Around the world, demands on the profession and practice of engineering are increasingly shifting to reflect new challenges and expectations fuelled by the pressures of globalisation and global insecurity. The role of an engineer is to tackle some of the world’s biggest problems; helping to save lives and create new technological advancements, which can improve the way we live, the way we engage in society, and the way we respond to global issues.
In the last five years, the global healthcare sector has experienced a technological transformation. Engineers have led this movement in order to develop and improve infrastructural links, healthcare facilities, and services that may support dramatic improvements to patient wellbeing, and the reliable provision of essential healthcare supplies to populations around the world. Such examples include 3D printing respiratory ventilators for patients to eliminate the shortfall, or developing an app that allows national health systems to collate data on the spread and containment of an infectious disease.
Engineers have applied their problem solving and technical skills, advanced knowledge and creativity to build and scale projects that meet the socio-economic and health related needs of the global population. These projects may also positively impact the quality of the natural environment and (re)conceptualise the way we perform routine activities. In this blog, we wanted to draw attention to the important work conducted by our team of engineers at Swoop Aero. We wanted to shine a light in particular on our Chief Technology Officer and Co Founder, Joshua Tepper, as he works tirelessly to transform the way the world moves essential supplies – every single day!
How many engineers does it take to save the world
Engineers begin with a complex problem. In 2017, mechatronics engineer Joshua Tepper and ex- Australian Air Force pilot Eric Peck sought to harness their collective engineering and technological capabilities to transform the mobility and distribution of essential healthcare supplies. The core challenge identified by Josh and Eric was that systemic global health inequalities were caused by a logistical failure of the health supply chain to reach isolated and geographically remote populations. As a result, more than 50% of the global population was unable to access basic healthcare. Moreover, these logistical barriers; such as poor transportation networks, weak infrastructure, geographically challenging terrain and unpredictable waterways caused basic healthcare supplies to remain expensive and often unaffordable, which pushed a further 100 million people into ‘extreme poverty’.
The solution required creativity, problem solving and technical skills, teamwork and the determination to see out the project. The design focus was to make a simple, easy-to-use and scalable system, which maximised the utility of the service for the primary beneficiaries; medical staff, patients and local health care providers. This required an examination of similar services offered on the market – and then diversifying the Swoop Aero product to obtain a competitive advantage. At this time, problem solving skills and creative thinking were of most value. The design of the Swoop Aero service was extremely unique. For example, the central cargo pods, which were designed to carry a whole range of essential and highly valued medical commodities, were constructed so they could be swapped and replaced from the central airframe structure to allow for the transportation of alternative health supplies across multiple geographical points. This feature also facilitated the two-way logistics model, which established a user-friendly interface so that local people could be trained to swap and coordinate pod deliveries as requested by the local health provider and send the aircraft back to a central distribution hub with test samples, blood deliveries or unused vaccinations.
The journey to develop and commercialise the world-renowned Swoop Aero air transportation service did not occur overnight. Indeed, Josh was not alone in this pursuit and the demonstrated ability to work in a dynamic and fast paced team environment, allowed Josh and Eric to maximise the impact of the service for the health systems of developing nations’ around the world.
Hard Work Pays Off: Impact Engineering
The decision to go it alone and forsake the financial benefits of a large, international engineering firm has well and truly paid off. The solution Josh developed was an aeromedical logistics network, which deployed safe, reliable and cost effective drone networks to connect large population areas with essential health supplies. To date, the Swoop Aero network has been deployed in five geographical areas around the world; Vanuatu, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Malawi, Mozambique and the Australasian region. The aeromedical logistics network has serviced an estimated 3.7 million people. The Swoop Aero air transportation service has transformed the way the world moves essential supplies and has supported the attainment of international health mandates, such as Sustainable Development Goal 3, ‘Good Health and Wellbeing’.
Like impact businesses, impact engineers’ seek to make a real and tangible difference in the world through the utilisation of their skills and knowledge. This impact is measurable by the value exhumed by projects that serve to positively enrich the lives of millions of people. As the team of Swoop Aero engineers has demonstrated, the scale and reach of their innovative approach to the global health sector has far exceeded the potentialities of benefits that a volunteer program, or the provision of monetary aid through a NGO platform, could have ever produced. This is not to discount the important work these channels conduct in developing nations, however, it does highlight how valuable the character attributes of individual aspiration, innovation and determination are in order to facilitate the growth and expansion of the project with an unlimited potential.
What remains exciting is that the scale and impact of the Swoop Aero networks is only set to increase as we enter new markets and strengthen the global health supply chain. Josh, and his team of passionate and highly skilled engineers, will remain at the forefront of this expansion and will remain the pioneers of the aeromedical logistics industry in order to discover new and innovative ways that drone networks may positively enrich localised health systems to achieve universal health coverage and well being.