The Red Cross Needs Drones!

By Audrey, Kyle, Daniel, Drew, and Liam -- Dec. 8, 2015

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Around the world, the Red Cross gives hope to those in need. But it faces considerable logistical challenges while fulfilling its mission. We believe that the Red Cross can use drones to provide efficient, safe, and cost effective service worldwide, helping you to reach more people than ever before. Below, we describe the many advantages drones will bring working in specific roles within your organization.

Drones and Disaster Relief

In a 2013 article from the American Red Cross, Behind the Numbers: Red Cross Relief in 2013," it states that during 11 months the American Red Cross had 146 large disaster relief efforts in 42 states in response to tornadoes, floods, wildfires and severe storms (Red Cross n.p.). The American Red Cross should implement drones in their disaster relief program to insure better access to people in need as well as improve the safety of those working for the Red Cross.

Although the Red Cross is already helping a lot of people in disaster stricken areas, implementing drones would further allow the Red Cross to achieve their mission. In the 2015 report done by Measure, "Drones for Disaster Response and Relief Operations," David Bowen states that many disasters have resulted in additional damage in the form of violence and robberies due to slow responses from humanitarian organizations, such as the Red Cross (Bowen n.p.).

Any solution the Red Cross implements must increase the safety of its emergency response team. Furthermore, it must allow the Red Cross to increase the amount of aid delivered through better logistical assistance. The best solution is for the Red Cross to start using drones to address national disaster areas and bring mmediate relief.

One main concern you may have is the cost. However, according to Heather Kelly from CNN’s 2013 article "Drones: The Future of Disaster Response," drones prices range from $15,000 to $50,000, which is significantly less than a helicopter that would be used for the same purpose (Kelly n.p.).

John Domen writes for CBS Washington DC in "Drones Are the Future of Disaster Recovery” that the American Red Cross is seriously considering drone usage because drones would offer a better look at the entire picture, and help in evaluating safe evacuation routes, or potential places to seek shelter (Domen n.p.). Furthermore, drones are also equipped with sensors to detect chemical and radiation levels, hazards which could pose a fatal threat to a manned aircraft trying to gather the same information by flying over the affected area.

In the aforementioned report by David Bowen it is estimated that a reduction in the length of each phase of disaster response results in a decrease of the next phase by a factor of 10. Therefore, even just cutting the initial response phase by just 1 day decreases the overall length of time it takes to achieve full recovery by 1,000 days (Bowen n.p.).

The American Red Cross’ use of drones would allow more effective treatment of areas hit by natural disasters and more effective handling of immediate relief. According to Matt McFarland’s 2015 article “American Red Cross takes serious look at using drones for disaster relief, holds off for now” in the Washington Post, if the Red Cross chose to utilize drones, they would be able to use live-footage of areas hit by natural disasters, such as floods, to analyze the damage, look for people to rescue, and determine a suitable position to establish an operational base (McFarland n.p.). This means that the American Red Cross would be able to perform better analysis of the situation at hand, and provide more effective and efficient care to those most in need.

Now that I have shown you the immeasurable increase in efficiency that drones can provide, I urge you to add drones into the Red Cross’ disaster program because in times of disaster, such as Hurricane Katrina, the Red Cross cannot afford any delay in reaching those in need.

Drones and the Armed Forces

We have all heard the bittersweet song “I’ll be Home for Christmas,” the timeless ballad of a homesick soldier. Around the world, thousand of US troops won’t get to spend this holiday season with their families. The feeling of isolation, coupled with the trauma of war, can be emotionally devastating for our brave men and women in uniform. One in three troops serving overseas will develop post traumatic stress disorder. Even more disturbingly, five active duty military personnel try to commit suicide every day (‘Statistics”).

The Red Cross is a vital link between our troops and the citizens they serve. Through Holiday Mail for Heroes, Operation Care Package, and the Emergency Communications Service, the Red Cross connects the troops with their family and friends (“Partnership with America’s Military Members”). These services provide an invaluable boost to morale, helping fight what former Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta called an “epidemic” of suicide within our armed forces (Ngan).

There are hundreds of thousands of troops scattered throughout the world, and keeping in touch with them all is no easy task, even for an organization with the international reach of the Red Cross. But the past offers a solution. In World War I and World War II, thousands of pigeons were used to carry messages over the battlefield (“Pigeons in War”). Their advantages are clear. Pigeons are stealthy, small, and fast: perfect carriers for secret messages. As a neutral organization, the Red Cross would never carry sensitive information, and small birds wouldn't be practical for an international mail and parcel service. Enter the UAV, or drone. It has many of the same advantages of the pigeon, with the added benefit of cost effectiveness and resistance to falcon attack. Google is currently working on a drone the size of a seagull that is adept at package delivery (“Inside Google’s Secret”). And drones that cost a few thousand dollars to buy can be used instead of helicopters that cost thousands of dollars per hour to operate (Petitt).

Furthermore, drones have the ability to operate from central bases, so volunteers won’t have to be put into dangerous combat zones, and some volunteers can be sent to other locations where they are desperately needed. And fewer staff members in far flung locations means fewer transportation costs.

Implementing this technology won’t be an overnight job. It will take time, money, and a lot of hard work. But the benefits speak for themselves. Picture a future where a fleet of Red Cross drones will transport mail, care packages, medical supplies, and aid around the world. The organization will have a global, efficient reach at a lower price than its current operations. And the benefits will extend to our troops as well. No longer will a lonely soldier go without a holiday greeting, and Red Cross care packages will insure that troops have a few luxuries to brighten their day. Morale will surely benefit. It’s very simple: drones will help the Red Cross do more good for more people, including our troops.

In the video above, a Google drone shows how the Red Cross could deliver packages via UAV.

Drones and Blood Donation

According to ABC news, there was a major blood shortage as recently as a year ago ("Donate Blood"). Blood transfusions are a a critical part of many lifesaving surgeries, but what happens when there is not enough blood to go around? The need for blood is high and we often don't have the supply to keep up. The Red Cross is the main recipient of blood donations and your organization needs to evolve to meet the greater demand for blood. According to, just one blood donation can save the lives of as many as three people, so it is very important to improve the efficiency of the Red Cross because a small change can make a big difference ("Donation FAQ's"). A major problem with the current set up is that the Red Cross doesn’t have many dedicated donation centers in certain areas.

Shown below is a map of dedicated blood donation centers provided by the AABB ("Where to Donate"). As you can see, there aren’t any blood donation centers in the College Station area, which means that if blood is given in College Station it is given at a mobile or temporary location. This means that if the Red Cross staffers in Houston needs blood from College Station they would have to undertake a long drive before they had the blood they needed. According to, only one in ten people eligible for blood donation chooses to donate, so it is important to be able to access willing donors ("Red Cross Issues Emergency Call").

Our group has though of a solution to help remedy the logistical problems the Red Cross is facing when it comes to blood shortages. For a solution to be practical it must help the Red Cross get the blood they need, it needs to be efficient, and it needs to be cost effective, and I believe that the proposed implementation of drones meets all the criteria stated above. With the implementation of drones donated blood can quickly travel from the site of donation to the processing lab to the hospital where it is needed most. This will help the Red Cross get the blood they need because the drones will be able to fly to and from blood donation sites. With Red Cross workers no longer needing to return back to base to drop of the donated blood the workers will save time and will be able to make more collections. This will help the Red Cross be more efficient in collecting blood from donors because never needing to stop means they can hit more sites throughout the year. Lastly, I believe this plan is cost efficient. Although some may argue that drones can be expensive, they will eventually pay for themselves in the long run because they are allowing the large blood donation trucks to drive fewer miles, leading to lower fuel and transportation costs. I believe that the implementation of drones by the Red Cross will ultimately lead to their increased efficiency in the collection of blood. This will ultimately save lives. It might even save yours. We will continue to advocate for the implementation of drones by the Red Cross. If you to want to save more lives, invest in drones.

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Drones and Healthcare

The distribution of health care around the world is notoriously uneven. Remote

rural areas do not get their fair share of resources. Attempts to attract healthcare

professionals to work in rural areas to redress this imbalance have been only

partially successful. An alternative approach is needed. Rural residents often

experience barriers to healthcare that limit their ability to get the care they need. In

order for rural residents to have sufficient healthcare access, necessary and

appropriate services must be available which can be accessed in a timely manner.

According to Magalie Hyacinthe, the Vice President of the Haitian Red Cross in the

North department, “The biggest challenge we face in project implementation is

transportation” ("In Remote Communities, Participation and Proximity Are Key”).

Poor roads separate families in isolated areas, which makes it hard for

families to communicate and be together. An example of how relief response time is

slower for isolated communities is that Red Cross volunteers were still

reaching remote and mountain-bound communities, which had not yet received

help even two weeks after the monster category five storm passed between Sandy

Bay and Puerto Cabezas in Nicaragua ("Nicaraguan Red Cross Succeeds in Reaching

Remote Communities after Felix"). It is obvious that the Red Cross needs a

technology in order to help people in remote areas gain access to the resources that

they need to live a healthy life.

A technological solution to this problem must make remote areas more accessible, access remote areas in a timely manner, and be economically viable. In order to make the American Red Cross more efficient at the international level when it comes to accessing remote and hard to reach areas, the Red Cross should consider adopting the usage of drones to solve the problems that they face.

Some reservations that people may have with the American Red Cross adopting drones include the practicality of drones traveling long distances in overseas flights and the possibility of putting the lives of many people traveling by air in danger. However, drones will be able to access remote areas that are otherwise challenging

for humans in order to deliver resources. Additionally, delivery drones that are used for

transporting medical materials could greatly impact developing countries with

unreliable infrastructure. For example, the first successful drone delivery made in

the US “is being hailed as proof that drones can be useful in a delivery scenario,

particularly in rural and remote areas that are hard to reach via ground vehicles”

(Reich, J. E). Furthermore, drones will improve on time efficiency. In areas with a

lack of roads. Cargo drones could be used to cross rivers, lakes and mountains,

saving time and money spent on costly infrastructure projects. Moreover, drones can travel faster than humans, with the Phantom 3 Professional reaching a top speed of 36

mph and an ascent speed of about 11 mph. Another feature that makes drones

practical is there affordability. High-end drones are affordable and can be extremely

beneficial and worth the price. A commonly used high end drone, DJI Phantom 3

Professional, is priced at about $1,200. That price is very affordable to an organization financially supported as well as the American Red Cross, which spent $3,062.2M in 2014 ("How the American Red Cross Spends Your Donations"). Although current drones do not

have the range or power to fly overseas in a timely manner, setting up stations for

drones in existing Red Cross bases could ensure that drones are a viable

mode of transport for health care resources and other services to people in remote

areas or in an international disaster scenario.

As a demonstration, a drone carried medication prescribed by doctors at the annual Remote Area Clinic, a facility in Wise County, Virginia, serving 3,000 patients on a single weekend. The drone was helping to get medicine to patients who often have to wait days for their prescriptions, if they receive them at all (Gibbs, Samuel). If the American Red Cross adopts drones, people in rural areas and hard to reach places will have the opportunity to gain access to health care services in a timely manner. The developing world is more in need of drones as a viable means of leapfrogging over infrastructural inadequacies. Drones in service with your organization will help narrow the gap between developed and developing worlds.


During disasters where mobility is limited, the Red Cross is currently constricted in its ability to provide aid and must rely on costly, difficult modes of transportation such as helicopters or planes to get to hard to reach places. However, these modes of transportation's are not operable by most volunteers, limiting their usefulness when mobility is limited.

According to the Red Cross’s website, basic volunteer training consists of an hour long orientation video along with some basic medical training such as CPR. This training only provides basic medical skills, and many volunteers are limited in what they could potentially do ("Getting Started as a Volunteer"). Since a pilot’s license can cost up to $20,000, it would not be practical for the Red Cross to implement any training for volunteers for manned aircraft ("Becoming a Helicopter Pilot"). This leaves volunteers limited in their reach, especially in disasters such as hurricanes, where flooding prohibits getting to most places initially, until waters subside. A solution to this problem would be the Red Cross implementing drones. By having a fleet of drones, the Red Cross could use its volunteers more efficiently and increase response times. In a notable case study, a company called Measure studied drones and their potential effects on the Red Cross, concluding that the results would be positive. In the study, the reserchers observed that drones could significantly increase the Red Cross’s response time in natural disasters because drones are easy to get mobile quickly ("American Red Cross and Measure Study"). One reservation voiced by a robotics professor from Texas A&M, Robin Murphy, is how the organization would train volunteers to use this technology (McFarland). However, drone technology has advanced enough to the point where learning to fly drones is easier than ever before. In a 2011 article by CNN, journalist Bryony Jones is walked through flying a military drone, which he claims seems intimidating at first. But, after a couple minutes, he states that learning to fly a drone is as easy as learning to play a video game (Jones). So in order to teach volunteers how to fly drones, the Red Cross would simply need to add a basic training course on drones to their initial orientation process. This course could be in the form of a video like some of their other courses, coupled with a hands-on lesson with drones when volunteers reach the field. Many drones are equipped with GPS stabilizing abilities, providing additional assistance for those learning to fly drones.

By equipping volunteers with the ability to fly and cover greater distances, the Red Cross can cover a wider area than it was previously able to. The implementation of drones would also save the Red Cross money by replacing other modes of aviation with higher operational expenses. Helicopters can cost around $200 per hour to operate, where drone costs per hour are mostly negligible because of the fact they are unmanned and almost always run on electric power. Drones will free up Red Cross funds and personnel which can be used to help others in need.

Works Cited

Disaster Relief Works Cited

Bowen, David. "Drones for Disaster Response and Relief Operations." Measure. Measure, Apr. 2015. Web. 5 Dec. 2015.

Domen, John. "Drones Are the Future of Disaster Recovery." CBS Washington DC. CBS, 21 Apr. 2015. Web. 02 Dec. 2015.

Kelly, Heather. "Drones: The Future of Disaster Response -" CNN. Cable News Network, 23 May 2013. Web. 06 Dec. 2015.

McFarland, Matt. "American Red Cross Takes Serious Look at Using Drones for Disaster

Relief, Holds off for Now." Washington Post. The Washington Post, 21 Apr. 2015. Web. 01 Dec. 2015.<>

American Red Cross. American Red Cross, 26 Dec. 2013. Web. 07 Dec. 2015.

Blood Donation Works Cited

"Donate Blood." News. ABC News Network, n.d. Web. 08 Dec. 2015.

"Dominica Observes World Blood Donor Day." CBN4. N.p., 12 June 2014. Web. 08 Dec. 2015.

Donating Blood. N.p., n.d. Web. 08 Dec. 2015.

"Donation FAQs." American Red Cross. N.p., n.d. Web. 07 Dec. 2015.

"Red Cross Issues Emergency Call for Blood and Platelet Donors." American Red Cross. N.p., n.d. Web. 07 Dec. 2015.

"What Happens to Donated Blood?" American Red Cross. N.p., n.d. Web. 07 Dec. 2015.

"Where to Donate Blood." Where to Donate Blood. N.p., n.d. Web. 07 Dec. 2015.

Troops Works Cited

Madrigal, Alexis. “A Drone Scholar Answers the Big Questions About Amazon’s Plans.” The Atlantic Monthly Group, 3 Dec. 2013. Web. 1 Dec. 2015.

Madrigal, Alexis. “Inside Google’s Secret Drone-Delivery Program.” The Atlantic Monthly Group, 28 Aug. 2014. Web. 1 Dec. 2015.

Ngan, Mandel. “US Military Suicides Exceed Combat Deaths. “ CBS Interactive, 14 Jan. 2013. Web. 3 Dec. 2015.

“Operation Care Package.” The American National Red Cross, 2015. Web. 14 Nov. 2015.

“Partnership with America’s Military Members.” The American National Red Cross, 2015. Web. 4 Dec. 2015.

Pettitt, Jeniece. “How drones are being used for safety and rescue.” CNBC, 23 Nov. 2015. Web. 4 Dec. 2015.

“Pigeons in War.” Royal Pigeon Racing Association, 2015. Web. 28 Nov. 2015.

“Supporting America’s Military Families.” The American National Red Cross, 2015. Web. 14 Nov. 2015.

“The Statistics.” PTSD Foundation of America, n.d. Web. 1 Dec. 2015.

“Total Military Personnel and Dependent End Strength by Service, Regional Area, and

Country.” US Department of Defense, 25 Aug. 2015. Web. 3 Dec. 2015.

Healthcare Works Cited

Gibbs, Samuel. "First Successful Drone Delivery Made in the US." Theguardian., 20 July 2015. Web. 01 Dec. 2015.



"How the American Red Cross Spends Your Donations." American Red Cross.

American Red Cross, 29 Jan. 2015. Web. 01 Dec. 2015.



"In Remote Communities, Participation and Proximity Are Key." American Red Cross.

American Red Cross, 02 June 2015. Web. 01 Dec. 2015.



"Nicaraguan Red Cross Succeeds in Reaching Remote Communities after Felix."

International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies., 18

Sept. 2007. Web. 01 Dec. 2015.



Reich, J. E. "Scientists Test Out Drones That Could Help Deliver Medical Samples To

Remote Destinations." Tech Times RSS. Tech Times, 17 Aug. 2015. Web. 07

Dec. 2015.



Training Work Cited

"American Red Cross and Measure Study Shows Drones Can Save Lives and Help Rebuild Communities - Measure." Measure RSS. Measure, 21 Apr. 2015. Web. 07 Dec. 2015.

"Becoming A Helicopter Pilot." Becoming A Helicopter Pilot. N.p., 2011. Web. 06 Dec. 2015.

"Getting Started As A Volunteer | Red Cross." American Red Cross. Red Cross, n.d. Web. 06 Dec. 2015.

Jones, Bryony. "Flying Lessons: Learning How to Pilot a Drone." CNN. Cable News Network, 30 June 2011. Web. 07 Dec. 2015.

McFarland, Matt. "American Red Cross Takes Serious Look at Using Drones for Disaster Relief, Holds off for Now." Washington Post. The Washington Post, n.d. Web. 06 Dec. 2015.