How drones are enabling the UN’s Global Goal of good health and wellbeing for all

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are a “blueprint to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all.” These 17 goals were set by the United Nations General Assembly in September 2015. 

These strategic development goals were adopted as a universal call to end poverty and increase prosperity while protecting our planet. Statistics about poverty and access to healthcare, published by the World Health Organisation and the World Bank, can be daunting. For instance, 10% of the world’s population lives on less than US$1.90 a day and 400 million people do not have any access to essential healthcare at all.

400 million people do not have any access to essential healthcare

WHO and World Bank Group report

It is no surprise, then, that part of the Sustainable Development Goal 3 involves giving “access to quality essential health-care services and access to safe, effective, quality and affordable essential medicines and vaccines for all”. Providing such access is particularly difficult in remote and rural areas as a result of hostile terrain and lack of infrastructure. Delays in the provision of care from qualified healthcare workers and the supply of medicine are all-too-common. 

“Access to quality essential health-care services and access to safe, effective, quality and affordable essential medicines and vaccines for all”.

UNs SDG3, Target 3.8

Air transport to increase access to healthcare

One way to combat this problem is the use of air transport; the concept is not new. For example, the Royal Flying Doctor Service has been using fixed-wing aircraft since its inception in 1928 to deliver high-quality care in remote Australia. Helicopters are also used on a daily basis to transport patients with acute injuries to hospitals for treatment, and the Royal Australian Air Force is often a critical part of any disaster relief response. While these solutions increase access to healthcare for those in remote areas, they also come with a hefty price tag. As a result, they are not a sustainable option in many cases.

However, a handful of companies, such as Swoop Aero, are offering similar solutions at a fraction of the cost of existing models. 

How drones can become key hitting UN’s Global Goals 

Swoop Aero has built, and currently deploys a system to reimagine the healthcare supply chain, leveraging frontier technology and small autonomous Aircraft, commonly called “drones”. Drones, particularly in the case of Swoop Aero’s technology, can be deployed for a more sustainable price. Operations can be easily rolled out as, contrary to other suppliers, Swoop Aero’s aircraft do not require heavy impact ground infrastructure. This reduces the cost to scale and means Swoop Aero can deploy to anywhere and be operating within 72 hours. Technical features such as vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) are also a point of difference, allowing the aircraft to land and take off in almost any terrain, as well as facilitating two-way logistics. As a result, Swoop Aero’s solution can streamline supply chains and achieve efficiencies, all in the name of increasing access to healthcare in line with UN’s Global Goals. 

In particular, Swoop Aero can assist in achieving three key efficiencies:

  • Firstly, a cost reduction. Drones bridge the gap for last mile deliveries to be transported by foot, road or boat, and in doing so reduce the requirement for a vehicle fleet, maintenance and wages. 
  • Secondly, a time reduction. For example, to transport samples in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Swoop Aero sent essential vaccines and critical medical supplies to villages deep in the Equatorial forest, returning with time-sensitive blood samples for testing. A journey that used to take six hours can now be covered in 20 minutes, improving health services and outcomes for those in hard-to-reach locations. 
  • Thirdly, an increase in the frequency with which medical supplies can be delivered. Instead of receiving medical deliveries on a monthly basis, essential supplies can be sent on demand when and to where they are needed. For example, in Vanuatu, Swoop Aero enabled an initiative, led by the Government of Vanuatu and supported by UNICEF and the Innovation Fund of Australia, whereby nurses made random school visits to inspect records and visit children who had missed their regular scheduled vaccinations in schools. They then placed an order for the exact number and type of vaccines needed, which were then delivered within the hour by drone.

At Swoop Aero, we’re proud of the work we do to improve access to healthcare. 

In our next sustainability post, we will discuss how drones can make cities and communities more sustainable (SDG11) and help increase the use of affordable and clean energy (SDG7). 

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