Online database for medical drones launched

Seattle, WASHINGTON – Remember a while ago when drone manufacturer DJI launched its interactive map, where it wants to keep track with instances where drones were instrumental in saving lives; like rescuing people from a fire, saving troubled souls with harbouring suicidal thoughts from themselves; and finding missing persons?

We have another map just like that now on the internet, but this one is for drones involved in health service delivery.

The Unmanned Aerial Vehicles for Payload Delivery Working Group (UPDWG) – a global community of stakeholders interested in the development, advancement and application of drones for use in public health and supply chain systems – has launched the world’s first database of drones for health operations.

The Medical Drone Delivery Database (MD3) is a free-access platform that provides users with detailed information on drone operations in health delivery – like the map plotting where the operations took place, which organisations were involved, what type of health delivery project they were involved in, whether the operations are still going or if they were completed, among other details.

It works just like DJI’s interactive map showing places where drones where involved life saving situations across the world.

This means that if a user visits this map, they will tear drops dotted around, plotting drone operations like Zipline in Rwanda and Ghana; Wingcopter in Malawi, Tanzania and Germany; Swoop Aero in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Mozambique; and Aurora Aerial in Canada. These companies have racked in thousands of kilometres, delivering emergency medical supplies and crucial COVID-19 implements to remote areas in the countries they operate in.  

According to the UPDWG, the aim is to inform future drone operations, identify potential partners and donors, and share experiences on the impact of drones on health care access.

“The health and development sector are the global pacesetters when it comes to drone delivery, but little has been publicly shared on the efficacy of operations,” UPDWG Coordinator Gabriella Ailstock said. “In response to this, UPDWG, in partnership with VillageReach, and with support from the Interagency Supply Chain Group (ISG) UAS Coordinating body, created the MD3 to share invaluable data that can accelerate the use of drones for health around the world.”

VillageReach is an American non-profit organisation that works with governments to solve health care delivery challenges in underserved communities. Headquartered in Seattle, Washington, the organisation has countries offices in Mozambique, Malawi, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Africa. Its approach includes developing, testing, implementing, and scaling new systems, technologies and programs that improve health outcomes by extending the reach and enhancing the quality of health care; through initiatives like improving supply chain and logistics, information and communication technology, human resources for health, private sector engagement, and advocacy.

The Interagency Supply Chain Group’s Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) Coordinating Body (ISG UAS) meanwhile, is a collective of eleven international organisations and donors, which convene stakeholders in the drone and global health space to align and coordinate drone investments for payload delivery in low- and middle-income countries. Through this coordination, ISG UAS aims to better understand the potential of drone technology in global health, where to focus investments in the near- and long-term, and how to better leverage each other’s work to continue this knowledge base and ensure the investments are cost-effective and sustainable.

As of now, the online database has consolidated data from over 40,000 drone flights across fourteen countries, into the interactive world map. The UPDWG is accepting new data submissions on a rolling basis, so any drone company, non-profit organisation, government, donor or researcher who has completed at least one drone flight for health product transport can be included in the MD3.

If you wish to explore the database or have your project included, you can do that here


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