Otherlab came up with an idea for a drone called APSARA that could make one-way emergency relief trips.
What do you do when you need to supply goods where there are no roads? A team of engineering researchers at Otherlab, a cutting-edge engineering R&D laboratory in San Francisco's Mission District, have received DARPA funding to develop an unprecedented and perhaps surprising approach: the world's most advanced industrial paper airplanes.
DARPA's new cardboard drone can carry small, but important payloads such as blood, vaccines, and medical-fluids up to 1 kg (2.2 lbs) to remote locations. The Aerial Platform Supporting Autonomous Resupply Actions (APSARA) can glide up 88 km (55 miles) and because they use electronics from the VAPR program, and don't run on motors and rotors, after landing it will disappear in a matter of days, leaving no waste behind.
Drones may also enable the delivery of other equipment, such as batteries, to specific locations. APSARAs enable distributed delivery with precise landings, solving the "last leg" problem for battlefield or low-infrastructure locations, and reducing supply chain vulnerability.
In one operational concept, a C-17 (or C-130) could be equipped with several hundred APSARA gliders, each loaded with critical medical supplies and preprogrammed with delivery coordinates. The combined range of the large transport and the gliders deployed from it would allow the single airplane to conduct delivery operations covering an area the size of California.