Wingcopter, DHL and GIZ pilot drone delivery in Tanzania


Revolutionising the delivery of medicines to remote areas using drones – the pilot project Deliver Future proves that it’s not science fiction. Three experts in their respective fields are making it happen: The German drone manufacturer Wingcopter, the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH on behalf of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) and DHL. Over a six-month period, they successfully tested the delivery of health commodities using a drone flying to Ukerewe Island in Lake Victoria. During the trials, the autonomous DHL Parcelcopter 4.0 completed the 60 km flight from the mainland to the island in 40 minutes on average. A total of 2,200 km were flown and roughly 2,000 flight minutes recorded during the pilot project.

Following the invitation of the Regional Commissioner of Mwanza Hon. John V.K. Mongella, Wingcopter came to Tanzania to implement the pilot project in cooperation with DHL and GIZ. We are thankful for the great support of our local partners, especially the Dar Teknohama Business Incubator (DTBi), the Medical Stores Department, Bugando Medical Center and JSI.

Follow the delivery process

Medical Stores Department

The Medical Stores Department (MSD) is the governmental organization, responsible for distributing medicines in the Lake Victoria Region of Tanzania. Its warehouse in Mwanza supplies the hospitals of four regions and services more than 10 million people.

The deliver future pilot project focused on testing innovative technology in one district of the Mwanza Region: The Parcelcopter 4.0 conducted flights between the regional capital Mwanza and the district hospital in Nansio, Ukerewe Island.

The 400,000 people in Ukerewe District will have better access to medicine as a result of this project.

The last mile supply is difficult because of the infrastructure.

Victor Sungusia, zonal Manager of Mwanza.

1 Preparation

Taking cold chain commodities and packing them into the thermally insulated box.

2 Packing

Loading the Parcelcopter 4.0 with emergency commodities and cold chain supplies.

3 Uploading the route

Getting ready to fly autonomously and contacting Tanzania Civil Aviation Authority at Mwanza International Airport.

4 Taking off

For safety reasons the take-off is observed by educated drone operators. They can take manual control over the autonomous flight at any time.

The journey begins

Flying 60 km. The Parcelcopter 4.0 flies out of visual range, but the operators on both sides see the position, speed and direction of the drone at any given time.

5 Landing

The Wingcopter Technology allows the Parcelcopter 4.0 to transition back into hover mode and land vertically in a small area in the yard of the Ukerewe district hospital in Nansio.

6 Handing over medicines

After 40 minutes the medicines reach their destination at least 3 hours earlier than by any traditional mode of transportation.

7 Starting treatment

The treatment can start sooner. Patients with severe illnesses are usually sent to Bugando Medical Center in Mwanza, meaning they will have to wait for the next ferry. If they enter Nansio District Hospital after 2 pm they will have to wait for 24 hours until they arrive in Mwanza. With the Parcelcopter 4.0 they can receive medication after 40 minutes.

Ukerewe District Hospital

The Ukerewe District Hospital in Nansio is the central hospital for the 400,000 citizens of the islands in Ukerewe District. There are 35 remote health facilities, but people with serious disease might travel to Nansio for a whole day to get better access to medication.

The hospital receives regular supplies from MSD Mwanza, however storing all sorts of emergency supplies on a decentralised level is often not feasible. Using traditional means of transportation, urgently needed goods cannot be instantly supplied to the island.

The transport of laboratory samples is a bottleneck for the treatment of people in Nansio.

We face a number of diseases such as malaria, typhoid, schistosomiasis and the like.

E.F. Chang’ah, District Commissioner of Ukerewe Island

Samples are collected in the District Hospital and on a weekly basis they are taken to Bugando Medical Center.

Matiko Machagge, JSI Foundation

1 Waiting in line

The laboratory in Ukerewe District Hospital is serving all people that come.

2 Blood Samples

Blood samples are needed for diagnosis of various containgous disease. HIV, tuberculosis and mutliple more. Sending blood samples to the laboratories of the National Blood Transfusion Services (NBTS) allows the institution to confirm the blood type and quality of locally stored blood bags.

3 Packing

Samples can be sent every two hours. With the Parcelcopter 4.0 patients at remote facilities must wait only as long as those in the larger Bugando Medical Center. They have access to high value laboratory equipment.

4 Ready for take-off

Again the preprogrammed route is uploaded and the Civil Aviation Authority is informed of the take-off.

5 Flight to Mwanza

The Parcelcopter 4.0 travels back to the main land to bring samples to Bugando Medical Center.

Bugando Medical Center

The Parcelcopter 4.0 approaching Bugando Medical Center in Mwanza.

6 Landing at BMC

Vertically landing capabilities allow the Parcelcopter 4.0 to land on the roof top.

7 Unpacking

After 40 minutes the lab samples arrive in the laboratories of Bugando, the cool chain is tracked via thermometer and the quality of the blood samples is secured.

8 Analysing blood samples

The analysis will be transmitted via email and the documentation can be returned to Nansio via drone. The patient will get their result significantly faster.

The hospital enjoys an excellent reputation and is the health hotspot in the Tanzanian Lake Zone.

To new horizons

The Wingcopter bridged the gap between Mwanza and Nansio up to seven times per day.