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19 November 2021, Melbourne, Australia and Lilongwe, Malawi: Swoop Aero celebrates the two-year anniversary of sustained medical drone logistics operations in Malawi. This is a significant milestone not only for the organisation but for the whole industry.
Since November 2019, Swoop Aero has worked with some of the largest organisations in the global health sector in Malawi, including USAID, FCDO (UKAID), UNICEF, and VillageReach, to improve the accessibility of essential health products to hard-to-reach communities and to support improved health outcomes and the wellbeing of the Malawian population. Swoop Aero has completed over 4,500 flights in Malawi, delivering over 500,000 items to date globally, including in Malawi 27,361 vaccines and 95,011 doses of antibiotics. Only Swoop Aero and US startup Zipline have achieved greater than 2 years of continuous drone delivery operations in an integrated airspace environment.
“I am proud of the ground-breaking work Swoop Aero is doing in Malawi,” said Swoop Aero’s CEO and co-founder Eric Peck. “Impact is central to Swoop Aero’s mission. Our vision is for a world where seamless supply chains bring emotional and economic prosperity to all they serve. Through our teams on the ground, we are able to deliver on our core impact goal”.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, Swoop Aero’s Malawi network achieved a feat that no other company in the industry has been able to do successfully; sustain a bi-directional medical drone logistics network from another country. Swoop Aero is also one of the first companies globally to transport the recently approved WHO malaria vaccine in the Southern districts of Nsanje and Chikwawa to achieve increased immunisation coverage in hard-to-reach and isolated areas. Swoop Aero’s commitment to technological innovation and the delivery of long-term impact has underpinned Swoop Aero’s success and resilience in Malawi.
“Swoop Aero’s two-years presence in Malawi is a great story of continued collaboration and partnership with the Ministry of Health, VillageReach, USAID, UKAID, UNICEF and others championing the drone technology to improve the accessibility of essential healthcare in hard-to-reach communities.” said Dr. Charles Mwansambo, Secretary for Health Republic of Malawi.
“I want to highlight Swoop Aero’s ability to adapt to change, particularly during COVID,” said UKAID’s Sarah Pannell, “Because of their ability to run the service while being in another country, we were able to keep delivering the health supplies”.
Marie-Claudine Villacorta, UNICEF continues “Besides transporting medical commodities, Swoop Aero has supported the local ‘drones for good’ ecosystem and empowered young people from the African Drone and Data Academy (ADDA). Swoop has recruited ADDA graduates to pilot drones and conduct flight operations in Malawi and DRC.”
USAID reports highlight, “This pilot operation demonstrated the immediate benefits pertaining to the integration of bi-directional drone networks to improve health benefits. Operating between the island of Likoma and the Nkhata Bay District Hospital, Swoop Aero supported the health system in a timely, efficient, and innovative manner, thereby demonstrating the power of technology to achieve strategic development goals”.
The anniversary is celebrated in light of a formal MOU with the Ministry of Health and Population (MoHP) to scale up the medical drone logistics network to a national level over the next 3-year period. Over the coming 18 months, Swoop Aero and VillageReach will work collaboratively with the MoHP to scale up the bi-directional medical drone network to reach over 100 hard-to-reach health facilities. Given the government’s vision of expanding drones nationwide, the organisations plan to cover up to 150 facilities later on.
The work and dedication of Swoop Aero’s in-country teams preface the innovation. They have coordinated and managed operations since the commencement of Malawi operations in November 2019. The local team in Malawi has now grown to 10 full-time members, including 2 pilots who are graduates from the African Drone and Data Academy (ADDA) responsible for the daily management and operation of flights. Over the next few months, this team will exponentially grow to make the company’s global goal of providing 100 million people with sustainable drone logistics by 2025, a reality.
“VillageReach is excited to be part of this journey commemorating Swoop Aero’s 2 years anniversary in Malawi and our mutual work supporting the Malawi Ministry of Health in ensuring a smooth integration of drones into the national health delivery system, including at local and community levels, now to also mitigate the impact of COVID-19 pandemic and beyond—Drones are key in ensuring that medical commodities reach individuals in hard to reach areas,” said Dr. Alinafe Kasiya, Country Director for VillageReach in Malawi.