Swoop Aero to set up an aerologistics network in Malawi delivering essential supplies by drone.

Swoop Aero to set up an aerologistics network in Malawi delivering essential supplies by drone.

January 28 2020

Melbourne, Australia

Swoop Aero, the Melbourne-based provider of an on-demand aeromedical logistics service, announced it will partner with Frontier Technology Livestreaming, the UK Government Department for International Development (DFID) Malawi, and UNICEF in a large-scale Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) project for humanitarian and socio-economic development outcomes. 

The project will apply this frontier technology to solving one of the biggest challenges faced by remote communities cut off by infrastructure gaps: how to deliver critical medical supplies, on-demand, whilst maintaining them under the specific cold chain conditions they require.

“In remote locations in Malawi, it’s often not possible to have vaccines or medical supplies available in storage all the time. But with our end-to-end logistics infrastructure, healthcare practitioners can place an on-demand order with the local hospital and have it ready to be administered in less than an hour,” says Eric Peck, CEO and co-founder of Swoop Aero. “In some cases, this is a lifesaving service and will drastically improve health outcomes in these communities.”

The project will also support the collection of detailed, hard-to-access aerial data that can be integrated into natural disaster modelling predictions and help to provide better quality emergency humanitarian relief in disaster scenarios.


Delivery of critical supplies

By deploying a fleet of autonomous aircraft, the project will look to bridge the last mile between hard to reach populations and the vital medical supplies they need to improve health outcomes.

Using two-way logistics, one flight can safely convey vaccines and other medical supplies at the right temperature for 130km, before picking up time-sensitive test samples for the return flight, expediting, for example, a six-hour round trip journey to under 60 minutes.

“As we progress through the project, the nurses and healthcare staff on the ground will be given sufficient training to send and receive supplies independently”, said Peck. “Our mission is to upskill the local workforce and give them the independence needed so they can continue to do their work as quickly and efficiently as possible.”

“So far, the majority of UAV delivery tests across the world have been sporadic and isolated demonstrations.” For UNICEF and DFID, “this project aims to generate evidence on a more comprehensive use of the technology at scale for development and humanitarian outcomes.” Sarah Pannell, Learning Innovation Team Lead,  DFID Malawi and Marie-Claude Villacorta, Innovations Lead, UNICEF Malawi state “We will test our assumption that multi-purpose drones can efficiently serve a number of different use cases, lowering costs and ensuring long-term sustainability of operations and impact on children and communities. We look forward to our partnership with Swoop Aero and FTL to support the national health systems and disaster response and preparedness in Malawi”.


Aerial mapping and data collection

The UAVs will run simultaneous aerial mapping and data collection activities, with collected data used to optimise early warning and disaster preparedness procedures. Local authorities will use the data for informed and timely decision-making, ultimately leading to vulnerable communities being provided with the humanitarian assistance they need. 

The detailed data will also support other humanitarian projects such as the identification of disease hotspots, evaluation of crop yields, and flood modelling in high-risk areas.


Upskilling local resources

DFID is working in partnership with the Malawian government to boost economic growth and development. The project will see local resources employed and empowered, with operations eventually becoming self-sufficient and eliminating the need for Swoop Aero’s international team to be running operations on the ground.


About Swoop Aero

Swoop Aero is a venture capital-backed startup that is transforming access to healthcare with aeromedical logistics. Founded in 2017, Swoop Aero is one of a handful of companies globally that hold the knowledge of how to build and operate an autonomous aircraft network. Their operations team includes former air force pilots, current commercial pilots and leading engineers, and the company is ideally positioned to support communities in locations that have previously been amongst the hardest places to reach in the world.
Learn more swoop.aero.


About UNICEF Malawi

UNICEF works to promote and protect the rights of children and women in Malawi. It uses innovations to help accelerate results for children, young people and communities. Find more at https://www.unicef.org/malawi/


About the Department for International Development (DFID) Malawi:

DFID leads the UK’s efforts to end extreme poverty, deliver the Global Goals for Sustainable Development (SDGs) and tackle a wide range of humanitarian and development challenges in Malawi.


About Frontier Technology Livestreaming

Frontier Technology Livestreaming is a UKAid funded programme that applies frontier technologies to the biggest challenges in development. Working in partnership around the world, it generates evidence on the potential of new technologies to create impact on development and humanitarian challenges.


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