Syrian Airlift trials use of drones to deliver supplies to conflict zones

Congrats to our friends at the Syria Airlift Project, who conducted an experimental project this weekend in Sacramento to train refugees to use Pixhawk-powered fixed-wing drones to deliver supplies into conflict zones. From the video description:

On March 28-29, 2015, Uplift Aeronautics trained a group of Arab-Americans--including refugees from the conflicts in Iraq and Syria--to operate a fleet of four Waliid UAVs for medical deliveries to inaccessible populations. Families took part in every activity, from packing cargo and making parachutes to running preflight checklists and operating ground stations. You can learn more about our project and donate at 

Uplift Aeronautics is a nonprofit corporation (501(c)3 status pending) with a mission to empower and aid communities through innovative aviation technology.

This video was filmed and produced by Retrospect Productions at

Views: 2051

Comment by Nikos Gerarchakis on March 30, 2015 at 9:51pm

Once the export restrictions for Pixhawk and other "critical"  3dr products, "are open",  the next second the ISIS portfolio  there will an UCAV.

Comment by Nikos Gerarchakis on March 30, 2015 at 10:48pm

Nobody can deny the humanitarian need that exists at this moment. But no one can bypass the serious security issues that exist. A possible leak critical material to the ISIS, which would acquire the portfolio was causing significant problems for other innocent people.Of course at the end, the history will show whether or not related.............

Comment by Jake Stew on March 31, 2015 at 2:03am

Supporting military conflicts is not a recognized 501(c)3 purpose.

Hopefully you realize that if any of these supplies fall into the hands of an enemy of the United States you could be tried for treason and executed.

Comment by lot on March 31, 2015 at 4:41am

The enemies of the United States (or any other country in the world ) can easily buy Phantoms, or any other APM/Pixhawk from china.

Comment by Horace Cunningham on April 1, 2015 at 5:36am
May be a noble idea but ultimately I believe it is crazy. Any drone spotted in Syrian airspace will be shot down by the government and their operators arrested. Jabhat Al Nusra and other terrorist groups in Syria have been deploying drones such as dji phantom against government forces in Idlib, ISIS has been doing the same in Deir Azzor.

It is just a matter of time before these same groups use these systems to drop mini bombs.

I also don't buy the idea of "gov seige starving civilians". In these areas under seige(east ghouta and Yarmouk camp as examples) armed group such as Jaiysh Al Islam and the same Al Nusra arm of Al Qaeda has been able to stockpile enormous amounts of weapons and food, enough that they have been able to combat Syrian republican guard units for 3 years. Now how on earth have they been able to get access to tons of ammunition capable of keeping the best Syrian units at bay yet they can't get good in?

Mayb this is just another concept that has been thought of to help the "freedom fighters" in syria who are "protecting civilians"(sarcasm)
Comment by Horace Cunningham on April 1, 2015 at 5:40am
It's a sensitive issue but I won't even call these groups "enemy of United States", remember when the war started in 2011? ISIS(then Al Qaeda in iraq) helped to form the most potent rebel group in syria, Jabhat al Nusra. Back then they were referred to as "freedom fighters". Enough said
Comment by Alexander Anderson on April 2, 2015 at 11:09am

First of all, terrorists are not going to spend time, effort, and risk expose their position to shootdown a simple aircraft they can't see. Partly because it flies at night and it is undetectable by radars. Not to mention that ISIS has many china based controllers for 1/2 the price of Pixhawk. Adding to all that, this type of aircraft are useless when they crash

Comment by Mark Jacobsen on April 2, 2015 at 11:20am

Folks, thank you for all the comments. This is an extremely challenging project in one of the most brutal conflicts in the world, and we are well aware of the security implications involved. @Horace, this has nothing to do with taking sides. We are a politically neutral project, focused on innocent civilians in Syria--not governments, rebel groups, or other militias. You'll note that our logo includes the flags of both the Syrian government and opposition groups.

Regarding technology transfer, this is indeed a concern. That is why we plan to launch and recover from neighboring countries, and have written custom failsafes that permanently cripple the autopilots if the planes detect imminent crashes inside Syria. I'll also point out that the bad guys already have this technology. ISIS is using multicopters for imagery, and militias in the Ukraine are using this technology for military reconnaissance. Pandora's box has been opened, and this technology is out there... for better or worse. The bad guys have it; we are trying to give it to the good guys.

@Jake, we are not supporting a military conflict. We are focused on delivering humanitarian aid to populations inaccessible to traditional aid organizations, and plan to operate as a service provider for those organizations. We are operating in a legal and transparent fashion, and fully intend to cooperate with all relevant bodies of law. This includes US export regulations, Turkish import regulations, sanctions law on Syria, and others. We are consulting with the US Air Force, US State Department, the Humanitarian UAV Network, and various medical NGOs, and are receiving legal assistance from Harvard Law School. We will only execute in-country if we can do so in a way that is safe, responsible, and legal.

3D Robotics
Comment by Chris Anderson on April 2, 2015 at 11:40am

Thanks, Mark -- that's very helpful. I can add that Mark has indeed thought very hard about this, and the custom failsafes in case of inadvertently going down within Syria include total autopilot destruction (full Lipo current through the electronics to fry them) at touchdown. I've been impressed by the responsible approach he's taken. 

Comment by Horace Cunningham on April 2, 2015 at 7:07pm

@Mark so let me get this straight: You are going to fly a UAV from one country's airspace into another without permission... and see absolutely nothing wrong with that?

And let me see where you are going to fly from.... The border area with Turkey consisting of the Afrin pocket in Northern Syria and the area bordering Hasaka governate are the only areas that do not contain hardline islamists as these areas are held by pro government/independent Kurdish groups(YPG). These areas also have zero fighting and have ready supply of food and water(Afrin is actually helping the pro government towns of Nubl and Zahraa stay alive under siege for 3 years now). So where exactly are you planning to fly your drones to supply besieged residents? Nubl and Zahraa are the closest cities to the turkish border that is being besieged, the rest, including those in the Kobane area have access to a ready supply line, yet Nubl and Zahraa are dozens of kilometers away from the Turkish border, outside of reach for your drones. And if your drones were meant to supply these towns then you would be interacting not with any USAF but wit the SyAAF and the forces besieged there.

The rest of the towns in northern Syria, ALL of them, are held by cuthroats such as Nusra, Ahrar Ash Sham(baby Al Qaeda) and elements of the Islamic Front.


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