Tuesday, July 25, 2017

News: Martek's "drones for good" contract

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Innovative Rotherham company, Martek Marine, has been selected by UNICEF and the Vanuatu Government to demonstrate its capability for vaccine delivery by drone.

Based at Manvers, Martek is one of the world leaders in the supply of safety and environmental monitoring systems for the shipping industry. It has expanded into different areas including the medical sector, supplying defibrillators to airlines and leisure and sport venues.

Drones, or unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), are becoming incredibly useful tools for marine and offshore companies with Martek supplying marine-specific drones that are developed to fly inside confined spaces and outdoors, making them ideal for safety inspections on tanks as well as offshore structures such as wind turbines and flare stacks.

Drones are already being used in humanitarian response around the world. An unprecedented number of small and lightweight UAVs were launched in the Philippines after Typhoon Haiyan in 2013. They were used in Haiti following Hurricane Sandy in 2012.

Showcasing its technology, Martek will self-fund a trial which will take place on Efate Island next month.

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Vanuatu is an archipelago of 83 islands separated over 1,600 km. 65 islands are inhabited, and with many only accessed by boat, mobile vaccination teams are frequently required to walk to communities carrying all equipment to undertake the vaccination for children and communities in remote areas. The climate, lack of infrastructure and topography make this an arduous task. Vanuatu's health facilities are constantly faced with a frequent lack of stock.

The trial aims to assess technologies and proven safe operators that can help reduce the vaccine supply chain disruption and enhance service delivery, without requiring massive investment in infrastructure and transport. It will also provide the opportunity to explore and understand the wider application and potential of UAVs in the Pacific region long term.

Paul Luen, CEO at Martek, said: "The opportunity to deploy our unique capabilities for the good of the people of Vanuatu was an opportunity we had to grasp. Our proven BVLOS [Beyond Visual Line of Sight] expertise and the manned aviation standards which we operate our business to, make us an ideal long-term delivery partner. We're certain we'll deliver UNICEF and the Vanuatu Government a reliable UAS cargo delivery service to enable long-term deployment at national level."

Sheldon Yett, Pacific representative from UNICEF, added: "UNICEF is excited to work with the Government of Vanuatu to support this initiative. Ensuring vaccines are consistently available in isolated and remote communities is one of the keys to sustaining high rates of immunisation. We welcome innovative measures to ensure that every child is reached."

George Taleo, director general of the Ministry of Health in Vanuatu, added: "This is a milestone for Vanuatu. If the trial shows that vaccine delivery using drones can work, and that it can be integrated into our existing national and provincial systems, then it will change the way we operate forever."

Last year Martek won a €10m (£8.58m) framework contract with the European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA) to monitor pollution in Europe's waters using drones. It followed it up by being named as part of a €67m (£58m) contract to support the work of Coast Guards using drones.

Martek Marine website

Images: UNICEF / Vanuatu Helicopters


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