Eswatini launches full medical drone operation

Remember in December when we reported that the government of Eswatini, in collaboration with the Luke Commission, had joined the medical delivery drone bandwagon and was feeling its way around how the drones could enhance healthcare delivery in the country?

Clearly the trial period worked a trick and the Southern African government loved the drones; because last week, a full medical drone operation was launched from the Luke Commission’s Miracle Campus in Sidvokodvo, a small two of about 2,000 people in central Eswatini, south of Manzini.

“What a historic day as people from all corners of the Kingdom gathered at The Luke Commission’s Miracle Campus in Sidvokodvo to witness the launch of Eswatini’s first drone network, which (Lizzy Nkosi) the Honourable Minister of Health named the Nkwe Drone Network in his speech,” the faith-based healthcare non-profit said.

“The event was graced by the presence of the Honourable Minister of Health, members of the diplomatic corps, parliamentarians and many other joyous spectators. Thank you for your partnership as we collaborate together to take Eswatini to new heights.

“Thanks to our partners UPS, The UPS Foundation, Eswatini Civil Aviation Authority (ESWACAA), Swoop Aero, USAID, USAID Eswatini, USAID South Africa, Red Lightning, Ministry of Health, Eswatini Government, and Luvelo Digital Solutions.”

Australian drone logistics company Swoop Aero will be the drone partner for the project, which is considered to mark a significant advancement in Eswatini’s healthcare delivery system.

Landlocked Eswatini has long standing healthcare challenges, particularly in rural areas where the Luke Commission has been working hard to alleviate these challenges in the past twenty years; providing comprehensive healthcare to underserved communities.

Now these initiatives are set to go faster with the integration of Swoop Aero’s Kites drones into TLC’s medical delivery network. The Kite boasts a flight range of 175 kilometres at speeds that can reach 122 km/hour.

The drones can transport payloads of up to four kilograms from the centrally located Miracle Campus to any point in Eswatini in less than 45 minutes.

This capability significantly reduces delivery times for critical medical supplies such as medications, vaccines, blood units, and lab samples.

“Today we witnessed the launch of a drone network at The Luke Commission, which is aimed at providing much needed solutions on issues of medical service delivery costs,” said Simon Kutibiwa, Director Flight Safety and Standards at Eswatini Civil Aviation Authority (ESWACAA).

“The intervention, by embracing tech innovation, is aimed at improving access to health services, and achieve required efficiencies in health delivery services in particular supply chain logistics of critical and life-saving medical products such as blood, snake antivenom and other value chain medical products.

“The embracing of technological innovation by use of drones brings so much value and hope to the less privileged in remote areas of the Kingdom and assurance of access to health services without limitation on vital and life-saving drugs.

“For us as ESWACAA, the stakeholder from a safety and regulatory position, we are proud to have walked the certification route with The Luke Commission, which was issued with the appropriate certificates after complying with the Civil Aviation Act and safety requirements.

“I applaud The Luke Commission and its partners, especially Government, in coming up with the life-saving tech savvy drone network. The drone network ushers in a world of better possibilities and options for our people whose aspirations for good health is on the shoulders of all us who must come together and bring those hopes and dreams to reality.”

The commission reiterated that the integration of drones into its operations aims to bridge last-mile gaps in the healthcare supply chain, complemented by Luvelo, TLC’s digital ecosystem designed to enhance supply chain efficiency and ensure timely delivery of essential medical items. The drone program is staffed by local pilots and ground crew.


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