In this first post, we unveil how AerialMetric became one of the world leading manufacturers of medical cargo drones!
Behind AerialMetric, there is a true pioneer – Stéphane Bihr – an engineer from a prestigious French “Grande Ecole” who has lived in Madagascar for 27 years.
Stéphane has always been passionate about aviation and the making of model aircrafts – he was building drones literally in his garage well before the first DJI drone was launched in 2013. Stéphane started to develop small fixed-wing and then larger multirotor drones to offer a cheaper ‘data capture’ alternative to the use of real aircrafts in Madagascar.
That’s how, more than 12 years ago now, Stéphane decided to set up AerialMetric as one of the first companies in the world providing Surveying & Mapping services by drone.
In 2015, Stéphane met with Pierre-Loup Lesage, the Country Director of Population Services International (PSI) (a large public health NGO), and together they discussed the recurring challenges faced by PSI when trying to distribute their health products (medicines, vaccines, contraceptives, water treatment solutions, etc.) in rural and hard-to-reach areas of Madagascar. The revolutionary idea of making a medical cargo drone was born!
With support from USAID, AerialMetric partnered with PSI and started to reflect on the design of a drone capable of transporting the health products distributed by the NGO across the island. In order to better understand the drone market, PSI and AerialMetric decided to visit a number of drone manufacturers in Europe, including a secret group working for the Ukrainian army!
At the time, the existing cargo drones on the market were expensive, difficult to operate and had very limited capabilities. AerialMetric therefore decided to go back to drawing board and design in-house and from scratch a prototype capable of doing the job for PSI.
Several years later, our technology has much evolved.
Equipped with a rack and/or with 2 capsules attached under the wings, our drone can carry up to 10KG of health products in 17L (12 in the rack + 5 in the 2 capsules) in volume in total. Depending on the payload and the wind, it can cover up to 300KM at up to 150KM/H.
AerialMetric already serves just over 300 public health facilities and community supply points across Northern Madagascar, a highly mountainous region where heavy rains and high winds are very common. To date, close to 500 deliveries have been successfully completed using the drone’s parachute delivery system.
To support the ongoing immunization campaign led by the Malagasy Ministry of Health, AerialMetric uses a dedicated refrigerated cargo box (between 2°C and 8°C) to safely store vaccines during transportation.
To meet increasing demand from a growing number of health facilities, Stéphane and team have started to conduct simultaneous flights, allowing for 6 drones to carry out deliveries at the same time.
Starting in January 2020, Aerial Metric will offer 2-way deliveries by enabling autonomous landings at health facilities. This means that outbound flights can carry medicines to health facilities while inbound flights can carry patient samples back, or any other type of cargo that may need to be transported back.