RigiTech, Flying Labs in bid to kickstart medical drone logistics in Senegal
Foundiougne, SENEGAL – Swiss delivery drone logistics company RigiTech are serious about stamping their footprint on the African aerial delivery space for a long time to come.
In the month that they were conducting demonstrations for the healthcare logistics sector in South Africa, the company was already going one better in Senegal: along with international non-governmental organisation PATH, RigiTech successfully carried out long range medical drone delivery operations in the rural region of Foundiougne.
PATH has been in Senegal for the past nineteen years, helping the government, health care workers, private sector companies, and other stakeholders to strengthen health systems and improve health equity across the country. Together, the health stakeholders have succeeded in improving abilities to detect and respond to disease outbreaks; and establishing stronger supply chains for vaccines and medicines.
And in RigiTech, they seem to have stumbled upon a logistics partner who will bridge the transport gap that has been giving them sleepless nights as far as delivering medical supplies in time has been concerned.
“Due to the lack of road access, round trips by boat between Foundiougne and Djirnda (28km) or Diamniadio (15km) take several hours during the dry season and can be completely impracticable during the rainy season, causing a major challenge in access to medical goods,” RigiTech said in a statement.
“The purpose of this operation was to demonstrate the value of medical cargo drones in providing faster and more reliable access to essential healthcare items to remote and isolated communities in the Saloum Delta. RigiTech’s drone delivery solution, called the AirBridge, allowed for its first-generation drone, the RigiOne, to successfully complete the flights in a safe, fast and reliable manner, flying back and forth between Foundiougne, Diamniadio and Djirnda, covering the distance in less than 15 and 25 minutes respectively.
“Multiple return flights and over 100km were flown, proving the repeatability and reliability of the operation, reducing delivery times from several hours to minutes.”
The company said it was thankful for the fact that PATH had already been on the ground, working with the government for the past two decades, which made it easier to secure support for the pilot tests from civil aviation, local authorities, hospitals, and the community as a whole.
This long-term working relationship looks likely to prove pivotal in Senegal investing in sustainable medical drone logistics, locally led by Senegalese drone operators from Senegal Flying Labs.
“Having Senegal Flying Labs operating the drones alongside RigiTech’s pilots proved the vision of having this technology locally run and sustainably,” RigiTech said. “The young team of Senegalese drone pilots were extremely motivated, competent and knowledgeable on the technology and will help ensure the future of RigiTech’s medical AirBridge in Senegal.”
All operations were conducted under a special beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) permission from Senegalese Civil Aviation Authorities (ANACIM), whose inspectors were present during the operation to certify the safety and reliability of the systems.
“I am moved because I didn’t think it would be possible and I thank God. We pray for the sustainability of this drone project,” said Mme Ndeye Issa Ndiaye, Foundiougne’s first deputy mayor.
For Ndiaye Faly Diop, the chief physician in the district; it is better late than never, as he lamented that in this pandemic period, local health centres have seen patients die whose lives could have been saved had emergency medical supply chains been available.
Perhaps RigiTech and their partners are in luck; the Senegalese government recently awarded a licence to another drone logistics company, Volansi, for BVLOS delivery flights to their clients in their mining sector.