Kenya’s national carrier, Kenya Airways PLC, has partnered with Advanced air mobility (AAM) company, Skyports to collaborate on launching permanent unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) operations in the country.
This collaboration brings together Kenya Airways’ significant expertise in aviation services and Skyports’ drone delivery logistics service – Delivery by Skyports. In the coming three months, the partnership aims to explore the commercial viability and impact of various medical, logistical and inspection use cases alongside Kenya’s leading public and private institutions. The target for the launch of the first drone delivery flights in Q3-Q4 2021.
Allan Kilavuka, Chief Executive Officer at Kenya Airways, said: “The partnership with Skyports aligns with our purpose of the sustainable development of Africa as it will support our diversification plans into drone technology application. It will give us access to available equipment and established operations that will lay the foundation for the Kenyan and regional drone market through our drone and emerging aviation technology subsidiary, Fahari Aviation.”
Skyports’ beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) operational experience places the company in a unique position to support Kenya Airways. Skyports has obtained regulatory approvals to fly the UK’s first BVLOS medical drone deliveries for the National Health Service (NHS), with operations currently underway. Similarly, Skyports operated the UK Royal Mail’s first drone parcel delivery in Scotland in December 2020.
Duncan Walker, Chief Executive Officer at Skyports, said: “Our partnership with Kenya Airways can unlock significant opportunities for drone deliveries and inspections in Kenya, creating time and cost savings for our customers and contribute to the growth of the country’s tech and aviation ecosystem. This important partnership underscores Skyports’ tech-agnostic operator approach’s growth potential as a flexible offering suitable to various global market requirements.
We look forward to working with Kenya Airways and further demonstrate the viability of AAM in different geographies.”
As a leading air services provider on the continent, Kenya Airways seeks to lead drone technology in the region. It will see one of Africa’s leading carriers offer training, operations and traffic management services through its wholly-owned subsidiary, Fahari aviation.
Recently, UK’s NHS launched the country’s first COVID test drone delivery service in Scotland to deliver COVID test samples and other medical materials on drone delivery flights between medical facilities. The move aims to help improve COVID-19 related logistics to and from remote locations, has now been expanded and is fully operational.
The delivery drones, operated by the logistics arm of advanced air mobility company Skyports, will carry up to 3kg of critical medical supplies up to 40 miles. Cargo to be carried will include COVID-19 and other test samples, medicine, essential personal protective equipment (PPE) and COVID-19 testing kits. In a UK first, Skyports has become the first operator to receive permission by the UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) to carry diagnostic specimens by drone.
Using delivery drones, access to hard-to-reach areas can be improved, significantly increasing the speed of transport and reducing times in some areas of the Argyll & Bute region from up to 36 hours for a road and ferry journey to 15 mins, while also increasing the frequency of pick- ups.
Skyports will be using the Swoop Aero drone-powered logistics platform. The vehicles will be controlled from the Skyports Operations Centre in Oban and fly automatically along predefined routes. Communication between the drone and the ground control station will be provided by Vodafone’s 4G network and satellite communications to ensure connectivity coverage is provided at all times.
The project has been funded by a joint initiative between the UK Space Agency (UKSA) and European Space Agency (ESA) Space Solutions to utilise space-enabled technology and services that can support the NHS.
This project follows a successful proof-of-concept conducted by Argyll & Bute HSCP in 2020 between Lorn & Islands Hospital and Mull & Iona Community Hospital.
Duncan Walker, Chief Executive Officer at Skyports, said: “Using drone deliveries within supply chains can create significant time and cost savings. This initiative is a natural progression from our recent trials with the NHS in Scotland as we scale our operations, supporting a wider network of hospitals and medical practices as they continue to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The experience from this important initiative will put us another step closer to permanent operations from which we hope more NHS facilities could soon benefit. This project underscores the viability of drone technology as a practical way to move goods.”