New era for medical deliveries in Sierra Leone

An Australian drone logistics company has entered into a strategic partnership with a UK-based humanitarian drone organisation for air logistics services in Sierra Leone.

Based in Port Melbourne in Victoria, Australia, Swoop Aero is an unmanned aviation company that develops medical drone delivery systems for its clients. They have plenty of experience working the African skies with their drones that are currently flying in countries like the DRC and Malawi.

Their new partner in Sierra Leone is UK-based UAVAid, a developer and operator of specialist unmanned aerial systems specially optimised for humanitarian operations and global social development applications in remote and difficult to reach areas of the developing world.

UAVAid operate a mixed fleet of BVLOS drones, including their proprietary multi-role HANSARD, and VTOL aircraft, which will now be supported by Swoop Aero as their technical partner.

Swoop Aero’s autonomous eVTOL aircraft will be integrated in UAVAid’s mixed-fleet drone offering in Sierra Leone and complement the latter’s long range fixed-wing HANSARD drones.

The news arrives at a time when UAVAid and the Sierra Leonean government have just celebrated the first ever delivery of medical supplies by drone in the country, which took place a few weeks ago in Moyamba District in the country’s Southern District.

The maiden flight from Rotifunk Village to Mabang MCHP took just thirteen minutes, a journey which, according to the Sierra Leone Directorate of Science Technology & Innovation (DSTI), normally takes 2 hours using road transport. 

The DSTI were UAVAid’s collaborating partner in this, the Medical Drone Delivery Project (MDDP), designed with the aim to improve access to medicines for people in remote parts of Sierra Leone.  The delivery was conducted to test and demonstrate the use-case of the MDDP at the Mabang Community Health Post in Sierra Leone’s Moyamba District, and was made possible by funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, The Ministry of Health and Sanitation (MoHS), and Crown Agents.

David Manley, the MDDP Project-Lead at DSTI, explained that initially, the MDDP project would focus on improving medicine deliveries to 250 Community Health Centres (CHCs) and hospitals nationwide, with expansion plans to significantly improve access to medicines for communities in remote and hard to reach areas of Sierra Leone.

The UAVAid team in Sierra Leone

“In addition to contributing to the reduction of maternal-related deaths, the use of drones presents the possibility of numerous cross-sectoral use-cases and fosters informed decision-making at the highest levels of government,” Manley said.

As a main partner in this arrangement, UAVAid hopes that their latest deal with Swoop Aero will enhance their operations in Sierra Leone, one of many less developed countries in Africa that are struggling to serve their citizens with basic needs like healthcare.

“As sustainable drone logistics continues to cement its place in low- and middle-income countries, and high resourced markets alike, combining complementary technology opens opportunities to deepen the role of air mobility in supply chains,” said Swoop Aero’s CEO and co-founder Eric Peck.

“Integration is key to solving complex supply chain challenges. That’s why, in all our operations, we ensure our platform seamlessly integrates to generate real impact – be it with adjacent logistics solutions, existing supply chain systems, processes and technology or the local health system and communities.  We are excited to have the agility of the Swoop Aero platform support UAVAid’s service offering in the Sierra Leone market, complimenting the capabilities of their long range fixed-wing Hansard drone.”

James Ronen, UAVAid co-founder, was equally excited at the prospect of working with Swoop Aero in Sierra Leone.

“With market leading safety record and eVTOL capabilities, we are delighted to be able to complement our long-range HANSARD platform, with Swoop Aero’s eVTOL systems in the Sierra Leone market,” Ronen said.

“This partnership brings new and exciting capabilities to our service offering and, by broadening the range of use-cases we can support in this market, we are able to provide solutions to an even wider range of needs experienced by the local population, particularly around medical logistics.  This may include medical sample collection for disease surveillance or improved diagnostic testing.

“With such a good fit of complementary technologies, we look forward to working with Swoop Aero and expanding the scope of collaboration between us in this and other markets.”

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