In Malawi, we are conducting a study on the use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to transport blood products and uterotonic drugs. The study investigates the quality of the blood and oxytocin samples flown by UAV; the costs and benefits; safety concerns as well as community and stakeholder perceptions related to UAV utilization for transportation of blood and other health commodities; and will result in the development a long-term business case for the integration of UAVs into the medical transport system.  Other activities under the UAS program in Malawi include exploring best use cases, thinking about the system design, and how best to develop long-term solutions. VillageReach is also contributing to the development of a toolkit for UAV implementors and operators in partnership with Civil Aviation of Malawi, UNICEF Malawi, and other local partners. The toolkit, built upon existing knowledge and lessons learned in-country, intents to help accelerate future UAV implementation in Malawi. Specific objectives of our work in Malawi include:

  • Demonstrate repeated safe transport of a 2kg payload between blood distribution centers and hard-to-reach rural health facilities
  • Test blood quality in order to document any safety concerns associated with movement of blood by UAV
  • Test temperature history of packaging during flight for uterotonic drugs.
  • Document costs, time comparison, and benefits of a UAV supported blood transport system and uterotonic drugs for emergency cases as compared to the current blood and uterotonic drugs transport system
  • Assess staff and community knowledge and attitudes towards UAV use.
  • Continue to identify best use cases in country and develop system of integrating into the supply chain system taking into account the following:
    • Finances
    • Operations
    • Policies
    • Capacity building
    • Technology developments
  • Engage stakeholders and develop long-term government, stakeholder, and private sector solutions for UAVs for health
  • Post testing, work with government to move into long term implementation

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