Malawi and UNICEF have joined forces to open up a 25-mile-radius drone corridor over the nation’s Kasungu Aerodrome in an effort to improve emergency rescue operations and further aerial research.
The UN agency says the drone corridor is the first in Africa and will be used by universities and some private sector business in addition to public-safety agencies.
“Malawi has over the years proved to be a leader in innovation and it is this openness to innovation that has led to the establishment of Africa’s first drones testing corridor here in Malawi,” said Malawi’s Minister of Transport and Public Works Jappie Mhango in a press release. “We have already used drones as part of our flood response and we can see the potential for further uses, such as transportation of medical supplies, which could transform lives in remote rural communities.”
Dubbed the Humanitarian UAV Testing Corridor, the project will test new aerial imaging technology, especially during emergencies and will also focus on disaster monitoring. Researchers hope to experiment with drone-based Wi-Fi and mobile connectivity for remote areas.
“This humanitarian drone testing corridor can significantly improve our efficiency and ability to deliver services to the world’s most vulnerable children,” said UNICEF Office of Global Innovation Principal Adviser Christopher Fabian. “The success of these trials will depend on working in new ways with the private sector, government and local entrepreneurs and engineers who can ensure that technologies deliver appropriate solutions for the people who need them the most.”
In accordance with Malawi Department of Civil Aviation regulations, the drones may not travel more than 50 miles from the aerodrome and no higher than 1,300 feet. The program will expire in two years.
Malawi is one of several African nations innovating with drone technology. Rwanda has already created plans for the world’s first drone port, and launched a model for drone delivery of medical supplies. In February, drone mapping firm Pix4D announced a partnership with Rwandan schools to train experts in UAV photogrammetry.
Last year, Tanzania’s Ministry of Tourism approved the use of drone patrols over Tarangire National Park to stop poachers. Park law-enforcement uses Super Bat DA 50 fixed-wing drones by Martin UAV. The fixed-wing aircraft has a 15,000 flight ceiling and can cover a 6-10 mile radius with a fuel range of 450 miles.