Aidex Voices

Joel Ifill had been working to get his start-up off the ground, when a hurricane changed his direction.

DASH Systems is a Los Angeles startup that is developing same-day delivery services for areas underserved by same-day shipping and where delivery is highly time dependent. It enables precise cargo delivery anywhere in the world by using proprietary autonomous delivery vehicles launched from commercial aircraft.

Listening to reports from the American island Puerto Rico following Hurricane Irma, Joel felt his time might be better spent taking the technology he had developed at DASH Systems and applying it to deliver relief to Puerto Rico people who can only be reached by air. Remote areas do not have the robust and well-established delivery services that large cities do, and Ifill’s technology enables pinpoint dropping of shipments to oil rigs and rural areas, difficult or impossible to reach in northern Canada and across Africa.

He made some phone calls, obtained a waiver from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), arranged for a charter plane, and partnered with Air Drop Box to provide their Mini Airdrop system.

This week, Ifill and his team began making flights to stranded areas on a Cessna 208 that can carry about 40 packages per flight. They drop the supplies out of a plane in targets located by using the technology he had already developed. The software that the company has designed assists in planning deliveries, compensates for wind, and gives a satellite map to identify precisely where targets are, as well as confirming when a delivery has been made.

Team work is essential for a successful cargo drop. Local organisations Hogar Crea and The Minnesota Alliance of Communities for Puerto Rico assisted in packaging aid boxes and providing volunteers for the drops. Hogar Crea has a large network all over the island and was instrumental in determining drop locations and providing coordination on the ground.

Alongside Joel Ifill, the members of the flight crew included Omar Cruz and Andres Mora from M&N Aviation, and Kyle Murphy from Brisk Venture.  

“We all trained and studied to be certified to do this operation, and I’m proud of how well they did,” explains Ifill.

In a phone conversation, Joel was asked to describe the situation he found when he arrived in Puerto Rico. Joel said, “That’s hard —  should’ve sent a poet. I am standing in the dark right now. The vast majority of power is out. The disaster has past, but people are dying.”

James Chalkley of Air Drop Box commented: “We are immensely proud to be supporting the activities of Dash Systems, especially as the team and operation was put together so quickly.

“The fact that a group of private individuals with no former training can be making targeted effective air drops to cut off areas from a rented plane on a shoestring budget just over a week after a major disaster is astounding and proves that airdropping aid need not be an expensive option.”