The Ministries of Health & Wellness, Tertiary Education, Research, Science & Technology, United Nations Population Fund and Botswana International University of Science launched the Drones for Health pilot project on Friday 7th May 2021 at the BIUST Campus in Palapye. The event was co-launched by the Minister of Tertiary Education, Research, Science & Technology, Hon. Dr. Douglas Letsholathebe and the Minister of Health and Wellness, Dr. Edwin Dikoloti.
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.
BIUST has a drone project in place which the partners will use to kick-start this initiative. 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. The advent of the COVID-19 pandemic makes innovations like this more urgent and critical than any other time in the history of health care service and delivery.
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 Ministry of Health & Wellness wants to proceed with BIUST’s Commercial Unit.
A strategic partnership
This pilot project is a successful strategic partnership that BIUST continues to forge, BIUST has partnered with a Dutch Drone Engineering Company called Avy to build a drone delivery ecosystem for the delivery of various supplies and commodities including essential drugs, blood and blood products and lab specimens over long distances, this is a clear testimony of BIUST – Driving Change and impacting on the local communities through skills and technology transfer.
Ahead of the launch, there was a successful live demonstration of drones collecting and delivering medicines to nearby villages on the 4th May 2021 at BIUST in Palapye. All events were streamed live on the Ministry of Health and Wellness, Republic of Botswana facebook page.
“This launch marks the culmination of years of the efforts and investments of the past few years and marks a turn point for the health care infrastructure in the region. Not only will the drones improve the national health situation in Botswana; they will change the entire health system,” said Beatrice Mutali, UNFPA country director.
“In this first phase, we aim to demonstrate that drones can indeed contribute to the health care supply chains of Botswana by delivery urgent medical goods to those in need, making medicines more affordable, more available and more accessible,” said Pi, Avy’s founder & CEO.
We had a great couple of weeks working closely with BIUST and the District Health Management Team of Palapye, performing many BVLOS flights to 4 different areas in the region.
The Avy Aera drone proved to be 65% faster than traditional means of getting to some communities!
We made a simulation of three of our flights taking off from the BIUST droneport and flying to different communities in the Palapye region. It’s interactive, so fly right in there, take control of the Avy Aera drone and go beyond (vlos)!