With the success of drone technology in industries like agriculture and construction where we see benefits like productivity and cost efficiency, drones can be used to drive social change, giving access to innovation throughout the world.
For time, WeRobotics and Flying Labs have been exploring drone cargo deliveries, creating an accessible platform specialised for delivery. Using a repurposed DJI Matrice 600 equipped with custom software and hardware additions, they created a solution that has transported thousands of medicines and supplies to remote communities worldwide like Peru and Nepal.
Health access inequity
These communities often do not have access to facilities or healthcare with a 12% delivery rate compared to the national 61%. This geographical inequity also impacts vaccination rates with only 29% of childhood vaccination coverage compared to 59% in the lowest quartile in the nation resulting in poorer health outcomes.
In 2021, WeRobotics upgraded the cargo solution to operate with the DJI Matrice 300 which has an improved safety platform, longer range, improved weather resistance, and the ability to fly with two pilots.
Flying Labs are using the M300 to deliver vital supplies and resources in the Philippines. In 2022, they completed a successful pilot programme with Pfizer, delivering vaccines to towns in Agusan Del Sur. They established a delivery service to replace a 14km route that requires a 2-hour motorbike journey which relies on good weather conditions. The same path took 10 minutes by drone.
On Tawi-Tawi, medical supplies are transported by boat which may take 30 minutes to 4 hours, depending on the tides. DJI M300 delivery was 8 minutes.
Drones have decreased delivery times, saved expenses, freed up healthcare professionals’ time, and improved health planning.
How the M300 was adapted for deliveries
WeRobotics created a cargo box and mounting system which comes in two sizes with insulation and thermometer options to transport temperature-sensitive medications.
A second onboard computer handles cargo missions and interfaces with the autopilot. Separate cellular communication lines are used for long-range operations.
For accurate landings on hospital rooftops or other confined spaces, an ArUco marker is set on the ground at the target.
Patrick Meier, co-founder of WeRobotics states that
“For WeRobotics and Flying Labs, what’s really valuable about the M300 is that it’s a highly reliable industrial platform that’s well known, well respected, and affordable. You can become a first mover in the drone delivery space because you’ve used this particular platform. And then you’ve learned 80% of what you need to know.”
WeRobotics is open-sourcing the DJI M300 Cargo platform to empower humanitarian projects around the world, which you can explore here.
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