Now the first COVID-19 vaccine candidates have been approved by several Medicines Agencies, the world is bracing for the quickest and largest immunization campaign ever. This will pose new distribution challenges, especially in developing countries where healthcare systems are still fragile. Without a doubt according to AerialMetric, Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) will play an important role.
We are currently offering our drone delivery services to the Ministry of Health in Madagascar to support the on-going childhood immunization campaign. Thanks to six of our medical cargo drones, close to 10,000 infants and children living in very hard-to-reach areas have already received the vaccines recommended by WHO against all major life-threatening diseases (BCG, diphtheria, tetanus, polio, measles, etc.).
Previously, because of the rugged terrain conditions and the absence of roads or bridges, vaccines had often to be carried by men for several days. However, in order to retain their efficacy, most of these childhood vaccines require strict temperature control, meaning that even when vaccines reached these children, they were likely ineffective, if not dangerous.
In order to address this challenge, our drone was specially adapted to allow the refrigeration of its precious cargo at temperatures between 2°C and 8°C. In less than an hour, communities as far as 100KM for the take-off point can now receive stocks of vaccines without any cold chain breach. In this particular instance, drones do not not just alleviate supply chain challenges but also improve the safety and efficacy of the national childhood campaign and hence save thousands of children every year.
Thanks to hundreds of successful flights, our cargo drones are being optimized on a daily basis, allowing us to reach unrivaled distances, speeds and altitudes. For the first time in the world, electric drones have crossed 1,100 meters’ (3,300 feet) mountain ranges in order to reach communities that were still completely secluded. A feat that our team was able to achieve thanks to their hard work and intimate knowledge of Madagascar!
Our technology was designed to be portable. It means we can deploy our UAVs quickly and almost anywhere. Below is an example of a mobile take-off from an improvised site close to Tamatave, on the East coast of Madagascar.
In order to increase the frequency of our flights, we have built a new “droneport” that allows us to prepare and fly several drones at the same time.
Our cargo drone is now equipped with a new hybrid rack that allows both parachuting and easy loading/unloading at landing site. This critical innovation facilitates 2-way deliveries, i.e. the additional possibility to bring back unused medicines, vaccines or biological samples on the inbound flight.
This month we were honored to welcome a PSI/Madagascar delegation. They seemed very pleased to meet with our big “birds” and realize first hand their benefits over traditional delivery methods. It indeed took them a full day on a winding track to reach a community that our drone could reach in less than 25 minutes!