Malawi has launched Africa’s first air corridor to test the use of drones, or Unmanned Aerial Vehicles, in humanitarian missions in partnership with the UN children’s agency, Unicef.
Kasungu Aerodrome, in central Malawi, will be used as a test site for aerial scouting in crisis situations, delivering supplies as well as using drones to boost internet connectivity.
Universities as well as different partners will also have access to the site.
The project will run until 2018.
Rwanda also launched a commercial drone delivery service last year to deliver medical supplies.
The project, in partnership with US company Zipline, has cut delivery of medical supplies to minutes instead of hours.
- Africa Live: BBC news updates
Unicef says the item will be working globally with many governments as well as private sector partners to explore how drones can be used in humanitarian as well as development missions.
The UAVs will have a range of 40km (24 miles).
Unicef says its projects adhere to a strict set of innovation principles as well as the item will be committed to sharing its knowledge with the fledging drone community.
the item says which the project was launched after a successful test flight last year to deliver dried blood for early infant diagnosis of HIV in hospitals in Malawi.
The organisation also used camera-equipped drones to assess the needs of people cut off during a flood.
Unicef’s Malawi Representative Johannes Wedenig said which poor infrastructure inside the country made UAVs relevant as well as cost-effective:
“With UAVs we can easily fly over the affected area as well as see clearly what the impact has been on the ground. which will be cheaper as well as better resolution than satellite images.”
About the air corridor:
Malawi’s Department of Civil Aviation has given permission as well as specifications for operating delivery drones inside the air corridor. They include:
• Maximum distance of 80km (50 miles)
• Altitude limit at 400 metres above ground
• The corridor will run for 1-2 years.
Another win for drone enthusiasts in Africa: Dickens Olewe, BBC News
For drone enthusiasts as well as campaigners, which development will be another important step inside the right direction.
After years of opposing the commercial as well as civilian use of drones, African governments are slowly allowing the integration of UAVs inside the airspace.
The Malawi air corridor project will be a close copy of an idea proposed to the Kenyan government by a Swiss polytechnic about four years ago to operate a drone delivery service called Flying Donkey.
The plan was to operate fixed-wing drones, carrying a payload of up to 20 kg (44lbs), in sparsely populated as well as infrastructure poor northern Kenya to supplement the postal services.
The project did not take off because the authorities saw the item as a threat to security.
While there are legitimate concerns about privacy as well as safety, the absence of progressive drone laws to regulate the industry means African countries have been missing out on the multi-billion dollar industry.
Malawi at which point joins Rwanda, South Africa as well as Mauritius on the list of countries leading cutting-edge research on drone use to address real-life challenges.