UNICEF, along with the Malawi government have begun testing the use of drones, or unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV), for possible humanitarian uses. With the help of the Malawi government, UNICEF has set up an air corridor for testing purposes.
This is the first air corridor for drone testing ever set up in Africa, according to Unmanned Aerial. The corridor is located in central Malawi on the Kasungu Aerodrome. It has a 40-kilometer radius and will open up opportunities for universities, private flyers, and other partners test drones capabilities and how they may be used to deliver services to communities in need quicker than standard assistance plans.
Malawi’s minister of transport and public works, Jappie Mhango, stated that drones are already a part of the country’s flood response, and they see to potential they offer, including medical supply delivery to rural areas.
Testing will include analyzing images from the drones. This could help in times of floods or earthquakes to develop evacuation plans. Using the UAVs to increase the range of cellphones and Wi-Fi were coverage is limited or nonexistent, specifically in a time of crises, will be looked at. Finally, using drones to deliver small, lightweight supplies, such as vaccines, lab samples, or emergency medicine or supplies.
The testing corridor will last until June 2018. According to UNICEF, already, a dozen companies, non-government groups, and universities have applied for time in the corridor for testing.
Christopher Fabian, UNICEF’s office of global innovation principal advisor, stated that the testing should greatly improve UNICEF’s ability to reach needy children in areas most of the world do not know exist. It is an exciting time to see these testers come together to help the people who need the help more than anyone.
In 2016, a pilot project in Malawi looked at the potential for using the devices in country in various ways. Now with the UAV testing they get closer to testing blood samples for HIV easier, and providing needed initial data to potentially save hundreds of thousands of lives.
UNICEF has already used drones to support the Malawi government during flooding, using the aerial footage to help affected families faster. UNICEF is also hoping that the drones can be used to assist with search and rescue missions in the area
By Cletus Dillwood
Photo Courtesy UNICEF