What is the Malawi humanitarian drone test corridor?
The Humanitarian Drone Testing Corridor in Malawi is an exciting innovation that UNICEF is pioneering in partnership with the Government of Malawi. In December 2016, the Government of Malawi and UNICEF announced an agreement to create a testing corridor for humanitarian use of drones.
In June 2017, the Drone Corridor was opened by Malawi’s Minister of Transport and Public Works, Jappie Mhango and UNICEF Malawi Representative Johannes Wedenig.
Résumé: En juin 2017, le ministre des Transports et des Travaux publics du Malawi, Jappie Mhango, et le Représentant de l’UNICEF pour le Malawi, Johannes Wedenig, ont ouvert le couloir des drones.
The test corridor is the world largest test area with over 5000 square km allowing operations up to 400 meters above ground level which is specifically dedicated to the humanitarian and development uses for drones and the only dedicated unmanned flight-testing space in the continent of Africa.
What does the drone test corridor look like?
The corridor has a 40km radius (80km diameter) and is centred on Kasungu Aerodrome (with a runway length of about 1200m) in central Malawi, about an hour and a half drive from the capital city of Lilongwe.
Kasungu is home to a district hospital and a variety of rural health clinics in remote areas, enabling the testing of real humanitarian use cases such as the transport of vaccines, medical supplies or blood samples.
Testing beyond visual line of sight is possible All solutions and use cases tested in the corridor will have to abide by the UNICEF innovation principles meaning that they should be open data, shareable, and designed for scale.
Areas of application for the drone corridor
The corridor will facilitate testing in three main areas:
- Imagery – generating and analysing aerial images for development and during humanitarian crises, including for situation monitoring in floods and earthquakes;
- Connectivity – exploring the possibility for UAVs to extend Wi-Fi or cell phone signals across difficult terrain, particularly in emergencies;
- Transport – delivery of small low weight supplies such as emergency medical supplies, vaccines and samples for laboratory diagnosis, including for HIV testing.
This test corridor in Malawi is the first of its kind in Africa and will generate increased interest in Malawian technological infrastructure. Likewise, it will increase capacity among Malawian technologists and entrepreneurial students in this emerging area to remain competitive.
Scheduled timeline for the humanitarian drone test corridor
The corridor is running for 1-2 years from June 2017 and interested parties may apply on a rolling basis. Interested applicants are supposed to follow this link https://form.myjotform.com/72044471819559 to be redirected to a short application form and for more guidelines.
How is the drone test corridor set to be inclusive in Malawi?
The Malawi drone test corridor is open to industry, universities, and individuals who can apply and test a potential use case in one of the three main areas of (Transport, Connectivity, and Imagery). The drone corridor in Malawi is an opportunity for companies to provide global leadership in the emerging technology field of drones for humanitarian and development work, while simultaneously developing local experience in the country.
The corridor is designed to provide a controlled platform for the private sector, universities, and other partners to explore how drones can be used in scenarios that will benefit marginalized communities. All data generated by the flights is used to inform the Government of Malawi’s plans for the use of drones in multiple scenarios. This is particularly important due to frequent flooding in some areas of Malawi and challenges in transport infrastructure.
Conditions to test in the corridor
All drone tests must be fully vetted by UNICEF and the Government of Malawi Civil Aviation Authority. UNICEF’s mandate dictates that there should be no development for military or defense purposes. Companies must be vetted by our corporate screening process which will eliminate those with military ties.
Third party solutions (e.g. working on ADS-B transmitters) are welcome to apply, if they apply as a consortium or team together with UAS manufacturer – or bring their own drones.
By Joseph Semuju
Community Manager - AMO
African Mobilities Observatory - AMO, MICHELIN