Port Vila, 27 July 2017: The Government of Vanuatu, with the support of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), announced today the selected participants who will take part in the first phase of the Vanuatu drone trial in August. 

Remotely Piloted Systems (RPAS), commonly known as drones, are being trialled for the first time in the Pacific to test the capacity, efficiency and effectiveness of drones to deliver lifesaving vaccines to inaccessible remote communities in Vanuatu. 

“To ensure consistent availability of vital supplies at health facilities is an ongoing challenge for Vanuatu due to geography, logistics and high costs. This trial is an important step in exploring options for dealing with some of these challenges to providing healthcare to these vulnerable communities,” said Director General of the Ministry of Health in Vanuatu, George Taleo. 

A committee including the Ministry of Health, Ministry of Infrastructure & Public Utilities and UNICEF completed a screening process to select the final six applicants to participate in the first phase of the trial. The candidates selected to participate in the trials are: Volans-i inc., Martek Marine Ltd, JAR Aerospace Pty Ltd, Colugo Systems, Finish the Call LLC, and Firetail Bormatec JV.

These six self-funded candidates will travel in August to Vanuatu from countries including the United States, United Kingdom, Israel and Australia to demonstrate the performance of their drones.

“UNICEF is pleased to partner with the Government of Vanuatu in this exciting initiative that could make it possible to ensure a more reliable supply of vaccines in remote communities,” said UNICEF Pacific Representative, Sheldon Yett. “We see this phased trial as the first step in learning how we can more reliably get health supplies to communities which might otherwise be hard to reach.”

The Director of Vanuatu’s Civil Aviation Authority, Joseph Niel, said, “This first phase is a technical trial and findings from this will be vital in informing other parts of the trial.” 

The first phase of the drone trial will run from 21 to 25 August. Drone participants will take off from the old Takara airstrip on North Efate flying over the offshore islands of Emao, Pele and Nguna and drop off a package at a cordoned off area aiming to hit ‘bulls eye’ in Undine Bay, a proposed distance of 54km.  The drone will then return to land in Takara.

The trial is being conducted in three phases: the technical trial in August when drones will be flying over offshore islands of Efate and scored against various performance criteria; a request for proposal through which vaccines will be delivered to health staff on targeted islands in February and March 2018; and a longer term integration of drones in regular provincial deliveries of health supplies later in 2018. 

 This initiative is led by the Ministry of Health and Ministry of Infrastructure & Public Utilities with technical and financial support from UNICEF.

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For more information, please contact:

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

Donna Hoerder, UNICEF Pacific, +679 3236 100, +679 9265 518, dhoerder@unicef.org