This summer's crippling famine in Somalia, which has killed tens of thousands of people and led half a million more to seek refuge in Kenya, is notable for many reasons — but the theft and sale of life-saving aid is arguably one of the worst. A new project could be one way to prevent such atrocity in the future: Use drones to drop food and drugs right where they're needed, no human intervention required. Enter the Matternet.
The offer came simply via the subject line of an email: "Want to fly a drone?" It was from Todd Backus of DATRON, a maker of--among other things--military grade radio communication systems and tactical data networking setups based in Vista, Calif. It was a question that didn't require a whole lot of consideration on my part--if there were drones to fly at AUVSI's massive unmanned systems show in Washington D.C. last week, I was going to fly them.
And that's how I end up on a soccer pitch far from the Walter E. Washington Convention Center piloting a small quadcopter drone and quietly praying that we won't be arrested.