Drones delivering to your doorstep

Technology saving lives
Otis Daniels_Finck
Windhoek • [email protected]

Namibia will most likely start using drones to deliver medicine to remote locations within the next few weeks.

This comes after a world leader in this practice, Australia's Swoop Aero, last year partnered with local telemedicine pioneers Macquarie Medical Care, better known as Dr. MacQ.

According to MacQ founder and entrepreneur, Dr Armid Azadeh, the two businesses fit together thanks to a common goal of bringing medical care closer to people who need it most. We already began talking in May 2021 after they approached us to be able to compete for a tender with regard to so-called last-mile logistics in Namibia,” he said.

Although the tender has already been awarded, the non-governmental company in question does not want to make the announcement yet, as several ministries are involved. However, the end consumer will be the Ministry of Health, he added.

The service will enable health officers to deliver various medicines, blood samples, Covid vaccinations and other supplies to the most remote clinics quicker.

Swoop Aero already operates in Africa, with established subsidiaries in Malawi and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).

In a news release issued in December, Swoop chief executive and co-founder Eric Peck, said their vision is for a world where supply chains can bring emotional and economic prosperity to everyone they serve

“Logistics in healthcare is our bread and butter and we have carefully studied our models of end-to-end service offering from real experience in seven different nations. We are excited to start operations in Namibia and deliver unique life-saving measures, to strengthen the safe hands of healthcare providers and hospitals with our partners,” he said.

Azadeh said the plan is to deploy Swoop's distinctive Kookaburra drones. This model, with the capacity to carry up to 3 kg, had already delivered 25 kg of immunization products, medicines and medical supplies in five days in the DRC through 50 flights over 2 000 km in five days.

Quick, quick

The drone takes off, lands and flies autonomously and uses the Global Positioning System (GPS) and Internet connections.

The partners are currently only awaiting the necessary approval from the Namibian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) and hope to be able to start their first test flights in the first quarter of 2022.

Azadeh is a strong supporter of access to health and medical care and through MacQ, his business has been serving consumers since 2011, especially in tourism where guests and employees far from developed places often need help.

After registration in 2016, the company was able to expand to serve customers in mining, transportation and even in urban areas. Partnership with several local pharmacies in Windhoek and in Swakopmund make it possible for mobile vending machines equipped with the MacQ app to also provide clients with access to medical advice.

“We see that our app is also applicable in urban spaces, and for businesses where employees sometimes have no or too little, medical insurance to obtain medical care,” he said. He hopes MacQ can be rolled out nationwide this year.

“Together with Swoop, I can say that we are really fulfilling our mission, namely to bring health within the reach of everyone.”