Where We Work | Program
Drones for Health in the DRC
Routine drone delivery operations reach remote communities in the Équateur province, ensuring fast turnaround transport of lifesaving vaccines, medicines, and other health products.
In late 2018 VillageReach began working with the Government of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance to investigate the use of drones for vaccine delivery in Equateur province. Equateur is a large province in DRC, with many remote and hard-to-reach health facilities that have no mobile or internet access. Between unpaved roads, dense forests, the Congo River and many other bodies of water, getting life-saving health products to many communities is a constant challenge. After successfully conducting test flights in 2019, the Equateur province health department launched routine drone deliveries with Swoop Aero and VillageReach in January 2021.
Drones in DRC. (Photo Credit: Henry Sempangi Sanyulye)
How It Works
- As of 30 December 2021, a fleet of several drones is flying following pre-approved routes over 37,000 sq km 5 days a week.
- Each drone can travel up to 130 km carrying 3 kg (6.6 lb) /5212 cm3, averaging more than 100 km/hour.
- In addition to routine monthly vaccine deliveries, drones are being used for on-demand deliveries and vaccination campaigns as well pick-ups of laboratory samples of many infectious diseases and health facility reports.
- In addition to the ongoing Phase 2 program in Equateur province, VillageReach has received funding from UNICEF (USAID) for Ebola preparedness in Equateur, focusing on lab sample pick-ups by drones from remote communities. VillageReach also received funding from UNICEF (Gavi) to work with the national EPI in conducting a feasibility study and designing a drone network in two provinces: Kongo Central and Kinshasa.
Drones for Health: Speeding up Lab Sample Transport – ASLM Conference (Dec 2023)
Lessons learned in the transportation of healthcare products by drones
Endline performance and cost evaluation of medical drone deliveries in Equateur, DRC: November 2022
Drones for Health: Boosting Access to Lifesaving Products
Demonstrating the Potential of Drones for Vaccine Transport to Remote Communities
Insights Before Flights: How Community Perceptions Can Make or Break Medical Drone Deliveries
How to select a drone service provider
Integrating Drones into the Health Supply Chain in DR Congo
Integrating Drones into Immunization Supply Chains: DRC Case Study
Introducing Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) for Vaccine Transport in the DRC
Phase 2 Equateur Drone Program Results*
- The DRC Ministry of Health and the National Drones for Health Commission,
- The Governor of Equateur and the Provincial Drones Working Group
- DRC Civil Aviation Authority
- Ministry of Interior and Security
- Swoop Aero
- Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance
- Crown Family Philanthropies
- Cartier Philanthropy
- Patrick J. McGovern Foundation
- Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation
Related Global Impact
See the latest updates from our work to improve access to quality healthcare in the world’s most underserved communities.