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Five Ways Drone Logistics Can Fight COVID-19

16 April 2020

Five Ways Drone Logistics Can Fight COVID-19

Necessity is the catalyst for innovation. In recent times, the novel coronavirus, or COVID-19 pandemic, has unearthed a myriad of ways to undertake routine (yet essential) duties as people navigate the new socio-economic structures that convene the global economy in the context of a public health emergency.

The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted some important lessons for the global health sector. It offers a critical insight into how innovation and advanced technology may better equip and support the global community as we tackle this pandemic and handle public health emergencies to contain, mitigate and eradicate the spread of infectious diseases globally.

Using medical drone logistics within the existing health supply chain will enable better access to essential medical commodities. We’ve identified some of the key benefits to people and governments, which are obtained using this.

1. Low Rate of Human Contact

As unmanned autonomous vehicles, drones remain naturally effective at minimizing the rate of human interaction. As humans remain the vectors for the virus to spread, the use-case for drones in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic has exponentially increased. In this context, the Swoop Aero air transportation service has proven immensely valuable. The medical drone logistics platform enables essential health supplies to be ordered, arranged, and delivered to a specified location with minimal human interaction, which mitigates the potentiality of community-based transmission. For those in home isolation and quarantine, the service offering enables continued access to essential health supplies, without jeopardizing their personal health and wellbeing, and the health of the broader community.

2. Speed of Delivery

The integration of drones into the existing health supply chain, to enable on-demand health supplies may effectively accommodate the swift and large-scale response sought by governments around the world to address the COVID-19 pandemic. Moreover, the implementation of drones into the existing health system may also speed up feedback for critical tests needed by patients and medical workers to mitigate the further deterioration of health outcomes amongst the localized population.

In Malawi, Swoop Aero demonstrated the effective use-case for a medical drone logistics service at this time of heightened health insecurity. The achievement was catalyzed by the need to support the Malawian national government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, in addition to the pre-existing health issues which remain prevalent within the country, such as HIV/AIDS, malaria, and TB. On the first day of operations 10 internationally piloted missions were safely completed to service 5 additional towns and 87,034 people. The communities serviced covered a geographical distance of 18000km. The operation of these flights reduced critical journey times from 90 minutes down to 9 minutes, which represented an increase of 91% in the rate of efficiency and the security of thousands of lives.

3. Equitable access to health supplies = Healthy Population

The advantages yielded by the deployment of drones to facilitate medical transportation and delivery serve to guarantee access to a larger pool of resources for underrepresented and underserved populations. This is due to the expansion of geographical regions that are classified as ‘reachable’ via the deployment of aircraft, which are able to overcome the geographical and infrastructural barriers that impede the operation and service capability of conventional on-ground transportation methods. In the case of Australia, the use of medical drone logistics is thus able to ensure reliable access to essential health supplies for regional and remote communities that traditionally experience disproportionately worse health outcomes than those people who reside in the metropolitan centers.

The use of medical drone logistics to service Indigenous communities in the remote locations of Western Australia and Queensland will alleviate the burden placed on under-resourced and overcrowded health facilities to enable continued access to quality healthcare treatment and supplies. Recently, the COVID-19 pandemic has magnified the health inequalities experienced by these communities and reinforced the need for innovative methods to improve community health standards. The deployment of the Swoop Aero medical drone logistics service in these regions is expected to significantly reduce the health inequality gap and mitigate the threat of community-wide contagion. Moreover, the use of the air logistics platform to deliver essential health supplies to homes and personal dwellings means that local health facilities are not overrun by a sudden rise in demand, and thus remain capable to treat the more severe cases of the virus sufficiency.

4. Building a resilient health system

The integration of drones into the existing health supply chain, to enable a sustainable, reliable, and scalable delivery service, will invariably render the national health system more resilient in the face of future global public health events. This is due to the exponential increase in the rate of delivery, and the increased number of people serviced by the health system. The reliable and sustained provision of these essential medical commodities means people have a pre-existing, strong health infrastructure model, and a high standard of personal health prior to a breakdown or threat posed to the whole system. In consequence, the continued operationalization of the medical drone logistics service  – in the face of a global health event as we are currently witnessing – will ensure national health systems are able to respond quickly and effectively to an epidemic before its metamorphosis into a global, all-consuming pandemic.

5. Paving the way for safe exit strategies

In the future, a medical drone logistics service may present the government with an effective exit strategy to contain and mitigate the risks associated with a relaxation of isolation and social distancing measures. The deployment of this medical drone logistics network to transport COVID-19 vaccines, when they become available, offers the national government a sophisticated and relatively simple method to systematically eradicate the possibility of the virus re-emerging within the national population. This is due to the expansive geographical reach of the aviation systems to target, service, and facilitate the treatment of a large and varied population base, Moreover, the unlimited flying capacity of the drone networks to transport vaccines, per day, also ensures the exit strategy is deployed quickly, with time lags and disproportionate health outcomes eliminated within different geographical regions of the country.

Medical drone logistics networks need to be integrated into planned health responses. As our experience in Malawi, the DRC and Australia have shown, the international community, “should be able to preplan how drones will be used during disease outbreaks and make appropriate investments rather than relying on ad-hoc experimentation”. In the context of a pandemic, drones will alleviate the undue pressure placed on health systems to respond, deliver, treat and provide the essential supplies for its citizens. The Swoop Aero aeromedical logistics solution remains cost-effective, viable, and proven to deliver.