Drone Delivery Becomes a Reality in Remote Pacific Islands | Robotics

Drone delivery of vaccines to the South Pacific island nation of Vanuatu.
Photo: UNICEF
Currently, health workers in Vanuatu often hike over mountains to deliver –but can fly over them.

This September, will begin to fly the friendly skies of Vanuatu. And this isn’t a one-shot demonstration, like many of the stunts we’ve seen from the likes of Amazon and Google. This is an attempt to make drones part of the medical infrastructure.  

The South island nation of Vanuatu, a string of 83 volcanic islands spread over 1600 kilometers (995 miles), has just issued a “request for tender” to companies around the world. The companies are invited to submit bids for bringing vaccines to scattered hospitals and health clinics on three islands. With a government contract available for each of the islands, up to three companies will then begin a two-month trial in September. 

Companies have a chance to prove both their technology and, just as importantly, their model. For all the optimism that delivery drones will make economic sense in this context—where lightweight and urgently needed packages must be transported across wild and mountainous landscapes with few roads—the premise has yet to be proven. 

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