Swoop Aero’s Remote Operations Centre

Fresh from having their drone logistics Remote Operations Centre (ROC) approved by the Australian civil aviation authorities, drone logistics company Swoop Aero are aiming to spread their wings further into the world.

The Civil Aviation and Safety Australia (CASA) recently granted approval for the ROC, which allows Swoop Aero to remotely pilot up to five aircraft across three continents beyond visual line-of-sight (BVLOS).

In a statement, the drone company said the ROC – which will be located at the company’s Port Melbourne campus in Victoria – “will permit Swoop Aero to operate like an international airliner, centralising resources in one facility for visibility and network operations efficiency globally. Over the coming months, the ROC can allow Swoop Aero to scale up operations with, much higher ratios of remote pilots to remotely piloted aircraft; specifically, thirty aircraft to one pilot.”

With medical drone logistics operation in a number of African countries, the company is now pursuing to get approval for BVLOS drone logistics back home, in Queensland and Victoria by the end of this year. Pilots will be able to undertake routine and emergency transportation of essential health supplies and marine ecology and surf rescue management.

In this vein, the company is working with Darling Downs Health, a health services provider operating in the darling Downs and South Burnett regions of Queensland, to embark on ground-breaking pilot medical drone programme that will see trials in the delivery of essential medical supplies, test samples and pharmaceuticals between facilities.

“We’re really pushing the edge of medical innovation with this pilot and as far as we know, there isn’t another hospital or health service that is ready to implement a pilot like this or have something already in operation,” said Executive Director of Infrastructure at Darling Downs Health, Dr Paul Clayton.

“We’ve been talking to Swoop Aero for a number of years and to be in a position where we could implement this service by the end of 2022 is an incredible achievement.

The proposed pilot comes after a successful series of demonstrations in Goondiwindi recently which Darling Downs Health staff attended.

Swoop Aero and Darling Downs health hope to get their pilot drone project approved soon

“We envisage utilising the likes of Goondiwindi, Dalby or Chinchilla, Kingaroy and Toowoomba as the hub locations that would then be used to fly different goods to our facilities, be unloaded, or released from the air and return back to base in a very timely manner.”

The two parties have since lodged their application to have their operation approved by the regulator; but while they wait, they will work on fine-tuning the value chain – planning distribution hubs, flight paths and deciding on the frequency of drone deliveries.

Once approved, the Darling Downs operation would be one of many to be integrated into the ROC, whose architecture uses Amazon Web Services (AWS) software.

“To seamlessly scale Swoop Aero’s services globally, the company’s ROC architecture uses Amazon Web Services (AWS), an Amazon.com company,” Swoop Aero said in a statement. “Using AWS, Swoop Aero established application programming interfaces (APIs) with air traffic control and unmanned traffic management (UTM) systems, helping the company’s drones deconflict with each other, other drones, as well as manned aircraft in the vicinity.

“Swoop Aero’s use of AWS also assisted its operations across Africa, specifically in Malawi. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Swoop Aero became the first organisation to remotely pilot an aircraft from Australia to support the continued delivery of health supplies in Malawi in collaboration with the Ministry of Health and Population and NGO partner, VillageReach.”

Having received a shot in the arm with a capital injection of $16 million following a Series B venture capital raise, Swoop Aero is now in a good position to enter into new markets, scale its integrated logistics networks and expand its manufacturing capabilities whilst progressing its operations across Africa.

The latest funding round was led by Australia’s premier deep tech venture capital fund, Main Sequence, with Giant Leap, and In-Q-Tel, a non-profit strategic investor to the US national security community and its allies also joining. Other venture capital funds, Artesian and Folklore Ventures recommitted their funds for the third time; a testament to Swoop Aero continuing on a strong growth trajectory.

Eric Peck

“We’re thrilled to have the support of such exceptional VC funds as we expand our integrated logistics networks across the globe and look to scale these networks to stack and deliver services that will transform how the world moves,” said Eric Peck, CEO of Swoop Aero.

Of the ROC approval, the chief executive said it marked a landmark milestone for the future of drone logistics.

“CASA’s approval to operate drones through the Remote Operations Centre marks a significant milestone for Swoop Aero,” Peck said. “Using AWS increased our scalability and delivery, and the direct support from the AWS team was key to our success over the past two years. As a result, we improved delivery speed, accessibility, availability of health supplies, and patient outcomes.”

Peck added that his company will continue to use the ROC as an educational resource to train and upskill new pilots globally. This training initiative includes working with organisations like the African Drone and Data Academy (ADDA) to recruit and train new crew members to progressively scale up network operations across Malawi, DR Congo, Mozambique, Namibia, and Sierra Leone where Swoop Aero has a footing.

AWS are happy to tag along as software partner.

“We’re pleased to support Swoop Aero as they develop their technology infrastructure and digital twins to operate drone logistics at scale,” said Ben Thurgood, APJ Head of Industry Solutions Architecture at AWS.

“This infrastructure helps Swoop Aero to remotely deliver essential health supplies in safer and more reliable ways. We’re proud to help the team address some of healthcare’s biggest supply chain challenges through evolving drone logistics combined with our cloud capabilities.”

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