19/07/2017 – News / Technology / Mobile Vaccination / Drones / UNICEF / Martek Marine / UK
Vaccine delivery via drone could save lives on remote Pacific Ocean islands
While much buzz has been generated around the abundance of commercial possibilities that UAV technology presents across an array of sectors, the humanitarian application of ‘drones-for-good’ is a compelling use case that invariably receives less exposure.
Yet UNICEF and the Vanuatu Government are now seriously exploring the viability of using drones to deliver vaccines across the remote Pacific Ocean nation. Spanning 1,600km, the archipelago of 83 islands (65 of which are inhabited) presents significant logistical challenges for its citizens. Many islands are only accessible by boat and mobile vaccination teams are frequently required to walk to communities carrying all equipment to undertake the vaccination for children and communities in remote areas. The climate, lack of infrastructure and topography make this an arduous task. As a result, Vanuatu faces considerable vaccine supply chain logistical and access challenges, and its health facilities are constantly faced with a frequent lack of stock.
Now, UNICEF and the Vanuatu Government have enlisted the expertise of UK-headquartered Martek Marine to demonstrate their capability for vaccine delivery via drone. Martek will self-fund the trial which will take place on Efate Island from 21-25 August 2017. The aim of the trial is to assess technologies and proven safe operators that can help reduce the vaccine supply chain disruption and enhance service delivery, without requiring massive investment in infrastructure and transport. It will also provide the opportunity to explore and understand the wider application and potential of UAVs in the Pacific region long term.
“The opportunity to deploy our unique capabilities for the good of the people of Vanuatu was an opportunity we had to grasp,” commented Martek’s CEO and co-founder, Paul Luen. “Our proven BVLOS expertise and the manned aviation standards to which we operate our business make us an ideal long-term delivery partner. We are certain we’ll deliver UNICEF and the Vanuatu Government a reliable UAS cargo delivery service to enable long-term deployment at national level.”
Elsewhere, Martek is pioneering the maritime application of UAS services via framework contracts valued at €77million with the European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA) in pollution monitoring and general maritime surveillance.