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Swoop Aero ready for “phase two” of its medical drone program in Congo

Swoop Aero ready for “phase two” of its medical drone program in Congo

Swoop Aero ready to launch “phase two” of its medical drone program in Congo. The Australia-based drone startup will use its drones to join the government in its fight against COVID-19, ebola, and other major diseases.

Swoop Aero ready for “phase two” of its medical drone program in Congo

Swoop Aero chief executive Eric Peck boarded a flight to the Democratic Republic of Congo last Friday to join his team and work with the government of Congo to fight against COVID-19, ebola, and other major diseases.

According to Peck who is a former Air Force pilot, Swoop Aero is ready to launch phase 2 of this aggressive medical drone program.

The Gates Foundation, Patrick J. McGovern Foundation, Gavi the Vaccine Alliance, and Crown Family Philanthropies Foundation have provided funds to establish a medical drone delivery network that covers 8,494 square miles across Congo to serve up to one million people, reports The Australian Business Review.

“This is one of the most challenging parts of the world and it‘s the epicentre of the ebola outbreak in Central Africa,” Peck tells The Australian. “It’s going to be a big implementation, and a big network. We’re going to have local staff who are training at the moment in Malawi, for piloting and aviation roles, and then we’ll be ready to kick off stage three, which is sustained implementation.”

Swoop Aero ready for “phase two” of its medical drone program in Congo

Swoop Aero’s drones will deliver medical supplies to 25 health centers focusing on childhood vaccine deliveries and on emergency transport of laboratory samples for COVID-19 and ebola. The goal of Swoop Aero‘s medical drone program is to improve access to critical medical supplies and tests.

COVID-19 had delayed Swoop Aero’s plans as the Australian government had issued a ban on international travel. The drone startup had initially planned to start phase to in March of 2020 before the pandemic took place.

Over the summer, Swoop Aero conducted tests and proved that their fixed-wing drones could provide a next-gen supply chain solution. The unmanned aircraft flew 55 pounds of immunization products, medicines, and medical supplies to rural health centers in five days, and enabled vaccinations for 470 children in remote areas, Peck says.

The Swoop Aero drone flew 55 pounds of immunization products, medicines, and medical supplies to rural health centers in five days, and enabled vaccinations for 470 children in remote areas. Click To Tweet

It was the success of the trials over the summer that led to the planning of a long-term medical drone program.

“I’ve generally been there for the launch of post of the operations we’ve done to date, and now with COVID-19, it’s created a particularly challenging situation for everyone, but in particular for the companies that rely on that ability to be globally mobile to deploy and to create revenue. And that’s been our bread and butter,” Peck says.

“Ours will be the biggest medical drone logistics network that’s been launched anywhere in the world, this is really big deal for us. For me it was important to be there. One of my philosophies in leadership is to lead by example, and as the CEO I’m sure it would be comfortable to work from the home office and talk to everyone on Slack, but I think it’s important to set the example for everyone and get out there and do the work.”

Swoop Aero’s co-founder and chief technology officer Josh Tepper says their fixed-wing drone platform is designed and manufactured in Melbourne.

“We have proven it is working in the most challenging places in the world. In DRC, large parts of the network will solely rely on satellite only communications, due to lack of mobile phone and internet communications in rural remote areas.”

The first drone flights as part of phase 2 of Swoop Aero‘s medical drone program are scheduled to start in October.

You can read more stories about drones being used for good here.

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