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Swoop partners with UNICEF, FTL, DFID

28 January 2020

Swoop Aero commences fourth consecutive aeromedical contract for the delivery of essential supplies by air in the African region


28 January 2020, Melbourne, Australia: Swoop Aero, the Australian drone-powered health logistics company, announced its partnership 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. “ This life-changing service will drastically improve health outcomes in these communities and in some cases save lives” The flights will enable the improvement of patient outcomes by increasing the reach, speed, and efficiency of medical deliveries.

Swoop Aero is deploying a sustainable, reliable and scalable hub and spoke drone network in Chikwawa and Nsanje region to strengthen the local healthcare supply chain and improve patient outcomes in this flood-prone area which suffers from numerous geographical and other infrastructure challenges.

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”.

Alongside transport flights, Swoop aircraft 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.

The news comes in the wake of recent initiatives and the announcement of contracts being secured in two new countries:

  •  Swoop Aero is currently supporting Chemonics in the implementation of the USAID Global Health Supply Chain Program-Procurement and Supply Management project in the Nkhata Bay region in Malawi where Swoop Aero is the primary provider of drone logistics. Swoop Aero has set up a hub-and-spoke network of autonomous aircraft, with operations based in Usisya, on the Western shores of Lake Malawi. Daily two-way flights are conducted, servicing thousands of people and delivering critical medicines, medical supplies, and test results to remote health facilities.
  • Swoop Aero has partnered for the second time with VillageReach and is contracted to transport Tuberculosis (TB) sputum samples for time-sensitive testing in Maputo, the capital city of Mozambique, in a country-first program commencing in spring 2020
  • Swoop Aero successfully completed the first phase of operations in the Democratic Republic of the Congo in July 2019, and will expand its network operations for Phase 2 in 2020, to further support the regional healthcare supply chain program alongside Village Reach and Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance
  • Existing projects are being run in partnership with the four biggest aid organisations in the world (Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, USAID, UKAid) to transform last-mile healthcare

“These new contracts position us well to meet our strategic goals of expansion into Australia, New Zealand and South East Asia,” says Peck. “The experience and lessons learned in our journey so far will be invaluable as we start working with global companies in the local region.”

Swoop Aero will have operations in five countries across 2 continents and is also continuing discussions with leading Australasian healthcare providers for the establishment of local aeromedical logistics networks across the region.

About Swoop Aero

Swoop Aero transforms the way the world moves essential supplies by making access to the skies seamless. Founded in 2017, this  Australian born and bred company is bringing healthcare logistics into the 21st century by deploying two-way drone networks capable of delivering essential medical supplies to urban, rural and remote areas globally. Their fully managed air transport service provides access to the skies to ensure sustainable, safe and reliable provision of essential health supplies. Unmanned vehicles are at the heart of the next significant shift in supply chain logistics. From the UN to USAid and the Gates Foundation, they are trusted to create value by sustainably transforming health supply chains.