Drones can be used for great evil, but they can also save lives. In the past decade, more than 20,000 people have died trying to cross the Mediterranean Sea. Desperate people work with smugglers and board overcrowded and hazardous boats, attempting to escape war-torn and dangerous countries in the Middle East. Christopher Catrambone, an American living in Malta has decided to use one of the most controversial tools of the 21st century to try and save these people.
Forget the politics for a second, these are hundreds of thousands of men, women and children taking to the sea aboard what are often unsafe, overcrowded vessels that catch fire and sink and on which they may have inadequate access to food, drinking water and medical supplies.
Catrambone and his wife, Regina, purchased a ship, inflatable boats, and drones and put them in the hands of former government and military officials and medical experts, creating the operation: Migrant Offshore Aid Station (MOAS). They believe that “no one deserves to die at sea.” The drones scan the common routes of smugglers, going up to 150 mph and searching for 6 hours before needing to re-charge. If the drones find vessels that need help either the main ship, the Phoenix I, responds or the Italian Coast Guard is called. From the MOAS homepage: “It is dedicated to preventing loss of life at sea by providing assistance to migrants who find themselves in distress while crossing the Mediterranean Sea in unsafe vessels.”
This group not only works tirelessly to keep migrants safe, but they are careful to operate within the law:
The Phoenix I’s main mission is distributing humanitarian aid to refugees in-transit: water, food, medical aid and medical supplies. If it finds itself in a position to pull migrants off a sinking ship, MOAS is prepared to…bring them onboard the Phoenix, but then defers to Italian authorities to decide where those refugees are taken.
MOAS follows the laws of the sea which oblige all vessels to help in case of distress,” it states. “Thus, MOAS will rescue migrants if it is asked to do so by search and rescue authorities or if the situation is an immediate matter of life or death. But our primary aim is to prevent loss of life at sea, not to ferry migrants from one point to another.”
There is a similar program set up by the Italian government called, “Mare Nostrum” (“Our Sea” or “Mediterranean Sea”):
MOAS was conceived before Mare Nostrum, at a time when no sea patrols were being conducted. The impressive work being conducted by the Italian authorities is highly welcome and commended. However, search and rescue is a shared responsibility. The more resources at sea, the fewer catastrophes will occur.
Catrambone, and his crew, understand that every life has inherent value and no one should be left to die, no matter what their circumstances are. The people of MOAS were called to save the most vulnerable people and to use their wealth and drones to carry out this great work. Read up on other ways drones are being used to do good. Watch the video below to learn more: