Drones in sub-Saharan Africa
On May 19, 2022, German delivery drone company Wingcopter and Ghana-based drone company Continental Drones announced a partnership plan to deploy 12,000 supply drones across 49 sub-Saharan African countries. to establish a delivery network. According to Wingcopter’s website, “these networks will dramatically improve the reliability and efficiency of existing supply chains but also help create completely new ones.” The drones will also be deployed to improve the lives of African people “through the on-demand delivery of medicines, vaccines, or laboratory samples but also essential goods for daily use.” Drones in sub-Saharan Africa offer the opportunity to reduce the current poverty rate in sub-Saharan Africa, which stood at roughly 41% as of 2018.

The Impact of the Russia-Ukraine War

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine exacerbates hunger and food insecurity in Africa because several nations rely on Ukraine and Russia for wheat, oil and fertilizer, however, “the war disrupts global commodity markets and trade flows to Africa, increasing already high food prices in the region.”

The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) indicates that its Food Price Index, “a measure of the monthly change in international prices of a basket of food commodities,” rose by 12.6% from February 2022 to March 2022 as a consequence of the war. This percentage is the highest since the creation of the index in the 1990s.

Africa Renewal stated that, in 2020, about 282 million people in Africa endured hunger, a figure which the Russia-Ukraine war will only heighten.

Necessary Supplies and Economic Impact

Drones offer faster access to “vaccines, medicines, lab samples and other key medical supplies” along with food sources. Wingcopter has already established partnerships with hospitals in Malawi to ensure more efficient delivery of resources.

Along with providing life-saving supplies using drones in sub-Saharan Africa, this partnership will boost economic growth in sub-Saharan Africa through the creation of new job opportunities necessary to operate the drone network.

Wingcopter 198 Drone Capabilities

The partnership between Wingcopter and Continental drones will involve the use of the Wingcopter 198, “the world’s most advanced delivery drone.” Unlike a typical drone, Wingcopter 198 drones can fly in strong winds and rain to deliver supplies. A single Wingcopter 198 drone can carry around six kilograms of cargo during flight and has a range of up to 110 kilometers at full capacity.

Speed is most important when it comes to life-saving supplies. These drones have a default cruise speed of 100 kilometers per hour, which means the droners are able to deliver in a timely manner and emit lower emissions than other forms of delivery.

Apart from the ability to deliver supplies quickly, the Wingcopter 198 is cost-effective due to its innovative features such as “a triple-drop system, unique control station software for efficient mission planning and advanced maintenance technology.”

The Use of Drones in Malawi

Malawi is home to the African Drone and Data Academy (ADDA). UNICEF founded ADDA in January 2020, with the aim of providing locals with the skills and knowledge necessary to utilize drone technology and advance drone systems “for more effective humanitarian and development response.”

UNICEF and partners have utilized drones in Malawi for several purposes. For example, in 2016, UNICEF began using drones to minimize “waiting times for HIV testing of infants” by sending dried blood spot samples from isolated areas in Malawi to laboratories via drone.

In 2017, UNICEF created the world’s “first humanitarian drone corridor” with the aim of supplying an ideal environment for organizations and entities to discover and experiment with drones for humanitarian purposes in developing countries like Malawi.

With the support of international aid and the Malawi government, Wingcopter and Continental Drones provide a solution to the rising food insecurity and health decline caused by Africa’s extreme weather patterns and the Russian invasion.

– Sara Sweitzer
Photo: Wikimedia Commons