Three Months of Drone Delivery in DRC

Olivier Defawe, VillageReach Director Health Systems / Drones for Health Lead

It never ceases to amaze me that the DRC government, with its drone provider Swoop Aero and our DRC VillageReach team, have re-supplied health centers more than 100km away (4–10 hours by road and/or boat) using a fleet of four drones, for five days per week since the beginning of 2021. These remarkable drones travel 8–11 hours each day over dense forest and the Congo River in Equateur province — an extremely challenging terrain — without reliable connectivity (even SatCom)!

Drone in Equateur province, DRC.

Over 90 working days, Swoop Aero’s fleet of drones has flown over 40,000km, performing over 900 flights (400 flight hours) transporting vaccines, health products, and returning with lab samples and reports, and more. From its primary and secondary drone hubs (allowing longer distances), Swoop Aero delivers life-saving health products to 27 health facilities via 12 landing sites. And the network is still growing to reach a fleet of 10 drones, 25 landing sites supplying health products to 70 health facilities in the province.

Every morning when I receive the daily flights and delivery reports, it gives me such joy to know that people — no matter how remote their communities might be — are getting the vaccines and medical products they need to thrive. I just have to shout “CONGRATULATIONS!” to the dedicated health workers and logisticians at all levels of the health system in Equateur province, to the local Swoop Aero pilots and ground operators, and to the dedicated VillageReach team.

Top left: Map of drone delivery in Equateur province, Top right: Terrain of drone route, Bottom center: Drone landing site.

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