Australia-Based Swoop Aero is Expanding BVLOS Flights into New Zealand and Beyond

Australian drone delivery and logistics company Swoop Aero has received the go-ahead from New Zealand’s civil aviation authority to begin conducting beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) flights of lab samples between the South Island west coast towns of Westport and Greymouth.

The flights, set to begin later this spring, will carry pathology samples and blood products between labs and care centers in the two remote coastal areas with the expectation that Swoop Aero will soon expand its scope of operations to encompass New Zealand as a whole.

Swoop Aero already conducts similar medical supply flights back home in Queensland.  Those flights are coordinated from a central drone flight control center that allows the company to direct and monitor five UAVS at a time.  Swoop Aero won approval from Australian regulators to open the facility in Melbourne last year.  It allows the company to coordinate not just its medical flights but also a portion of its larger cargo transport business for governments and private clients in  Europe and Africa.

“This technology has been trialed successfully overseas, and the new service between Greymouth and Westport will help establish whether drones could play a future role in the movement of time-sensitive medications, specimens, and other medical goods across the country,” said Swoop Aero’s national director of improvement and innovation Dale Bramley last week. “The use of drone technology offers the potential to reduce transport times, particularly in places such as Auckland where traffic congestion is a major issue. We will watch with interest to assess the benefits of a potential wider rollout.”

Swoop Aero’s drone flight control center in Melbourne uses Amazon Web Services (AWS) as an interface with air traffic control and uncrewed traffic management systems to avoid collisions with other UAVs or passenger craft. The company already depends on AWS to support its medical supply drone deliveries in Europe and Africa and will soon coordinate those flights from its Melbourne-based flight control center as well.

In addition to supporting drone flights, Swoop Aero’s remote control center is also used to train new pilots from around the world and to provide advanced instruction to confirmed fliers. The company plans to expand its partnership with the African Drone and Data Academy, which recruits and trains new Swoop Aero employees in Malawi, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Mozambique, Namibia, and Sierra Leone.

Swoop Aero’s growing  success in Africa has already led the US Agency for International Development to grant the company a $1.5 million contract to expand its drone deliveries throughout the continent.   In late 2022, Swoop Aero announced that it had completed its 20,000th flight worldwide with a total of 1 million goods and supplies delivered. At its current pace, it may be only a matter of time before Swoop Aero joins the rapidly expanding drone delivery market in the United States, too.

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