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Last October we published a piece on the Syria Airlift Project, an inspiring endeavor led by Mark Jacobsen, a grad student at Stanford and former Air Force pilot, with the mission statement of “using humanitarian drones to end the use of starvation and medical deprivation as weapons of war.” Today they’re looking to raise money to put their technology into action.

The SAP plans to fly swarms of autonomous APM-powered drones from Turkey into parts of Syria too dangerous for manned flights, delivering lightweight payloads of essential medicines and foodstuffs to besieged and suffering civilians there. The drones are capable of delivering high-value, low-mass goods like medical supplies, water purification kits, vitamins and baby milk. “Operated at scale,” Mark says, “we could even deliver meaningful quantities of food.” The drones are assembled by hand and cost less than $500 a piece; they return home by themselves, and any critical technology can self-destruct if necessary. An estimated 600,000 Syrians live day to day in these remote, war-ravaged areas.

The SAP has proven the viability of its technology after several months of research in California, where they taught groups of Syrian and Iraqi families, including children, how to operate the drones. The teams conducted a successful exercise there last month, and they’re now ready to take this technology from testing to Turkey. To that end, this week they launched an Indiegogo campaign to help them raise the money they need. They face some not insubstantial hurdles in execution (not the least of which is cooperation from Turkish authorities). After one day, they’ve raised over $10,000 of a $50,000 goal.


“Our vision is to train Syrian refugees to operate these aircraft, giving them the opportunity to bring healing and hope back to their shattered country,” says Mark. “A generation of children that has only known war — a generation that looks to the sky in terror of barrel bombs — will soon look up in anticipation of life-giving aid.”

The SAP is ambitious, but apolitical — it’s about helping the people. Their logo is derived from the flags of both the rebels and the Assad government. If you want to help them help, please visit their campaign page.

To learn more about the Syria Airlift, check out this great piece from the BBC, with video.