TechInPacific – Drones carrying vaccines and medicine to remote 39 remote areas of Vanuatu were in a world-first trial December last year. They have the potential to improve healthcare in the underserved and isolated areas in the Pacific region.
It was a collaborative project between the Vanuatuan Government with two commercial drone companies. Under the contract, drones from those companies will deliver vaccines to isolated villages which can take days to take by car, boat, or foot.
UNICEF played a role in setting up the drones trails and said that it had huge potential in the Pacific region as well as rest of the world. As in Vanuatu, only one-third of the country is accessible by air and road resulting in the difficulty in delivering healthcare services. Therefore, this drones delivery become vital for the country.
According to Field Officer of UNICEF, Andrew Parker, vaccines were chosen for drone delivery because they are expensive medicine and difficult to transport safely as it has to remain in the stable temperature (around two to eight degrees).
Parker added that vaccines coverage have increases 10% for the past five years (from 75% to 85%). And hopefully with the drones, the vaccine coverage can hit 95%.
“To go from 85% to 95% using the existing options is just not feasible. You would throw a huge amount of money at that extra 10%. That’s where drones come in,” said Parker cited from The Guardian.
He continued, “There’s a lot we don’t know yet – will they fly reliably, will they land where we want them to land, will the population accept them or will they be taken out of the air by young boys with catapults?”
According to Eric Peck from Swoop Aero, an Australian drone company in the contract, said that the drones would make two deliveries per day with the ability to carry around 2.5kg supplies and fly distances up to 100km.
Peck said, “Our service will allow a health worker in a village to send us a text message and we can respond on demand, and sent the correct number of vaccines directly and in most cases we can be there in under an hour.”