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09 April 2021
Swoop Aero, the Melbourne-headquartered drone logistics company, expands African drone delivery networks while the pandemic endures to increase access to essential medical supplies and prepare for distribution of COVID-19 vaccine.
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. 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.
Swoop Aero’s operations in Mozambique commenced in March 2020, and despite significant mobility challenges associated with COVID-19, was finalized in October 2020. The Pilot flight operation alongside their NGO partners was the first of three phases to deploy medical logistics into the Mozambique health system; and, it included the transport of 140 COVID-19 samples, 160 TB samples, which directly benefited 100,000 people within the region. Mozambique is the third consecutive country in which Swoop Aero was the first organization ever to have obtained long-range flight approvals (Beyond Visual Line of Sight).
“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. ‘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.’ Mozambique is the third consecutive country in which Swoop Aero obtained long-range flight approvals (Beyond Visual Line of Sight).
Since Late 2019, Swoop Aero’s networks in the north and south of Malawi have allowed the movement of essential supplies throughout the annual flood season where roads become congested or inoperative. In Malawi to date, Swoop has delivered over 1200kg of essential supplies and made 67 life-saving emergency deliveries to date. Pilot networks were deployed with funding from US AID, UK AID, and UNICEF under the direction of the Malawian Ministry of Health.
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.
More recently, in January 2021 following several months of under the radar operations, Swoop officially launched a routine drone delivery service in the 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. 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.
Closer to home Swoop is on track to launch regional Australia’s first medical drone network later this year, and is eyeing the opportunity to leverage their service to assist communities in overcoming natural disasters like floods and bushfires. CEO Eric Peck emphasizes that drone logistics aren’t just for rural areas but also have a significant role to play in creating vibrant and healthier urban communities, “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.”
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