Conflict and war are commonplace around the world and civilians are inevitably trapped in the midst of them. It is gratifying to report that engineering skill, in conjunction with technology, are working to alleviate some of the fall-out for the people caught up in these situations.

This doughty combination of technology and skill is making relief efforts more manageable: getting food, water, and medicine to those regions effected by war. It is also proving remarkably effective in remote areas.

Source: UNICEF

Australian company, Swoop Aero, is using drones specifically built for the betterment of healthcare. The company has been founded for the purpose of ‘redefining healthcare with airborne mobility’.

The company operates an on demand, high speed, autonomous airborne logistics network. And they have proven their usefulness on the Pacific island of Erromango, in Vanuatu.

ABC News was with the Australian company while they delivered vaccines to the island; an island notorious for low vaccination rates for children.

Separately the people of Erromango have been suffering with hepatitis and tuberculosis; vaccines for these maladies have also been successfully deployed by Swoop Aero.

UNICEF comments that Vanuatu’s ‘extreme remoteness’ makes delivery of vaccines, via traditional methods, very difficult. The nation is in fact an archipelago - made up of roughly 80 islands that stretch over 1,300 kilometers.

The United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) chartered the drone flights from Swoop Aero which are perfectly engineered for autonomous vaccine delivery.

On the company’s website Swoop Aero asserts that the drones can navigate the most hard-to-reach areas of the world. They write:

“Inhospitable terrain, unpredictable waterways, mountain ranges, poor infrastructure, traffic congestion, and long distances limit the capabilities of ground transport.”

The drones can travel at 100 kilometers per hour and are powered by batteries.


Unexpected variables

Nurses sometimes hike to reach the villages with the medicines they think the children and adults require. The villagers, however, often move from place to place, making it difficult to estimate the needs of each community. The drones proffer a solution because of their ease of mobility; they are more ably meeting the demands of the villages.

The price of drones has dropped considerably too, despite improvements to the technologies powering them. This drop in cost is making their use more viable in rural and remote villages.

Eric Peck, co-founder of Swoop Aero, told ABC News:

“It’s something that has been around for quite a while now, but we’re at this inflection point where for the first time we are seeing the cost of technology get down to a point where it’s economically efficient to use it.”

The Australian company is officially trialing the drones in Vanuatu and will measure the success of the project on completion. The system appears to be working with the backing of the Vanuatu government, UNICEF and the Australian government.

This is another example of how engineering can shape the world’s landscape for the betterment of humankind.


Works Cited

Dziedzic, Stephen. “A Two-Day Walk for Vaccines Is Now Just 20 Minutes Away with Drone Delivery in Remote Vanuatu.” ABC News, Australian Broadcasting Corporation, 18 Jan. 2019, www.abc.net.au/news/2019-01-19/using-drones-to-deliver-crucial-vaccines-to-remote-vanuatu/10728350.

Peck, Eric. “Vanuatu Uses Drones to Deliver Vaccines to Remote Island: BBC.com.” Swoop Aero, swoop.aero/swoop.aero/vanuatu-uses-drones-to-deliver-vaccines-to-remote-island-bbc-com/.

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