On June 29, the Government of Malawi and the United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund (UNICEF) launched an air corridor, known as the Humanitarian UAV Testing Corridor, to test the potential use of UAS for humanitarian efforts.
The Humanitarian UAV Testing Corridor, which will be used to facilitate testing in the areas of imagery, connectivity, and transport, is the first corridor in Africa, and one of the first in the world, that has a specific focus on humanitarian and development use.
“This humanitarian drone testing corridor can significantly improve our efficiency and ability to deliver services to the world's most vulnerable children,” says Christopher Fabian, UNICEF Office of Global Innovation Principal Adviser
“The success of these trials will depend on working in new ways with the private sector, government and local entrepreneurs and engineers who can ensure that technologies deliver appropriate solutions for the people who need them the most.”
The corridor, which will operate for at least a year until June 2018, will offer entities from the private sector, as well as universities and other partners, a controlled platform to explore how UAS can be used to help provide services to help communities.
The launch of this corridor was announced in December 2016, and since then, 12 companies, universities and NGOs from around the world have already applied to use it.
The launch of the corridor follows a pilot project in Malawi that took place in March 2016. The project focused on the possibility of using UAS for the transportation of dried blood samples for early infant diagnosis of HIV.
The study was successful, as it showed that UAS were a feasible addition to existing transport systems, such as those used to help with the diagnosis of HIV.
UAS have also been used in Malawi after major weather events, as UNICEF deployed drones to support the Government of Malawi’s response to floods that took place earlier this year. The UAS helped assess the needs of affected families by providing aerial footage.
UNICEF Malawi Representative Johannes Wedenig explains why this technology could be beneficial in the country by saying, “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.”
“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 (a) better resolution than satellite images.”
Malawi’s Minister of Transport and Public Works Jappie Mhango says that the country is the perfect place for the integration of UAS technology.
“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,” Mhango says.
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