The trial, which began on 20 October, included 44 flights carrying 6,936 vaccine doses to clinics in remote communities. This included vaccines against tuberculosis, polio, diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis (whooping cough), Hib (haemophilus influenzae type b), and hepatitis B.
Following the success of the trial, the medical drone network will double in size, and will run for an additional 90 days from early 2024.
The drone project was funded by Red Lightning, a non-profit organization, and operated by Kenya-based logistics firm Freight in Time Group and the Information Network Security Agency of Ethiopia (INSA) government agency.
The scheme employed Swoop Aero’s automated Kite drone – which is capable of flying up to 120km with a 3kg payload. To expand the network further, the partners established a battery swap location, extending their trial route’s reach to 240km from the distribution hub.
The Ethiopian Pharmaceutical Supply Service (EPSS), a sub-agency of the Ethiopian Ministry of Health, supported the endeavor by serving as a coordination and supply hub for clinic orders – loading the drones with the required medical supplies.
Swoop Aero also recently announced that it would also work with Red Lightning, alongside the Luke Commission, the UPS Foundation, and USAID, to establish the first medical drone network in Eswatini in 2024.
The company also previously received funding from the Australian government to expand its operations in Queensland in December 2022.