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Malawi opens drone testing corridor for humanitarian efforts

Posted at 10:45 AM, Jul 01, 2017
and last updated 2017-07-01 10:45:29-04

UNICEF says Malawi has launched an air corridor, Africa’s first, to test using drones to deliver aid in the region.

Malawi has launched Africa’s first air corridor to test the use of drones to deliver aid and other services in the region, according to UNICEF officials.

The air corridor is a result of the partnership with the UN’s children’s agency and officials say it opens up the possibility for “potential humanitarian” drone use in the southeast African country.

The corridor, launched Thursday, is on Kasungu Aerodrome in central Malawi.

The testing will focus on three areas, UNICEF officials said in a press release.

These areas include “generating and analyzing aerial images” for developing areas and assisting during humanitarian crises, “exploring the possibility” of using drones to expand Wi-Fi or cell phone signals and transporting medical supplies.

A first in Africa

The corridor is also one of the first globally “with a focus on humanitarian and development use,” according to the UNICEF press release.

The drones will have a range of 24 miles, or 40 kilometers. Universities and several companies from around the world will also be able to use the corridor.

In the press release, Malawi’s Minister of Transport and Public Works Jappie Mhango said the government has already used drones to respond to certain disasters, including floods.

“We can see the potential for further uses, such as transportation of medical supplies, which could transform lives in remote rural communities,” part of the press release read.

The testing will run for at least a year. It follows a 2016 pilot program in Malawi, where drones were used to transport dried blood samples to test infants for HIV.