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Vanuatu: The Start of a Series of Global Firsts

Vanuatu: The Start of a Series of Global Firsts 


This month, Swoop Aero celebrates the 4 year anniversary of Swoop Aero of the inaugural operations conducted by the organization to successfully demonstrate the value of medical drone logistics to support increased availability and accessibility of childhood vaccines to remote the island groupings of Epi and Erromango.

In just 4 years, Swoop Aero has successfully deployed its bi-directional drone logistics solution into 8  countries globally, including Malawi, Mozambique, DR Congo, Australia, New Zealand, the UK, and Europe. A reflection on how far we have come since these first operations in Vanuatu underscores the scale and reach of the organization, specifically, our capacity to achieve the company’s mission of reaching 100 million people with sustainable drone logistics by 2025.

What did we do in Vanuatu?

In 2018, the World Health Organisation estimated that one in five of Vanuatu’s children misses out on their essential childhood vaccines due to the geographical barriers that hinder the availability, accessibility, and quality of essential health supplies.

In Vanuatu, Swoop Aero won two globally competitive tenders to provide bi-directional medical drone logistics to support increased childhood immunization rates across remote island groupings throughout the archipelago.

Swoop Aero worked collaboratively with UNICEF, the Government of Vanuatu, and the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) to undertake Phase 1, or Proof of Concept, operations so as to demonstrate the feasibility of bi-directional drones to transport cold-chain vaccines across large geographical distances.

During our pilot project, Swoop Aero:

  • Conducted 70+ operational flights
  • Delivered 25+ kg of high-value medical supplies
  • Made life-saving emergency deliveries of Oxytocin to mothers suffering from postpartum hemorrhaging
  • Maintained cold chain conditions with a 100% success rate
  • Covered 2,000 km of mountainous terrain
  • Engaged and trained nurses and health staff, covering 25 communities across eight islands

On December 18th, 2018, Swoop Aero became the first commercial organization to transport a vaccine by air. This global feat placed Swoop Aero among the world’s leading drone logistics providers and served as the first of many global innovations that would mark the organization’s operations across Africa and the Pacific.

How we impacted the health system 

Prior to the integration of drones, healthcare workers were required to carry vaccinations in iceboxes across mountainous geographical terrain. These journeys could take up to two days and meant healthcare professionals were unable to provide the necessary care and treatment to their patients.

The integration of drones into the regional health supply chain reduced critical journey times from a number of days to a number of hours and minutes. The integration of drones meant that healthcare professionals could focus exclusively on the provision of care and treatment rather than the procurement of essential health supplies for patients.

Scaling up Swoop Aero’s impact in the Pacific 

Over the next two years, Swoop Aero will scale up the air logistics platform to support improved health outcomes and the wellbeing of island communities throughout the Pacific region, including Vanuatu, Papua New Guinea, and Indonesia.

The need for an agile and responsive mode of transportation has proven necessary in the context of the current COVID-19 pandemic and will continue to play an integral role in future health and climate-induced challenges that are faced by a rapidly growing population.