Eswatini’s first long-range medical drone network takes to the skies

The Luke Commission (TLC), a nonprofit providing free healthcare in the Kingdom of Eswatini in southern Africa, has launched the country’s first long-range medical drone network in partnership with Swoop Aero, an Australian-based drone company and Red Lightning, a disaster response organisation.

Inspired by a prototype flying car he had seen as a boy, Luke VanderWal, son of TLC co-founders Harry and Echo VanderWal, saw how such an innovation might be able to help provide healthcare to remote populations. Over the last five years, the TLC team has carried out intensive research and development to add drones as part of the solution to equitable access to healthcare for all.

This culminated on June 14 with the launch of Eswatini’s first medical drone network. This network, based at TLC’s Miracle Campus in Sidvokodvo, also builds on two decades of work by TLC to establish a robust supply chain for its healthcare network.

Serving 300,000 patients annually, TLC sees firsthand the tragic implications of gaps in the national supply chain for health. The new drone network integrates with Luvelo, an innovative digital ecosystem piloted by TLC, to close these last-mile gaps, bringing high-value commodities, medications, cold-chain items, vaccines, blood units, lab samples and other urgently needed items to patients and healthcare workers across Eswatini.

The Eswatini drone network uses Swoop Aero’s KITE drone, with a range of 175 km and a cruising speed of 122 km/h, which swiftly allows the transport of a 4 kg payload from the centrally located Miracle Campus to any point in Eswatini in less than 45 minutes. Powered by rechargeable batteries, the KITE’s two-way capability enables reverse logistics for lab samples from distant health facilities to the Miracle Campus, decreases supply chain costs for fuel and minimises environmental impacts.

The drone program is staffed by local pilots and ground crew. Five Emaswati have already been trained as pilots, ensuring that this transformative technology is managed by Emaswati, for Emaswati.

TLC has worked closely with Eswatini Civil Aviation Authority (ESWCAA) to meet all regulatory requirements.

“We are grateful to the UPS Foundation, Swoop Aero, Red Lightning and ESWACAA for making this launch possible,” said Echo VanderWal. “Their partnership has moved us forward in our vision to end the isolation of underserved communities to quality healthcare.”

TLC is actively engaging the Ministry of Health and local partners to utilise this four-drone network to save lives and to solidify Eswatini as a leader in innovative healthcare solutions.

For more information

The Luke Commission

Share this:
D-Fend advert. Click for website