Medical drone companies converge in Malawi
For the sheer and lone reason that the country is fast becoming the home of the medical drone in Africa, we have to profess our love for Malawi.
Admittedly, it is Rwanda that may lay claim to have kicked off the race for medical drone operations in Africa, when they approved Zipline’s hitherto ground-breaking first blood delivery in the country in 2016 that has since revolutionised medical delivery to rural parts of many countries on the continent.
But it is in Malawi where all medical drone logistics companies – big or small – are welcome.
Perhaps the situation is made easier by the fact that Malawi is also home to the internationally acclaimed African Drone and Data Academy, which is supported by UNICEF, Virginia tech University, Malawi University of Technology, Wingcopter; among other patrons.
Add to that one of the largest drone corridors in the world at Kasungu Aerodrome, and you got yourself one of the most attractive playgrounds for every drone start-up hoping to develop their technology in their chosen industry of operation – be it medical delivery, search and rescue or disaster response.
While the Malawian government has obviously improved healthcare delivery to many rural areas because it has allowed companies like Wingcopter, Swoop Aero and – lately, Jedsy, the drone companies themselves are grateful for the opportunity to help and showcase the solutions medical drones can offer long term to conundrum of delivering medical products to remote areas in Africa.
“The respective governments of the countries Swoop Aero has operated have remained a staunch advocate for the use of drone technology in the provision and delivery of routine and emergency healthcare,” said Madison Jeffrey, the Operations Manager at Swoop Aero.
“The government has been integral to the progressive scaling up of operations in both Malawi and DR Congo respectively as well as influential in supporting the establishment of operations in high resource markets, such as Australia and New Zealand.”
Also working in DR Congo and Mozambique, with their long-term partner VillageReach, a NGO dedicated to healthcare provision to the underprivileged in the Global South, Swoop Aero is an Australian drone-powered logistics company founded in 2017 to transform how the world moves by making access to the skies seamless.
The company integrates drone logistics into the first and last mile of the supply chain to transform its strength and agility, and where they are not able to deliver that service themselves, they offer their technology platform selectively to organisations across the globe to take further the reach of drone logistics.
The ultimate goal, Swoop Aero says, is to provide a service accessible by one billion people by 2030, delivering impact across industries including health, transport, disaster management, and Search and Rescue.
That is why cooperation with various governments has been very important in expediting healthcare delivery to the people that need it most.
“Swoop Aero continues to expand the scale, reach and impact of the technology across Africa, with operations launching in Sierra Leone, Namibia and Kenya in the coming months (and also) with a number of public and private partners, including UAVAid, UNICEF, and Macquarie Medical.
“Swoop Aero is always on the lookout for new opportunities in the African region, with impact-driven partners to drive forward the mission and vision of the organisation; to provide sustainable and scalable drone logistics to 100 million people by 2025, and one billion people by 2030.”
Which would explain why, since its founding in 2017, Swoop Aero has been raking up partnerships in health provision, working with some of the largest organisations in global health across three continents, which include UNICEF, the Gates Foundation, UK Aid, USAID, and Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance.
Besides, there are other benefits to opening your country’s doors to new technology; employment and technology being just two of many. In a country that is predominantly reliant on agriculture as its main economic activity, a lot of youths have started careers in robotics and drone technology, and this has been thanks to the presence of drone companies in Malawi, which have worked to convince the young ones that drone technology can be an industry from which one can make a decent living.
As Madi explains; “In every country, the network is operational, Swoop Aero trains, recruits and employs local team members to manage and run daily operations. These teams members are upskilled in a new technology and trained in aviation-based processes to facilitate the seamless operation and sustainment of the technology-based platform.
“Throughout this period, Swoop Aero has worked with organisations, such as ADDA, to leverage the skills, experience and knowledge of individuals in country to exponentially scale up the Swoop Aero networks across Africa.
“Over the coming months, Swoop Aero is establishing a headquarters in Malawi to rapidly expand the scale and development of training and educational tools to support African-based operations, leveraging the best talent across the region to spur the manufacturing, production and implementation of the technology-based platform across the region.”
Jedsy has been recruiting new staff with drone skills too, as they set up operations in the country, and they have insisted on taking a look at local talent options to spearhead their inaugural bow as a viable option for medical drone logistics.
Which is all to the benefit of the fledgling drone industry in Malawi, as well as the country’s healthcare plans for citizens far removed from good roads and good hospitals.
“The provision and delivery of routine and emergency healthcare has been identified as the most immediate use-case for drone technology, to bridge the gap in access for last mile communities,” Madi says.
“Yet, with the introduction of Swoop Aero’s most advanced drone yet, the Kite (a new drone model introduced in August last year), the multifunctionality of the technology-based platform is expected to increase the number of areas drone technology will yield immense value to, including, search and rescue operations, emergency and disaster preparedness activities, aerial mapping and delivery of perishable items to communities cut off by flooding or natural disaster.”