Far from being a hobby flight, this is a project to save the lives of drowning refugees, designed by a 33-year-old Afghan who was once one of them.
Fifteen years after fleeing his home to escape the Taliban, this drone expert wants to help others like him survive the perilous crossing of the Aegean and Mediterranean seas that has claimed thousands of lives.
Founded by Salehi, “Drones for Refugees” is a project designed to enable rescuers to swiftly locate and reach migrant boats in difficulty, slashing time to reach them in a way that can mean the difference between life and death.
The sea route between Turkey and the Greek Islands has always been a favourite with smugglers, but in 2015, the numbers crossing that waterway exploded due to the Syrian conflict.
From his home in New York, where he lectures at Parsons School of Design, Mehdi saw dramatic news footage of dinghies packed to the brim.
He also saw the images of those who did not make it and decided to do something about it using his skills.
With the support of Parsons alumni and faculty, Mehdi and his partner Kristen Kersh bought and customised the drone tested on Lesbos. They added cameras, sensors, data-sharing points and designed an web platform.