This project was aimed at helping to end the use of mass starvation and medical deprivation as weapons of warfare. My team explored creative, paradigm-changing ways to deliver humanitarian aid through heavily defended airspace, a feat that is currently almost impossible. Solving the technical and political challenges would greatly reduce the ability of combatants to besiege and starve civilian populations.
We believed that a swarm of small, cheap drones could deliver aid where conventional delivery methods cannot. Imagine an army of ants carrying away a picnic lunch. If aid was swarmed in small packets, it could penetrate air defenses designed for shooting down a small number of large airplanes.
We founded an effort called the Syria Airlift Project, which later grew into a 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation called Uplift Aeronautics. We achieved some phenomenal successes, including airdrops of small packages at roundtrip ranges of over 100km, covert night flights, and the development of customized firmware for operating safely and responsibly in conflict zones. Our proudest achievement was a refugee empowerment event, in which we taught ordinary Syrian and Iraqi families to operate our planes for medical deliveries.
Unfortunately we had to dissolve the effort in December 2015 due to our inability to find support from larger, better-resourced organizations. Our small all-volunteer did extraordinary things, but we eventually hit our limits. You can read our final letter here.
Nonetheless, we still believe in the ideas we were developing. We continue to share our lessons learned with stakeholders, in the hopes that others will run with what we started.