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All Flying Labs Now Have Access To Longer Range Cargo Drones from Madagascar

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November 20th, 2020

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A survey carried out in November 2020 found that 86.1% of Flying Labs are very interested in gaining cargo drone expertise. What’s more, 87.6% of Flying Labs confirmed that demand for cargo drone services already exists in their countries. We expect these figures to increase as new Flying Labs continue to join the network every month. To this end, we’re very pleased to announce that the Madagascar-based drone company, AerialMetric, has formally joined WeRobotics and Flying Labs as an official Technology Partner! Our partnership agreement with AerialMetric means that Flying Labs in 30+ countries across Africa, Asia, Latin America, and Beyond will have preferred access to the company’s cargo drone technology and vast experience. 

AerialMetric has been designing and developing drone solutions for mapping services in Africa for more than 12 years. Since 2015, the French/Malagasy company has also been working hand in hand with the Government of Madagascar and large international organizations to develop and provide cargo drone solutions to deliver life-saving health supplies to the most remote, hard-to-reach communities in the country. The company’s cargo drones are deliberately designed, assembled, tested, and repaired in Madagascar to provide Malagasy engineers with new and meaningful career opportunities and contribute to Madagascar's economic development. The AerialMetric team also includes a dedicated team of 8 Malagasy drone pilots, with more being hired to meet growing demand. French engineer Stéphane Bihr is the vision behind AerialMetric. Stéphane has lived in Madagascar for 27 years, most of his life, and was building drones well before the first DJI drone was launched in 2013. 

AerialMetric already serves just over 300 public health facilities and community supply points across Northern Madagascar, a highly mountainous region where heavy rains and high winds are common. The company’s eVTOL drone can operate at high altitudes and through heavy rains and strong 70km/h winds. To date, close to 500 deliveries have been successfully completed using the drone’s parachute delivery system. In terms of performance, the drone can cover a range of 200km carrying medical payloads weighing between 3kg-5kg. At present, the drone’s maximum payload capacity is 10kg. For delivery routes over 120km, separate delivery systems are placed under each wing, which means that medical payloads can be dropped separately, allowing for multi-deliveries in a single flight. 

To support the ongoing immunization campaign led by the Malagasy Ministry of Health, AerialMetric uses a dedicated refrigerated cargo box (between 2°C and 8°C) to safely store vaccines during transportation. To meet increasing demand from a growing number of health facilities, Stéphane and the team have started to conduct simultaneous flights, allowing for 6 drones to carry out deliveries at the same time. Starting in January 2021, AerialMetric will offer 2-way deliveries by enabling autonomous landings at health facilities. This means that outbound flights can carry medicines to health facilities, while inbound flights can carry patient samples back or any other cargo type that may need to be transported back.

AerialMetric rents out its eVTOL cargo drone to health organizations as an all-inclusive delivery service, a service that Flying Labs will now have preferred and discounted access to, enabling them to offer and run longer-range cargo drone solutions in their own countries. This service includes a team of 2 operators (or trainers), third-party insurance, regulatory support, and periodic servicing. AerialMetric also provides its clients with a replacement drone to ensure that deliveries are not interrupted should the primary drone require maintenance or repairs. 

We’re very pleased to partner with AerialMetric. They are one of very, very few operational cargo drone companies actually based in the Majority World. They also have more than 2 years of experience in routine cargo drone deliveries in challenging environments. The fact that they are based in Madagascar is also a significant advantage since half of all Flying Labs are based in Africa. This advantage is made all the more clear given the continued travel restrictions due to the pandemic. Another key advantage is that AerialMetric’s drones don’t require dedicated infrastructure like a droneport to operate. This gives them a lot of flexibility and mobility when setting up new drone routes. What’s more, Stéphane and the team are fluent in French, which opens up significant opportunities for Francophone Flying Labs in West Africa. Last but certainly not least, AerialMetric is already well versed in the spirit and mission of Flying Labs since they are the Coordinators of Madagascar Flying Labs

AerialMetric joins our existing cargo drone partner, Avy, whose mission and values are also fully aligned with WeRobotics and Flying Labs. We are grateful to both Avy and AerialMetric for their trust and partnership, and we look forward to contributing to their success in the months and years ahead. In addition to these two outstanding partners, WeRobotics also provides Flying Labs and others with shorter range cargo drone solutions, which Pfizer has already used in the Dominican Republic, and separately in Nepal for the collection of patient samples.

To learn more about our cargo drone work, please visit our HealthRobotics Program.

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