Melbourne-based drone delivery logistics company Swoop Aero’s African drone delivery operations are expanding, in preparation for COVID-19 vaccine distribution.
“In collaboration with NGO partners and governments of The Democratic Republic of Congo, Malawi and now Mozambique, Swoop Aero are implementing scalable drone delivery networks across three countries in Africa, and are on track for further growth across the continent,” says a press release. “The drone logistics networks are enabling all communities to have access to essential medications and vaccines at a time when rapid transportation of medical goods is more critical than ever.”
Africa has taken a leading role in demonstrating widescale drone delivery operations. During the COVID pandemic, while travel and training opportunities have been limited, Swoop Aero has moved ahead on implementing Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS) drone delivery networks in Mozambique. Swoop Aero completed pilot flight operations transporting COVID-19 testing samples and TB testing samples in October of 2020.
“Having our teams safely travel overseas and continue delivering was a challenge, but not one we shied away from” says Peck “Our commitment to delivering a drone enabled health logistics service in the toughest environments doesn’t stop when a pandemic starts, and our customers can trust us on that”.
“Following the success of the phase 1 pilot in Mozambique; a study assessing the safety, feasibility and community acceptance of medical drone deliveries was completed this month and the results are positive,” says the release. ‘This is a major step towards drone integration into the national health system and we look forward to working with local communities to roll out our networks across Mozambique.’
Swoop Aero’s African drone delivery operations also include Malawi and the Democratic Republic of Congo. In Malawi, Swoop Aero moves critical supplies during the annual flood season, when the road infrastructure becomes vulnerable. Beginning this January, official operations were launched in Democratic Republic of Congo “in collaboration with the DRC Ministry of Health and NGO partner VillageReach with funding from Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Crown Family,” the company announces.
In the first three months of operations, more than 20,000 vaccine doses have been delivered across hundreds of long range flights, allowing thousands of children to be vaccinated by transporting both immunization products and personal protective equipment (PPE). Swoop Aero also trained a full local team complement including operators and pilots, alongside 16 health facility staff.
The company sees a significant opportunity for drone logistics to strengthen existing transport services and effectively distribute the COVID-19 vaccine and related supplies. ‘Our networks are rapidly scalable and can be deployed when and where they are needed,’ says Eric Peck, Swoop Aero CEO. ‘When the pandemic unfolded in March 2020, we tripled our fleet of aircraft in Malawi and increased our locally hired workforce to manage and pilot the network, delivering COVID-19 testing kits, face masks and PPE.’ says Peck.
“We’ve seen the impact of drone logistics with our African operations. Creating healthier communities is at the core of what we do; and we see a huge opportunity in using drone logistics to create healthier cities.”