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Aerospace Rapid Aid Delivery and Distribution System

  1. Feb 14, 2010 #1
    My thoughts of late have been drawn towards the Haitian earthquake relief and how simple technical solutions could mitigate similar crisis in future disaster situations. I believe that it should be possible to develop a cheap and effective aid delivery system that could safely distribute essential supplies to any point on the globe within a few days of any disaster. The aim would be to prevent many of the permanent injuries and deaths caused by infections and dehydration which are rarely addressed in time by current aid efforts. The early and widespread provision of aid may also minimise the chance of widespread looting, making it safer for subsequent aid teams to operate.

    To respond quickly, the initial aid would probably have to be airlifted in. However, the local airports and associated transport infrastructure may not be able to cope as we have seen in the recent case in Haiti, and helicopters don't have sufficient range for delivering to most destinations. One method of circumventing this problem would be to parachute pre-prepared supplies from fixed wing aircraft. Unfortunately, it isn't usually advisable to drop supplies onto non-secured areas due to the danger of injuring people on the ground, and even if they were dropped safely there would be a danger of them being monopolised by the less needy. Whilst it may be possible to use paratroops to secure the landing zones prior to the main supplies being dropped so they can be distributed fairly, these troops would have limited support if anything went wrong. They would need to protect themselves and control crowds, which is not always a practical proposition in the more unstable regions of the world.

    I propose a system in which the initial aid relief can be dropped in multiple small lots distributed over a wide area. The reduced mass of each parcel means they can be dropped over unsecured areas relatively safely without injuring people on the ground, although a prior warning by dropping leaflets would further minimise the chance of injury. The drop zones could also be restricted to park areas and the less populated spaces surrounding the towns and cities.

    An ideal arrangement would be one where the supplies can be dropped quickly from the aircraft hold, avoid the entanglement of parachutes and safely impact on the ground without hurting civilians. Whilst it may be possible to envisage a system where multiple small lots are parachuted individually, to simplify the design it is suggested that each aid box should weigh about 25-50kg and be attached to a single parachute. However, this box would contain several hundred smaller lots of aid such as bottles of water, food, or medicines weighing about 250 grams each attached to one another using a foam-covered belt folded into the box.

    When the aircraft is immediately above the drop zone, each box and attached parachute is pushed out of the rear of the transport aircraft as is usual with airdrops. However, as the parachute opens the tension in the cable would rip open the box and drag out the belt spreading the mass of aid out over several tens of metres rather than being concentrated in one lethal mass. One emptied, the cardboard box would be attached to the opposite end of the belt, which would land first providing extra warning and cushioning on impact. However, most of the belt would probably land along a stretch of ground so civilians can easily access it without excessive crowding. A typical C-130 aircraft would be able to transport and drop about 400 to 800 boxes or 80,000 lots of aid in one trip.

    The medical aid package would also include simple instructions to civilians on how to administer fluids and treatment to the injured. Therefore, the emphasis would be on providing civilians with the means to help victims by reducing infection rates and maintaining a level of life support until more professional help arrives. Air dropping supplies in this fashion would also reduce pressure on overtaxed existing transport systems which could be spared for moving heavier equipment and emergency teams to the disaster area.​

    http://www.entrans.co.uk/rapid%20aid%20distribution%20system.html" [Broken]
    Last edited by a moderator: May 4, 2017
  2. jcsd
  3. Feb 14, 2010 #2


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    I for one think you have a very good plan here, I'm sure there might be reasons to change it a little, but overall it looks good to me.
    A couple of days ago, the evening news reported that 69% of the money that has been donated to four major charities, is sitting in bank accounts awaiting long term distribution, now I can see some merit in that, but how can the massive needs of the present not be the most important???

    Thanks for your input.

    Last edited by a moderator: May 4, 2017
  4. Feb 16, 2010 #3
    There already exists autopilot controlled parachutes to drop supplies at a target spot.
  5. Feb 17, 2010 #4
    Interesting. Would these work in a strong wind, perhaps they could only drop within 100 metres of the target? I expect these may be expensive if applied to multiple small packages.

    I suppose even a designated spot would have to be 'secured' to prevent the package landing on anyone. Some military types also complained that parachute drops wouldn't work since they would be monopolised by the strong or even cause a stampede! After the Haitian ' campaign' I accused them of having an obsession with security, but they may have a point and took their comments on board. Perhaps the more widely spread the supplies, the less likely this is to happen, hence the design suggested.
    Last edited: Feb 17, 2010
  6. Feb 17, 2010 #5


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    This is all very well and good, but it doesn't address the major problem (even though the OP mentioned it). Both Haiti and especially Somalia showed that we are good at getting things on the ground and to the area. The distribution and security of the distribution is the tough part. In most cases, unless you plan on dropping a company of infantry along with supplies, you are not going to get those supplies to those who need them.

    This is where, all alliances aside, I feel naval helicopter operations excel. The Navy can usually get pretty close so the range is not a concern and they have the capacity to land pretty much anywhere with supporting troops. Massive amounts of supplies and people can be moved like this. This doesn't handle, say, the first day or so it takes the boats to get on site though.
  7. Feb 17, 2010 #6
    Well it was good on piling things up at the airport, but the boxes were not unpacked and people were not allowed in the airport.

    Haiti was within a few hunded miles of the nearest US base and not far from Florida and is therefore not typical. The design is really intended for the first few days, not the bulk supplies, and ships could take a week to get out to some more remote places of the world. I understand even helicopter supplies were refused by commanders in Haiti until about a week into the crisis due to 'security' concerns. An excuse in my opinion. The evidence in Haiti is that within local groups at least, there was extensive sharing of what they had, perhaps the developing world isn't as selfish as we think.

    The theory goes something like this, fixed wing aircraft could theoretically be loaded and flown to most areas within a day. Thousands of such belts of supplies littered all over the place couldn't easily be monopolised, and could be dropped practically anywhere, hence solving the distribution and security problem in one go.

    Whether this means literally anywhere I'm not sure. Landing one of these on top of a child or half collapsed building would not be a good idea. I suppose you start with dropping them around the city, then in the parks and see how you get on from there.

    Obviously any supply system without aid workers does assume the well care for the injured to some extent. However, if more regular supplies were on its way this shouldn't be a problem. Also would first aid be monopolised, what's the point?

    I'm afraid after the Haitian debacle I wouldn't be too sure of seeing any aid for ages, this is not a good precedent and could cause the sort of panic we are trying to avoid in future disaster situations!
    Last edited: Feb 17, 2010
  8. Feb 17, 2010 #7
    Why do you even need a parachute? I imagine that the contents of the belt could sustain such an impact if engineered correctly.

    For that matter, why do you even need a belt? You mentioned that the aid packages weigh only 250 grams. You could easily design a package with a low terminal velocity, minimizing any danger to civilians on the ground.
  9. Feb 18, 2010 #8
    I think the impact of a small bottle of water dopped from several hundred metres could be quite lethal even if wrapped in foam.

    However, there is no reason why small packets of antibiotics couldn't be tipped out this way, perhaps directly on the built up areas or at least parks, since I would have some concerns about people scrambling over unstable rubble! I suppose you could just drop broken biscuits as well. Water is more of a problem, perhaps something to mix with the available water to kill the bacteria would be most efficient. I recall those thin frozen plastic satchets of 'soda pop' as a kid, perhaps these could be dropped directly, unfrozen of course! No doubt it would be easy to design something along these lines with low terminal velocity with more 'webbing' at either end and along the sides for example.
    Last edited: Feb 18, 2010
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