Swoop Aero, VillageReach, Mozambique Civil Aviation Authority and Amovant after successful test flights, March 2020. Photo credit: VillageReach.
The Drones for Health program in Mozambique is a collaboration with the Mozambique Ministry of Health and the Instituto Nacional de Saúde (INS), Mozambique’s National Health Institute. Funded by UK Aid, initially through Frontier Technology Livestreaming (FTL), this program aims to identify how drones can strengthen the existing laboratory sample transportation system to improve the availability, accessibility, and responsiveness of health services in hard-to-reach areas.
In 2019, VillageReach conducted a community perceptions study and developed a drone lab study protocol with INS that was approved by the National Bioethics Committee.
That same year, Swoop Aero, a medical drone logistics provider, was selected by the Mozambique government through a competitive, global request for proposals specific to this lab study.
During March of 2020, Swoop Aero and VillageReach conducted drone test flights near Maputo in the presence of the Mozambique Civil Aviation Authority and Amovant, the national drone association, which led to approvals for beyond visual-line-of sight (BVLOS) flights.
Later in October, VillageReach, the Ministry of Health, the Maputo province health division and INS implemented a joint community sensitization strategy. INS conducted trainings of health workers, who collected TB and COVID samples from patients. 23 long-distance flights carrying these samples from and to the National Lab took place at the outskirts of Maputo. As part of the study, INS analyzed and compared the quality of the samples flown by drone to that of samples transported by road. This was the first use of drones for the health sector in Mozambique, with plans for scaling up operations.