Medical drones: Eswatini enters chat

The Kingdom of Eswatini has entered the drone chat, and will be following the footsteps of other southern African nations like Malawi, Mozambique and Botswana that have established successful drone-based delivery networks.

The network will be established courtesy of The Luke Commission, a healthcare non-profit profit organisation that has been working with government healthcare providers in the country since 2005 to provide free health care to the elderly and poor people in marginalised communities who cannot afford to pay for their own health needs.

“We are thrilled to announce the upcoming launch of Eswatini’s first medical drone network, a partnership of The Luke Commission, Swoop Aero, The UPS Foundation, Red Lightning, and the USAID – US Agency for International Development,” said The Luke Commission in a statement.

“The project represents ongoing collaboration with the Eswatini Ministry of Health and other stakeholders to bring health and development solutions to all Emaswati, and demonstrates what can happen when innovation is supported by both the private sector and government.

“The network features Swoop Aero’s automated, remote pilot aircraft, the Kite, which will be operated by local pilots currently in the final phase of training.

“We are looking forward to the first delivery via the network in 2024.”

The commission added that the partners were working with officials at the Eswatini Civil Aviation Authority (ESWACAA) to iron out the terms of reference with regards to the regulatory process, operation procedures as well as documentation.

Using the Kite drones, the network will transport critical supplies such as vaccines, medicine, blood samples, antivenom and more at a fraction of the time needed to travel by road.

“We’re working with The Luke Commission, UPS Foundation, Red Lightning, and USAID to launch Eswatini’s first medical drone network in 2024,” Swoop Aero confirmed.

“The network is set to strengthen Eswatini’s health supply chain and deliver better patient experiences and outcomes in remote communities across the country through improved availability of medicines and vaccines; faster turnaround for lab samples and test results; and improved response to medical emergencies, including delivery of blood and snake antivenom.

“Our autonomous aircraft Kite and software suite will deliver these critical supplies and services, flying up to 120km on a single battery charge with a 3kg payload.

“The Kite takes-off and lands vertically, enabling two-way transportation and unlocking greater health system efficiency. The aircraft can transport vaccines from Eswatini’s central hospitals to remote clinics, and then transport blood samples on the return journey.”

TLC managing director Echo Vander Wal expressed his gratitude for the cooperation of ESWACAA, acknowledging their professionalism and enthusiasm for improving medical logistics through the innovative drone network.

“We are honoured to continue partnering with the Ministry of Health and other stakeholders to bring health and development innovations to all emaSwati,” Vander Wal said.

He explained that the primary objective of the network is to enhance the last-mile delivery of critical medical supplies, addressing challenges posed by difficult terrain, traffic, or impassable roads.

The drone network is anticipated to provide a range of benefits, such as accelerated access for patients to essential medicines, vaccines, blood, snake anti-venom, and the speeding up of lab samples.

All items transported will be digitally tracked through TLC’s Luvelo digital ecosystem, ensuring accountability, transparency, and efficiency in the supply chain.

It is great welcome to Eswatini to the drones for good family, and we hope their operations brings healthcare to all the people in the country who need it.

We think it is great too, that Swoop Aero is working with a lot of non-profit organisations like the Luke Commission and VillageReach in these countries in southern Africa to being the fast efficiency of drone networks to medical delivery.


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