A Fleet Of Life-Saving Semi-Autonomous Flying Robots

Feb 23, 2017 at 9:17 AM ET

Flying robots aren’t just for drone racing and futuristic ways to get your dinner delivered. They may also be able to save lives.

The world spends $25 billion a year, trying to offer relief to natural disasters, and, according to Dr. Patrick Meier, the executive director of WeRobotics, that’s a full $15 billion short of what we need to help everyone who needs it. The solution? Humanitarian robots. “If we can semi-automate [relief] efforts, we can scale a lot more and actually provide a lot more relief to more people after major disasters,” he says.

WeRobotics, a non-profit committed to helping communities use robotics for aid, is experimenting with some ways to do this. One project tests using aerial robots to transport vaccines in Peru to remote areas in the Amazon rainforest. Rather than transport lifesaving medicines via river barge, which takes days, a robot can fly, saving time and money.

Dr. Meier describes this system as an aerial conveyor belt that runs twenty-four seven. “That’s where you get a lot of the cost savings and time savings because robots don’t need to sleep,” he says.