PHARMACEUTICAL company Pfizer partnered with a number of agencies and organizations to launch a project that would see crucial medicines and vaccines easily delivered by drone to an isolated rural Mindanao community in the town of San Luis, Agusan del Sur.

The partnership also included Geneva-based nonprofit drone organization WeRobotics, innovation solutions company Philippine Flying Labs and the provincial government of Agusan del Sur in Mindanao.

The initial pilot run saw drone pilots, with at least 1000 hours of drone training and flying experience, make deliveries of maintenance medicines, Covid-19 vaccines, medical equipment such as needles and syringes, and water samples for testing to the community of Kilometer 55, Barangay Binicalan in San Luis.

The project — which was first conceived in 2020 with technology originally field-tested in the Dominican Republic — took 2 years to plan with the community chosen due to a real pressing need, as the area could be cut off from roads during the rainy season when the roads were impassable. The community has also been prone to various public health concerns such as diarrhea, malnutrition, hypertension and diabetes due to its isolated and underdeveloped nature.

"We're not here to replace any existing delivery service here. We are here to augment and enhance the current system," said Dr. Heidi Sampang-Abiad, managing director at Philippine Flying Labs. "For example, the habal-habal costs P5000 to P6000 and can take up to 5 hours to go back and forth from the community. The system can also get limited by many factors, and the drones are reliable."

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