I had originally wrote what follows as a “solution” in response to an InnoCentive Challenge that was seeking a solution for a “Humanitarian Air Drop.” The quake today in Turkey prompted me to go ahead and put this “solution” on the blog.
Every time a disaster strikes one of the biggest relief problems is delivering food and water to victims in a timely manner.
Here are a just a few reasons as to why food and water delivery can be problematic:
- Quakes , tsunamis, and flooding can make airports inoperable
- Supply routes into damaged communities may be severely damaged or heavily congested
- Authorities within the impacted region may lack the training, facilities, resources, etc. to effectively manage relief efforts
- Food and water distribution points are often “localized” and sometimes require armed guards to be present so that they can ensure that everyone gets a fair share of supplies
What follows is a brief essay on how in-flight-aircraft could be used to rapidly deliver food to people by dropping thousands of over sized Maple-seed-like food-helicopters from aircraft.
For the purpose of illustration let’s consider the development of an artificial Maple-like seed capable of carrying a ¼ pound payload of food. Seeds capable of carrying larger amounts of food could be developed, but I would argue that there is “really” no need to develop larger seeds.
All that we need to do in order to create our artificial seed capable of carrying food is to:
- Reverse engineer an actual Maple seed. I.e. feed a Maple seed image into a computer via a laser scanner.
- Adjust the mass/size of our computer generated 3D seed such that the “new size” represents an object capable of carrying ¼ pound of food/water/supplies.
- Create a food-vacuum-sealing-process that seals food into a “plastic skeleton” that resembles a Maple seed. Most of the food would be in the area where the “nut is.” Perhaps the outer wing of the vacuum sealed seed might have a piece of Bamboo in it the size of a chop-stick to provide additional strength. The point is simply that the actual structural make-up of artificial seeds need not be complicated. A bit of research and design into artificial seed construction would undoubtedly produce seeds capable of carrying more weight in relation to their size.
But the ¼ pound seeds are so small?
Smaller is better two main reasons:
- Safety – Not much chance of a person getting hurt by a ¼ pound helicopter seed.
- Dispersion – Lighter seeds will fall slower and disperse over a wider area, thereby providing more people with the opportunity to collect food.
Let’s also not forget that when the “seed packaging process” is perfected…packaging size won’t matter because “a machine” will just as readily fill/create/produce ¼ pound food-seeds as it will ½ pound food-seeds.
In order to deliver 10,000 pounds of food using ¼ pound seeds… you’ll need 40,000 seeds. Imagine the joy brought to people in need when they see 40,000 seeds filled with food and supplies gently falling to the ground.
A few seed extras:
- As well as providing food the seed packaging could have things printed on them like news articles, advertising (aid from your friends in the USA…Saudi Arabia..Britain…France…etc..), upcoming weather reports, health, religious info…etc.
- Perhaps the seed design could be “tweaked” such that they could be used to build shelters that could be woven together with a piece of string.
- Seeds dispersed at night could have chem-lights or LED’s embedded in them.
- Seeds could have handles on them…like grocery bags…so that children and families can easily carry 10-20 “food seeds” back to their families.
- Because everything is vacuum packed/sealed…you can virtually deliver anything from frozen meat to fresh vegetables.
- Perhaps plastic eating utensils might be incorporated into the structural design?
Here’s an article from Wired that discusses how Maple seed pods “remain airborne for miles by harnessing the power of tornado-like vortexes generated as they spin.”
Here’s a YouTube movie that illustrates the leading edge of a seed creating lift: