Port Vila, 16 August 2017: The Government of Vanuatu, with the support of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), will launch the drone trials in early 2018, an adjustment from initial August plans.

The drone trials aim to test the capacity, efficiency and effectiveness of Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Systems (UAVSs), more commonly known as drones, to deliver lifesaving vaccines to inaccessible remote Vanuatu communities. 

At least 13 drone companies from different countries applied to participate in the self-funded drone challenge in August, of which eight were issued with formal invitations to demonstrate capabilities of their drones in Vanuatu. Whilst nothing new to communities in Vanuatu, the logistical challenges and costs of participation encountered by participants caused the majority to withdraw resulting in a delayed start to the trials in early 2018.

“The Government looks forward to working with its partner, UNICEF, together with the drone companies to identify solutions to logistical challenges involved in getting vaccines to children in remote rural communities,” said Director General of the Ministry of Health in Vanuatu, George Taleo. 

The objective of the challenge remains unchanged with an end-goal of greater and more efficient vaccination of children. The drone industry continuously evolves with advances through research and development. Refinement of the Vanuatu challenge with the benefit of industry inputs will reflect and explore flexibility in cargo carrying advances with a focus on vaccine supply chains. 

Joseph Niel, Director of Vanuatu’s Civil Aviation Authority said, “Over the next few months we will have the opportunity to enhance the design of the drone trials and adapt the next stages of the challenge to accommodate better the specific needs of prospective participants. A robust selection process should also allow for the trials to be held successfully early next year.” 

The Vanuatu Drone Trial is jointly led by the Vanuatu Ministry of Health and Ministry of Infrastructure & Public Utilities with technical and financial support from UNICEF.

For more information, please contact:

Rebecca Olul, UNICEF Vanuatu Field Office, +678 24655, +678 77 666 04, rolul@unicef.org

Cate Heinrich, UNICEF Pacific, +679 9925 606, cheinrich@unicef.org