Malawi Announces Africa's 1st
Humanitarian Drone Testing Corridor
December 16, 2016
Malawi's government on Thursday announced Africa's first drone air
corridor to provide a controlled platform for drones to deliver needed
services to communities.
Alfred Mtilatila, director of the Department of Civil Aviation, said the
launch of the testing corridor is largely supported by UNICEF-Malawi as
a pilot project using unmanned aircraft systems, or UAS, for
transporting dried blood samples for the early diagnosis of HIV in
"We would like to establish a designated area where we will permit
different types of unmanned aerial vehicles so that we will be able to
come up with the right type of vehicles which can be used for different
purposes," Mtilatila said.
In March, UNICEF-Malawi successfully completed its first test flight of
the 10-kilometer route from a community health center to the Kamuzu
Central Hospital in the capital, Lilongwe.
Currently, Malawi uses motorcycles or locally run ambulances to
transport blood samples.
But health authorities say high fuel costs and the poor state of roads
mean long delays in deliveries.
"Malawi has over the past years faced serious droughts and flooding. …
The launch of the UAS testing corridor is particularly important to
support transportation and data collection where land transport
infrastructure is either not feasible or difficult during emergencies,"
Jappie Mhango, Malawi's minister of Transport and Public Works, said in
A recent study by UNICEF-Malawi shows that it currently takes an average
of 11 days to get samples from a health center to a testing lab, and up
to four weeks for the results to be returned.
report also shows that the delay between test and results has led to a
higher number of patients not receiving timely treatments.
Judith Sherman, chief of the HIV and AIDS section at UNICEF-Malawi, told
VOA that the drones project could resolve that problem.
"Since some of the health facilities are in remote areas, it takes a
while for motorbikes to actually reach these facilities,” Sherman said.
“And during the rainy season, roads are difficult to go on and bridges
are easily washed away. So the idea was, ‘Can these drones be introduced
to help complement the motorbike system?’"
After its second test flight, the drone corridor is expected to run for
a maximum distance of 40 kilometers and become fully operational by