘drone-lifts’ could become potent weapons in the fight against hunger and disease” (4/27).