A Malawi drone testing corridor in partnership with UNICEF has seen university students build a drone that has successfully delivered medicine.
Earlier this year, the government of Malawi partnered with UNICEF to create a Humanitarian Drone Testing Corridor in the country. The partnership is now bearing fruit. A group students have built a low-cost drone that has been tested and flown successfully over a distance of 19 kilometres.
The drone, called EcoSoar, was designed at Virginia Tech and built by Malawian students after undergoing training.
A team from Virginia Tech trained and worked with 13 students and faculty from Malawian universities in a two-day workshop. The result was the fabrication of a drone made of poster board and 3D printed parts.
Test flight held on the 8th of November, 2017, and endurance tests were carried out the following day.
The Malawi Drone Testing Corridor
Covering over 5,000 square kilometres, the Malawi drone testing corridor is the first of its kind in Africa and the largest in the world. The concept behind it is to explore the humanitarian and development uses to which drones can be deployed. The test area is open to industry, universities, and individuals who are interested in drone testing.
The drone testing corridor is centered on Kasungu Aerodrome in central Malawi and is reported to have a 40km radius. The Kasungu aerodrome has a 1.3 kilometre runway. While it is open to all and sundry, Malawi requires that all drone tests be vetted by UNICEF and the country’s Civil Aviation Authority.
The Malawi drone testing initiative is a great way to develop human capacity in aircraft hardware development, radio transmission, as well as software development. It opens up great opportunities for the application of drones in a wide range of fields.
12 universities, companies and NGOs from around the world have applied for use of the facility. The test results will be published for public use.
The initial test of the drone built by the Malawi students was the delivery of medicine. However, the possibilities in terms of application are almost limitless. Weather, ICT (especially internet connectivity), security, and agriculture are just a quick few that come to mind.
Hopefully, more countries in Africa will take up similar projects.