Wingcopter, Siemens to deliver medical samples in Africa

German drone logistics company Wingcopter will be expanding its medical delivery operations in Africa, after signing a partnership agreement with fellow German medical technology company Siemens Healthineers.

Announced today, the terms of the Memorandum of Understanding will see the two companies introduce integrated drone delivery missions to transport laboratory diagnostics material as well as other medical supplies in Africa. The two-way delivery system will see samples such as blood being transported to laboratory facilities from health centres, while medical supplies, like vaccines and pharmaceuticals move in the other direction.

“The combination of Siemens Healthineers’ Laboratory Diagnostics testing capabilities and Wingcopter’s drone delivery services will provide improved diagnostics and faster treatment,” Wingcopter said in a statement announcing the MOU.

“The solution will adopt the latest in digital technology provided by Siemens Healthineers and Wingcopter from highly automated drone delivery to Laboratory Information Systems which will accurately track and report results directly to the patients.”

“The utilization of Wingcopter’s delivery drones interconnected with Siemens Healthineers’ laboratory diagnostics facilities will allow for quick and automated two-way delivery of samples, medicine and other medical products. The battery-powered drones will be operated by Wingcopter, covering a range of 75km while maintaining the cold chain at all times.

“These sustainable and efficient drone delivery networks will allow for the centralization of sample testing and medical consumables distribution, resulting in improved access to diagnosis, faster turnaround time, increased efficiency and reduction in costs.” 

The actual transportation of the medical implements and samples should be meat and drink for Wingcopter, which has now had a lot of practice, since it started delivering medicines in collaboration with health authorities in Malawi.

Since then, the logistics company has expanded its operations into Asia as well as the Americas.

“We are convinced that we have found the perfect partner for our bold ambitions to improve and save the lives of millions of people on the African continent and beyond,” Tom Plümmer, CEO and Co-founder of Wingcopter said.

“Partnering with Siemens Healthineers will bring us a big step closer to the goal we are working tirelessly towards: to make a real social impact worldwide for those who need it most through fast, reliable and sustainable drone delivery networks in the sky.”

Siemens Healthineers will be responsible for the medical supply side in this partnership. The Erlangen, Germany-headquartered company provides a range of services and solutions to enhance healthcare providers’ ability to provide high-quality, efficient care.

With offices in 70 countries in the world, some of which are in Africa, it also pioneers breakthroughs in healthcare by developing their product and service portfolio, with AI-supported applications and digital offerings that are important for the next generation of medical technology.

These new applications will enhance the company’s foundation in in-vitro diagnostics, image-guided therapy, in-vivo diagnostics, and innovative cancer care.

“At Siemens Healthineers, we are committed to providing access to care for everyone,” said Ole Maloy, Managing Director of Siemens Healthineers Middle East, Southern & Eastern Africa.

“Our partnership with Wingcopter will look to bridge the existing gaps in healthcare infrastructure, providing equitable and affordable access to diagnostic testing and medical supplies.” 

This partnership should be an important step forward in healthcare provision in Africa, which sadly has the majority of people in the world with limited access to essential health services such as timely diagnostic services, according to a report from the World Bank and WHO.

Said Wingcopter; “While accessibility for diagnostic testing will increase, the drone delivery solution will also have a positive impact on the UN Sustainable Development Goals, from access to health, to potential reductions in carbon footprint and the risk of road accidents, to capacity building on drone operations.

“Wingcopter intends to train and upskill local young people, creating jobs and perspectives in the fast-growing drone industry. In doing so, Wingcopter is following the company’s approach in Malawi, where operations are run by an all-local, majority-female crew.”

The company said it would advise later about the exact time and place of the first deployment of drone-based lab sample deliveries. 


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