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Drones join the humanitarian effort

On 28 June 2017, a community in Kasungu in central Malawi is introduced to the unmanned aerial vehicle (UAVs) or drone technology which is being tested for transportation, connectivity and imagery. The Government of Malawi and UNICEF are launching a drone testing corridor to assess potential humanitarian use of UAVs. The corridor is the first in Africa and one of the first globally with a focus on humanitarian and development use. The launch of the UAV testing corridor follows a pilot project in Malawi in March 2016 on the feasibility of using drones for the transportation of dried blood samples for early infant diagnosis of HIV. On 29 June 2017, the Government of Malawi and UNICEF launch an air corridor to test potential humanitarian use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), also known as drones. The corridor is the first in Africa and one of the first globally with a focus on humanitarian and development use. It is centred on Kasungu Aerodrome, in central Malawi, with a 40km radius (80km diameter) and is designed to provide a controlled platform for the private sector, universities and other partners to explore how UAVs can be used to help deliver services that will benefit communities. The UAV corridor will run for at least one year, until June 2018. Since the announcement in December 2016, 12 companies, universities and NGOs from around the world have applied to use the corridor. This includes drone manufacturers, operators and telecom companies such as: GLOBHE (Sweden) in collaboration with HemoCue and UCANDRONE (Greece), and Precision (Malawi), all of which were present at the launch to demonstrate connectivity, transportation and imagery uses respectively. UAV technology is still in the early stages of development. UNICEF is working globally with a number of governments and private sector partners to explore how UAS can be used in low income countries. All projects adhere to a strict set of innovation principles, with a focus on open source and user-centere

(AFRICA)

The Government of Malawi and UNICEF are partnering on a new drone initiative to gauge how effective unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) are in supporting humanitarian efforts.

The UAV testing corridor in Malawi is the first project of its type on the African continent. This pilot is expected to run for at least a year.

“Malawi has limited road access to rural areas even at the best of times, and after a flash flood earth roads can turn to rivers, completely cutting off affected communities,” said UNICEF Malawi Representative Johannes Wedenig. “With UAVs we can easily fly over the affected area and see clearly what the impact has been on the ground. This is cheaper and better resolution than satellite images.”

Located in central Malawi, the corridor will have three main areas of focus: imagery – for development and to monitor areas suffering natural disasters, including floods and earthquakes; connectivity – to assess how good drones are in rolling out Wi-Fi cover; and transport – for delivering smaller items and vital medical supplies, like vaccines.

“Malawi has over the years proved to be a leader in innovation and it is this openness to innovation that has led to the establishment of Africa’s first drones testing corridor here in Malawi,” added Malawi’s Minister of Transport and Public Works, Jappie Mhango.

A number of companies, universities and NGOs have already expressed their interest in using the corridor.

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