The problem of healthcare access is one that governments and NGOs the world over have been trying to solve for decades. In many places, delivery by car is too slow, by helicopter too expensive. Now, in Botswana, a potential solution is being tested.
The Drones for Health project is a collaboration between the country’s Ministry of Health and Wellness, the Botswana International University of Science and Technology (BIUST), the United Nations Population Fund, and Dutch drone company Avy. Launched in May of this year at the BIUST campus in Palapye, the pilot project aims to demonstrate how drones can expedite delivery of essential and emergency medical supplies to far-flung communities.
Delivery times reduced by 65 per cent
Initially operating between the towns of Lecheng, Mokgware, Moremi and Mogapi in eastern Botswana, the project will run for several years before the decision on country-wide deployment is made. The results are already promising, with delivery times reduced by up to 65 per cent in some instances, compared with traditional access.
It’s a field in which Avy has considerable experience. Driven by an ethos of using drones for good, the company offers a fully integrated drone service to the medical and emergency services industries. In partnership with the Dutch Medical Drone Service, Avy has been testing pick-up and transport of medical supplies in the Netherlands for some time. Its flagship drone, the fixed-wing Avy Aera, has a wingspan of 2.4m, can cover 60km at 74km/h, and can carry payloads of up to 1.5kg.
For a drone designed to transport precious payloads quickly and safely, Avy chose to fit the Aera with the LightWare SF20/C LiDAR sensor. LiDAR – light detection and ranging – works by pulsing lasers at landscapes and objects, then measuring the time it takes for the light to bounce back to gauge their distance from the scanner. In drone applications, this technology enables precision take-off and landing, altimetry and height-above-ground monitoring. Crucially, the SF20/C can provide these functions without impacting the drone’s battery, thus allowing for maximum flight time.
Drones are being used to save lives all over the world. Russian IT company Radar MMS has unveiled a UAV that it says can save people drowning after a ship accident or a helicopter crash on water.