Drone flight paths opened for humanitarian aid in Africa

Malawi has established the first permanent drone flight paths for humanitarian aid in Africa. The flight corridor around the airfield of Kasungu, located in the heart of the country in Southeast Africa, has a 40-kilometer radius and the drones can fly a maximum of 400 meters above ground.

According to the United Nations Children’s Fund, UNICEF, the flight corridors will make it possible for universities and NGOs to test drones for the purpose of humanitarian aid – for example, to make it more efficient to bring medication to remote regions or transport vaccines and blood samples. The drones could also be used, for example, in natural catastrophes in order to enable helpers to gain access to the Internet or mobile phones, as well as provide them with a quick and cost-effective overview of damage.

Using drones to transport medication “could change lives in secluded rural communities,” says Malawi’s Minister of Transport Jappie Mhango. Even in the dry season, the country’s roads only allow limited access to rural areas. During the rainy season, many municipalities are completely isolated by flooding. “This humanitarian flight corridor for drones can significantly improve our efficiency and ability to help the world’s most vulnerable children,” says UNICEF’s head of global innovation Christopher Fabian. In 2016, the UN Children’s Fund had already successfully tested the use of drones in Malawi to carry samples for the HIV diagnosis of children. The drone flight corridor in Malawi will be used by UNICEF for at least one year. Twelve organizations and companies have already signed up to use it.

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Text by Jürgen Bätz
Photos: UNICEF/Chisiza (article photo), UNICEF/Khonje
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