Kat Riddler, Managing Editor

The multiple drones hovering around Anheuser-Busch Hall on March 21 were part of the Drone Expert Panel and Demonstration event. The event was sponsored by the University of Missouri-St. Louis Transportation Club from 3 to 5 p.m. in 103 ABH and co-sponsored by the Transportation Research Forum.

The panel consisted of Wendy Anstine of Women and Drones, Ryan Curran of Rise Above Media, and James Campbell, professor of management science and information systems at UMSL. The panel discussed the current and future status of drones and included a flying demonstration outside of the windows of the room.

The panel started with the introduction of drones and their purpose in different fields. It was said that sometimes people do not like hearing the word drone, so they prefer Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV). Self-driving cars and trucks were easily comparable to the more technical UAV term.

Drones or UAVs are easily seen in health care and humanitarian efforts to be able to deliver in most weather conditions, in all areas, and anytime during the day. Areas like Tanzania have a low infrastructure for trucks to pass effectively. When trucks cannot travel, it is then passed to a motorcycle, then eventually to foot. It is time consuming and it can delay the delivery of the product.

According to NPR, Tanzania will start using Zipline drones for on-demand delivery of blood, vaccines, medications and other supplies such as sutures and IV tubes in 2018. NPR reported, “Last fall, Zipline deployed 15 drones serving 21 clinics from a single base in a smaller neighboring country, Rwanda. The delivery operation planned for Tanzania would be the world’s largest — 120 drones at four bases serving more than 10 million people at 1,000 clinics across the country.”

The way the company operates is that there will be local employees who operate the drones and run teh distribution center. After a hospital places an order, a worker will pack the product into a shoebox-sized container and load it onto a drone. The drone will take off and drop the box by a parachute and fly back to the distribution center for batteries and a new package. The drone can take off again in about five minutes. This allows them to send 500 deliveries a day. Deliveries done by road could have taken up to eight hours and the drone makes light work in under a half-hour.

The drone service is not just for developing countries. The drone setup could help rural communities receive medical aid in more developed countries like the United States.

Walmart has even published a patent on March 8 that has a drone that will help with plant pollination problem caused by the lowering population of bees. The UAV would be programmed to go from plant to plant collecting pollen. They would then go to another plant to deposit the pollen. A second drone would follow to make sure the pollen was properly applied.

The panel concluded with drones being flown next to the building. Attendees could watch from the room or go outside.