Drone corridor in Malawi challenges scepticism towards UAVs across Africa

Drone corridor in Malawi challenges scepticism towards UAVs across Africa

In recent years, the US has vigorously used drones against al-Qaida affiliated groups on the continent, and operates drone bases in some five African countries. However, in parts of Rwanda and Malawi, the buzz of an approaching drone now signals something rather different: the arrival of vital medical supplies.

On 29th June 2017, to the wonderment of local children who congregated nearby, the Malawian government and UNICEF officially launched a drone corridor to trial the use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) for development and aid missions. It is Africa’s first drone corridor, and the first in the world developed specifically to address humanitarian challenges.

“Whenever we flew the drones, hundreds of people would come to watch. They felt they were at the forefront of a new technological innovation,” said Michael Scheibenreif, drone corridor lead at UNICEF Malawi.

With their harsh drone regulations and understandable scepticism, most African countries have been missing out on this growing industry, expected to reach $6bn globally by the end of 2017. The Malawi drone corridor reflects changing attitudes on the continent towards UAVs.

The project will run for at least a year. Thus far, 12 companies, NGOs and universities have applied to fly test missions in the corridor, which covers an area of 5,000km2 and contains 301 schools and 486 health service points.

Tests will explore using UAVs for imaging during disasters, connectivity in problematic terrain and transportation of medical supplies and vaccines. “We believe that this technology will transform healthcare, putting anyone within reach of the medicine they need,” said a spokesperson from robotics company Zipline.

UcanDrone, a Greek firm, is using the corridor to test a single UAV that can transport supplies, perform surveying missions and provide internet access. Swedish company GLOBHE, in collaboration with IBM, is testing drones with artificial intelligence to act as early warning systems in emergencies.

Source: africanbusinessmagazine.com

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One Reply to “Drone corridor in Malawi challenges scepticism towards UAVs across Africa”

  1. Nice. Drones have got plenty of applications in various fields nowadays. A lot of businesses are now investing in this technology for an easy and more responsive customer service also. Thanks for sharing the above information.

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