We have been testing and flying a variety of aircraft. Below are some of the most important aircraft in our fleet. We have named most of our aircraft after Syrians who inspire us and embody our values.
The Nousha is a Bixler, one of the most popular aircraft in the world for getting started with fixed-wing UAVs. The high-mounted motor and propeller facilitate easy hand launching, making this aircraft perfect for quick trips out to the field to test new flight plans and modifications to the plane’s software. This is also a fantastic aircraft for teaching new pilots to fly.
The Nousha is named for Nousha Kabawat, founder of our partner organization Project Amal ou Salaam, which brings hope and peace to Syrian refugee children who have seen too much of war. Mark had the opportunity to work alongside Nousha in eastern Turkey and see firsthand her love and enthusiasm for Syria’s children. Nousha does not see a lost generation; she sees Syria’s next generation. We can’t think of a better name for an aircraft that teaches people to fly.
The Israa is a FX-61 Phantom, a flying wing renowned for its aerodynamic design, low cost, and ease of use. The Syria Airlift Project used this aircraft for range and endurance testing, gradually pushing our capabilities further and further. We also used this aircraft to develop a reliable launch system so we can conduct large numbers of flights with greater reliability.
The Israa is named for Israa al-Masri, a toddler who died of starvation in Yarmouk. She became the face of the humanitarian suffering in Syria when a photo of her—reportedly taken shortly before her death—was released by an human rights activist group. Israa’s memory will live on in the service of her brothers and sisters, working to free them from the terrors of siege and starvation.
The Waliid is an X-UAV Talon, an off-the shelf UAV with a 1.7m wingspan. Its low cost, rugged construction, and large volume and weight capability make it perfect for short-range cargo delivery flights. The Syria Airlift Project operates four Waliids, and is using them to train Syrian volunteers and develop our concept of operations.
The Waliid is named for a doctor Mark met in eastern Turkey. Dozens of his relatives had been killed since the war started, he had changed locations more than 30 times, and he had survived a bombing by a MiG fighter aircraft. Mark was impressed by his quiet, serene spirit and asked him where his inner peace came from. He said that when he sees a new attack, his instinct is not to be sad but to go help. He drives to the scene of massacres and provides the best care he can, although he has had children die in his arms of treatable conditions because he could not get medical supplies.
Waliid dreams of the day the war will end, and he and his fellow Syrians can build a new Syria together. “It will be a very different country than in the West,” he said. “There will be a Ministry for the Disabled, and a Ministry for Psychological Trauma. We will need more handicapped buses than normal buses. Once Syria is rebuilt, we won’t stop. We will go find people who are suffering in other countries, and we will help them too.”
The Ansley Peace Drone
Out of respect for this plane’s designer and his vision, we retained its original name. Ed at Experimental Airlines has developed a large following for his incredible aircraft designs, which are made with Dollar Tree foam board, hot glue, and packing tape. His Ansley Peace Drone was a great platform for experimenting with low-cost, mass-producible designs. This plane also featured in our first Syria Airlift Project video.
Ed named the Ansley Peace Drone after his daughter. “Peace Drone” was a clever way to counter the militaristic association many people have with drones.