The Future of Humanitarian Aid

When a natural disaster strikes, a conflict breaks out or a refugee crisis emerges, getting help to those in need is often a difficult task. Things like landing strips and phone lines are frequently damaged or destroyed, cutting off most methods of communication and access to the area.

But several new technological breakthroughs are helping overcome this and some of the other challenges of humanitarian relief. New inventions will make it easier to deliver aid, house refugees and keep aid workers safe.

Here is a look at four such innovations that are saving lives around the world:

###The Ultimate Disaster Relief Aircraft

The Extremely Short Take Off and Landing On Any Surface project, or ESTOLAS, combines the versatility of a hover craft, cargo space of an airplane and mobility of a helicopter into one aid-delivering super-aircraft.

Created by researchers at two European universities with the support of the European Commission, the ESTOLAS is built to be able to take off and land without any runway so aid can be delivered in areas where local infrastructure has been destroyed.

Four versions of the aircraft are expected to be complete later this year.

###Response Drones

Drones may currently have more of a reputation for executing missile strikes and delivering Amazon packages, but unmanned aircraft is already changing disaster response efforts.

Humanitarian drones have been used for delivering medicine to hard-to-reach victims of the Haiti earthquake, aiding in rescue missions after Japan’s nuclear disaster and watching conflict areas for the U.N.

The Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International told CNN that they predict disaster response will soon account for 10 percent of the drone industry.

###High-Tech Refugee Tents

In many refugee camps, residents live in makeshift tents that often only last for a few months and can barely hold up to harsh weather conditions.

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Ikea wants to change that. The Swedish furniture maker has teamed with the U.N. refugee agency, UNHCR, and invested more than $4.6 million to develop state-of-the-art housing units. The spacious, easy-to-transport tents utilize solar lighting, insulated wall panels and ultra-light, ultra-durable materials that will last up to three years.

The tents are currently being used to house Syrian refugees in Lebanon.

###The Electronic Eyes on the Road

According to report from the U.N. General Assembly, road accidents are responsible for 93 percent of the deaths and 80 percent of the injuries to U.N. humanitarian workers.

Now, technology company Mobileye is teaming with road safety data agency Fleet Forum to equip humanitarian relief vehicles with camera-based technology that can detect surrounding objects, engage safety features, process conditions in real time and more.

In a press release, the Fleet Forum program manager said improving driver safety will allow the organizations to increase their reach and impact.

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