Saving lives from the sky with humanitarian drones in Africa

Considerations for the development of medical drone programs

Deloitte examines key medical applications of drone technologies at the forefront of this modern transportation system and identifies challenges and opportunities that these technologies can help to address.

Humanitarian drones in Africa

Drone technology, also known as unmanned aerial systems (UAS), stands at the forefront of this modern transportation system and has the potential to enhance the efficiency with which many tasks are performed, including life-saving medical deliveries.

Africa has led the world in the use of drones for humanitarian, medical delivery purposes, allowing the continent to reap the economic and life-saving benefits drones can provide, including drones replacing ground vehicles and lives saved due to reduced response time. Drone use in Africa comes with a series of challenges, some common to establishing any drone operation and several unique to working in Africa. Once these challenges are overcome, a path to a viable drone business can be achieved and lead not just to benefits for those served by the drones, but also economic benefits for the communities in which they operate through the creation of viable business.

Considerations for effective use

Through research and a series of interviews with drone industry experts who have or are planning to execute drone operations in Africa, we identified 10 key considerations for effective use. These 10 multidimensional considerations must be addressed prior to the establishment of drone operations in Africa to ensure success.

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Model for effective use

To better understand the costs and benefits of using drones for last-mile, on-demand medical supply delivery, we developed a comprehensive cost-benefit analysis model. On-demand delivery was examined over routine delivery due to the additional challenges and complexity involved in the logistics and because many of the compelling use cases for drones involve emergency delivery of critical medical goods that must be delivered as soon as they are needed, rather than sending them in fixed quantities on a regular schedule. The sensitivity analysis performed using Deloitte’s cost-benefit model shows that there are three key factors for drone programs to be successful and financially viable: vendor selection, ground transportation cost, and population size served (which allows drone operations to scale).

This executive summary is based on the collaboration of Deloitte and the World Economic Forum in the Medicine from the Sky: Opportunities and Lessons from Drones in Africa report.

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