DHL has completed testing of “Deliver Future,” its pilot project to transport medicine using an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) to Ukerewe Island in East Africa’s Lake Victoria.
Over a six-month period, the fixed-wing “DHL Parcelcopter 4.0” (pictured), which utilizes German drone manufacturer Wingcopter’s tilt-rotor technology, successfully flew a 37-mile route to an Ukerewe Island in Africa’s largest lake, nestled between Uganda, Tanzania and Kenya.
Residents of the Tanzanian island suffer from treatable water-borne illnesses, such as cholera, dysentery and typhoid, because of the logistical difficulty of getting medicine to the remote island in time to treat patients.
Transportation of medicine via the land-and-lake-ferry route requires around six hours, making it “nearly impossible to provide emergency medication or to quickly refill cool-chain commodities that are out of stock,” DHL said.
Obstacles like lack of infrastructure – e.g., runways for airplanes – and the threat of heat spoiling temperature-sensitive products, often prevent citizens from receiving life-saving medicine in parts of Africa. Drones are an ideal solution to such problems for their ability to take off and land vertically, almost anywhere, and their fast delivery time.
Once the cargo is delivered, the drone can then be loaded with blood and laboratory samples to take back to the mainland.