Kenyan drone operator Astral Aerial Solutions, Swoop Aero, and Skyports have conducted Kenya’s first Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS) drone deliveries, with plans to launch permanent drone deliveries by the first quarter of 2023. 

The partnership has received BVLOS regulatory approvals in 12 countries and will provide last-mile drone operations for the health sector to transport critical medical cargo, including samples, vaccines and medicines, to healthcare facilities across hard to reach regions of Kenya.

The project is led by Astral Aerial Solutions, an experienced Kenyan provider of drone services for agricultural, mapping and survey purposes, and the first drone operator to be awarded BVLOS flight certification by the Kenyan Civil Aviation Authority. 

It will operate autonomous drone technology developer Swoop Aero’s integrated drone logistics platform in partnership with Skyports, who have launched initial flights in May 2022 and completed over 50 test flights. 

Astral Aerial Solutions CEO Kush Gadhia said: “We are leading the way for BVLOS drone deliveries in Kenya, having demonstrated the cost and time benefits of drone flight through our existing VLOS operations. 

“Working with Swoop Aero and Skyports, we have gained valuable insight from leaders in the BVLOS drone delivery industry, and we are eager to get started with full time operations in 2023.”

Skyports head of drone services Alex Brown added: “Having launched the UK’s first BVLOS drone delivery operations, we are very aware of the challenges and requirements of such projects. 

“We also know the massive benefit that drone deliveries can bring to rural communities, and have created an incredible partnership with Astral and Swoop Aero to bring safe, efficient and cost-effective drone deliveries to rural Kenya.”

Swoop Aero CEO and co-founder Eric Peck continued: “We are proud to be expanding operations in Kenya in what will be a first for the region. 

“Our integrated drone logistics platform will enable bi-directional air logistics by launching rapid delivery of emergency and routine medicines, vaccines and pathology samples.”

While initial operations will focus on the provision of last-mile drone deliveries for Kenya’s healthcare sector, the project is set to pave the way for last-mile and supplementary transportation services across industry.

In April 2021, Skyports partnered with Kenya Airways to launch permanent unmanned aerial vehicle operations in the country, with both companies exploring the commercial viability of medical, logistical and inspection use cases alongside Kenya’s leading public and private institutions. 

This was followed in August 2021 when Eve Urban Air Mobility signed with Kenya Airways to support urban air mobility across the country with an initial focus to apply drone technology in training, operations, and traffic management.