Thursday, March 22, 2012

Unmanned Fundraiser Drone strike nets $50,000 for Metro University

Officials at Metro University are reporting success with their new unmanned aerial fundraising drone. The Mark V Charity Hawk made its first successful donation strike at an alumni target in an upscale neighbourhood in Metro last night.

“Our new surveillance technology is working better than expected. We netted $50,000 from an engineering alum in our first strike with a minimum of collateral damage,” said Josiah Snidely, Project Leader of the University’s UAV program.

Measuring 18 feet long, with a wingspan of 24 feet and driven by a single propeller, the Mark V Charity Hawk is the world’s first remotely piloted aerial fundraising platform. The plane takes off and lands by itself. The actual drone is operated by a pilot at a ground station in the basement of the University’s advancement building. Upon launching, it flies to an altitude of 30,000 feet where it uses its special radar system to detect potential donors. Once identified, the drone then drops down to tree-top level to fire its fundraising appeal missiles at unsuspecting donors.

“Last night, the Charity Hawk spotted one of our graduates leaving a bank with a smile on his face. We then used the internal censors to listen in on his cell phone conversation as he stood in the bank’s parking lot where he talked about the million dollar business deal he just signed,” said Snidely.

The drone then tracked the graduate’s car for several blocks before swooping down to fire two fundraising appeals from its wing-mounted weapons pod. One appeal missed and struck a laundry delivery truck, but the other landed a customized fundraising pitch, complete with presidential letter and brochure, in the passenger seat of the graduate’s car.

The wired-guided fundraising missiles are accurate to within one foot. In this case, the missile was able to fly right through the open window of the moving car and lodge itself on the front dashboard. It then played the University’s football fight song and a recording message from the University President announcing “We need your help to make Metro University the best it can be”.

“The drone came and went without anyone knowing it was there. The graduate was so surprised that be ran over several garbage cans and a chipmunk before regaining control of the vehicle. That’s what philanthropy is all about,” boasted Snidely.

The graduate made an instant five year pledge of $50,000 through the missile’s onboard donations system. This was then uploaded to the drone some 10,000 feet above which then sent it to its control centre for processing.

Experts say the new technology proves that fundraising can be done without loss of life.

“The whole idea of unmanned fundraising vehicles was to take the risk to human life out of the equation. Too many of our best fundraisers have been lost through donation combat or accidents. Now, we have a system that can do all that a human fundraiser used to do and more. And no one has to die,” said Dr. Dibble Brewer, the inventor of the Charity Hawk.

However, critics have charged that drone fundraising technology is far from perfect. Last month, ground controllers lost control of a Charity Hawk. The drone attacked a large group of dairy cows in a field outside of Metro, believing them to be lapsed donors. It fired off all 20 fundraising missiles injuring two of the cows and making the others give more cream than usual. The makers of Charity Hawk settled out of court with the farmer.

Others say the fundraising drones are unstable. Three Charity Hawks have crashed in the past three months, including one that landed in the swimming pool of the University’s largest residence. One mistakenly landed in a cemetery during a funeral and began blaring a planned giving message.

Still, officials at Metro University say they will expand the Charity Hawk program. They predict that unmanned aerial platforms will soon take over major gifts portfolios in most universities.

“This is the way of the future,” said Snidely. “With this technology, we can reach out and touch any potential donor anywhere at any time. They can run, but they can’t hide.”