Swoop Aero has announced it has returned to DR Congo with its drones to help in the fight against COVID, Ebola, and other diseases. The team will once again return to the Northwestern province of the Equator in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Back in mid-2019, Swoop Aero began working with the government of DR Congo and VillageReach to begin delivering vaccines to remote villages using drones. 50 flights spanning over 2000 kilometers (~ miles) were able to deliver 25kg of immunization products, medicines, and medical supplies within five days of being operational.
Drone operations in the area were set to expand in March of this year just as COVID was starting to shut down the world. COVID resulted in a travel ban on Australian, including those that work at the Melbourne based Swoop Aero. After months of delay, the team has finally been able to get travel exemptions to head over to DR Congo to resume drone deliveries before the end of October.
Something Swoop Aero has done from the beginning is to train local pilots to fly the drones, rather than the remote pilots based in Australia currently. This would mean if another global pandemic hit, the drones don’t have to rely on international pilots.
Eric Peck, CEO and co-founder of Swoop Aero said:
“In times such as these, it is important to lead from the front. The COVID-19 pandemic has been an extremely difficult period for everyone and has magnified the importance of quality health systems and primary healthcare. Since its founding, Swoop Aero has sought to transform global health for the better and we have not let the pandemic quash our mission to assist the DRC Ministry of Health to curb the resurgent spike in infectious diseases and strengthen the local health supply chain through the integration of sustainable medical drone logistic.”
Josh Tepper, CTO and co-founder of Swoop Aero followed with:
“The service we are deploying is a full platform, to provide the complete technology infrastructure to enable drone logistics. The platform is designed and manufactured in Melbourne and is one of a kind in the world. 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.”
Swoop Aero isn’t new to drone medical deliveries. They have been working with remote villages in Africa to deliver blood samples to hospitals, helping with the fight against measles, tuberculosis, and HIV, among other tasks. Since February, the company’s fleet size has doubled to keep up with the previous demand, and it will continue to grow.
Swoop Aero’s drones can complete round trips of around 260 km (162 miles) and can carry up to 10 test kits or up to 50 vials of blood. The drones have a wingspan of 2.4m (nearly 8 feet) and are required to fly below 122m (about 400 feet) to ensure they don’t collide with manned aircraft. The flights cost around AU$10 to $15 (US$6.45 to $9.67), which is significantly cheaper than manned transport over such a large distance.
Photo: Swoop Aero