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Drones to deliver vaccines in Vanuatu

Drones will be used to deliver important vaccines to islanders in Vanuatu for the first time.

Those living in remote parts of the Pacific will have access to the new service setup by Unicef, who have chosen vaccines as the first medicine to deliver via the unmanned device because they are "delicate" and the most expensive item to ship as they need to be kept at a certain temperature.

There are also risks involved, as there is the chance that the drones could lose some of their vaccines on the way.

Andrew Parker, the chief of of Unicef's field office, says they are hoping the drones would be boost vaccine coverage to 95%.

He told The Guardian newspaper: "To go from 85% to 95% using the existing options is just not feasible. You would throw a huge amount of money at that extra 10%. That's where drones come in.

"There's a lot we don't know yet - will they fly reliably, will they land where we want them to land, will the population accept them or will they be taken out of the air by young boys with catapults?"

Eric Peck of Swoop Aero, who have signed a contract for trial, says that the drones have the potential to complete two deliveries per day, fly up to 100km and carry 2.5kg worth of vaccines.

Whilst they will first be controlled from nearby, Peck says there is the possibility for the aerial vehicles to be manned from anywhere in the world.

He said: "Our service will allow a health worker in a village to send us a text message and we can respond on demand, and sent the correct number of vaccines directly and in most cases we can be there in under an hour."

If the trial is a success, further medical items such as blood samples could be carried via drone in the future.

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