Botswana health ministry launches pilot drone programme to deliver medical products

Botswana’s Ministry of Health and Wellness, in partnership with the Botswana International University of Science and Technology (BIUST) and Netherlands’ drone logistics company Avy, has launched a drone delivery pilot programme according to a report by Drones R Africa.

Avy is providing the drones and associated technology. Capable of carrying a payload of 2,2 kg, the company’s fixed wing drones can fly for more than 70 kilometres beyond the visual line of sight.

The project is supported and funded by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), who had been working with the university and Avy to perfect the delivery system in preparation for the launch last week.

Ahead of the launch, a demonstration flight was held, when Avy’s drone, draped in the colours of the Batswana flag, successfully flew out of the BIUST Drones to a health centre eighteen kilometres away.

In the coming years, the partners are hoping to use drone technology to deliver medicines and specimen across hundreds of kilometres covering especially the rural parts of the country, and for a whole range of medical supplies, just like Rwanda did. The interest of UNFPA will be to make sure that medical supplies are availed to drive down the maternal mortality rate.

“The Drones for Health Initiative is a pilot project, which will run for the first few years with assessment, after which a decision for a nationwide rollout will be taken,” BIUST said in a statement. “For this pilot, the areas targeted are Lecheng, Mokgware, Mogapi and Moremi. However, the project will widen its scope depending on the circumstances and the dictates on when and how the Ministry of Heath and Wellness wants to proceed with BIUST’s Commercial Unit.

“The Drones for Health Project aims to accelerate reduction of preventable maternal deaths by delivering maternal health supplies and commodities including essential emergency obstetric care drugs, blood and blood products and laboratory specimen in a timely manner to communities and health facilities that are hard to reach. Drones will be more efficient, faster and cost effective when used to deliver medical consignments compared to vehicles and other modes of transportation.”

(Image: Avy)

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