Africa's first air corridor to test the humanitarian use of drones got its initial workout Thursday, reported the UN children's fund UNICEF as it announced a program with the Malawian government.
The corridor - centered on Kasungu aerodrome in central Malawi, with a radius of 40 kilometers - will run at least until June 2018.
Three drones were launched to mark the opening of the corridor, UNICEF's Doreen Matonga said by telephone.
The corridor will allow the private sector, universities and other partners to explore how drones can help deliver services to communities, according to UNICEF.
It will facilitate the testing of aerial images for monitoring floods and earthquakes; the possibility for drones to extend wi-fi or mobile phone signals across difficult terrain; and the transport of low-weight emergency medical supplies, such as vaccines and samples for laboratory diagnosis.
The launch of the testing corridor follows a pilot project in March 2016 on the feasibility of using drones to transport dried blood samples for early infant diagnosis of HIV.
UNICEF has also deployed drones to support the government's response to recent floods.
Drones "could transform lives in remote rural communities," Transport and Public Works Minister Jappie Mhango said.