30 October 2020

Swoop Aero is transforming the way healthcare is delivered to everyone everywhere

Swoop Aero’s drone

Eric Peck

Master of Business Administration
CEO & Co-Founder of Swoop Aero

Eric Peck’s persistence and hard work as co-founder and CEO of on-demand healthcare service, Swoop Aero, all crystallised in December of 2018 when on the lush green, yet dangerously isolated village, South River on Erromango Island in Vanuatu, baby Joy – just a couple months old – received her first vital vaccine.

Delivered in a world-first by Swoop Aero’s drone and aeromedical logistics network, and after Eric and Josh Tepper, co-founder and CTO, had experienced just about every frustrating setback associated with growing start-up, Swoop Aero landed their big break winning the first ever competitive tender for medical supply delivery by commercial drone, contracted by Vanuatu's Government, and funded by UNICEF and the Australian Government.

The momentous event, and a welcomed disruption of traditional health supply chains, proved the importance of Swoop Aero’s work transforming the way the world moves essential supplies and importantly for the first time at an economically efficient cost.

At just 30-years-old, Eric has led many professional lives – from his career as a Hercules Aircraft Captain in the Air Force, to management consulting for the likes of Deloitte and boutique Pollen Consulting, and his more recent collaborations with robotics engineers in drone technology capabilities. His relentless search for valuable and meaningful worldwide impact saw him tackling one of the greatest problems jeopardising global development and health equality.

Eric (right) on a recent trip to Malawi with the Swoop Aero drone
Eric (right) on a recent trip to Malawi with the Swoop Aero drone

Swoop Aero takes the often-sullied reputation of the drone – think your neighbour’s typical dinky hobby drone they crashed within hours of purchase or more sinister reports of their controversial use in warfare – and completely turns it on its head as a use for good.

Combining all the best practices in aviation from an 80 tonne air force aircraft with advanced engineering software and compressing it down into a 20 kilogram 3D printed, plastic autonomous airplane has enabled the team to safely, reliably, and sustainably deliver life-changing medical supplies to those across the globe that need them most.

“I’ve always been drawn to things that had impact. That's why I started working in the Air Force,” says Eric. “No matter what you're doing, you’re just working on this big problem and involved in massive projects the government wants to achieve, part of this big team striving towards ultimately an end goal.”

“Whether you're doing humanitarian assistance or providing a facility for a region that's not there, or you're just training or flying a really complex $70M aircraft with a team of ten people. There was always that challenge I was drawn to.”

Medical delivery in Malawi, Likoma District. Photo by Swoop Aero
Medical delivery in Malawi, Likoma District. Photo by Swoop Aero.

“With Swoop Aero, I really wanted to grab something and drive it through to the end state, so that was kind of where this idea came from and I thought starting my business would be the right way to go.”

“What we're doing now is a really exciting opportunity to use leading edge frontier technology to solve a massive problem. We get to have that big global impact with what we're doing and we're using technology to solve it.”

Eric spent nine years in the Air Force before pivoting to business with an MBA at the University of South Australia. In addition to the foundational set of skills and integrative knowledge Eric says he still falls back on all the time, during this study he took advantage of the intensive exchange visiting Peking University in Beijing.

There as part of the industry networking events, Eric struck up a conversation with some fellow entrepreneurs working on remote communications technology. The group got talking about how drone technology could be used in agriculture and how it was an effective way to improve outcomes. This is where Eric says the initial seed for Swoop Aero came from.

Three years later, after teaming up with robotics engineer and co-founder, Josh Tepper, three rounds of successful venture capital fundraising, and a growing team of 30+ spread across four countries, the company now has a network stretching the developing world with a real focus on Malawi, Mozambique and Democratic Republic of the Congo in Africa, and the Philippines and Indonesia.

Eric middle, Swoop Aero and VillageReach received a visit from the DR Congo Minister for Health in the organisations’ Mbandaka Office. Photo by VillageReach)
Eric (middle) Swoop Aero and VillageReach received a visit from the DR Congo Minister for Health in the organisations’ Mbandaka Office. Photo by VillageReach.

With all the uncertainty and chaos 2020 has brought the world, it is clear few things are more crucial than investing in a robust and wide-reaching healthcare system in ways Swoop Aero is prioritising.

Eric says the strength of the health system really becomes important when there is a challenge – whether that’s raging Bushfires, a weeklong power outage thanks to a transformer explosion, or a global pandemic – perspectives change, and the urgency really comes to light.

Eric and Swoop Aero are leading the way in accessible universal, healthcare for everybody, anywhere.

“In Southern Malawi we’ve done thousands of flights since the COVID-19 pandemic kicked off – delivering over 50,000 HIV antiviral loads, more than 10,500 vaccines as well as PPE such as 1,500 COVID-19 facemasks,” says Eric.

“We also do two to three emergency deliveries a week. That's really exciting because it involves everything from anti-venom or an anti-rabies vaccine for someone who's just been bitten by an animal to Oxytocin for a mother that's just given birth and has complications.”

The first vaccine delivered by drone to baby Joy in Vanuatu. Photo by Unicef.
The first vaccine delivered by drone to baby Joy in Vanuatu. Photo by Unicef.

“Every time we do an emergency delivery, it’s something that otherwise would not be available, and in a lot of those cases it is effectively saving a life. We know right there that someone's life is changing on the spot – it’s really exciting.”

Eric has rapidly learned how to navigate all his aviation, business and supply chain knowledge, and turned it into a thriving, life-saving venture that will create real-world value for years to come. Ever the humble leader, though, he’s most proud of the work the entire Swoop Aero team is doing and how this amazing group of people are really dedicated to the cause.

They have a jam-packed, exciting few years ahead too with lofty goals such as their fight for universal healthcare aiming that 100 million people are reached with a sustainable drone logistics service by 2025, with ambitions to also have their signature aeromedical logistics service in half the world's health supply chain by 2030, including back home in Australia.

With the pandemic driving technology adoption in healthcare forward 10 years, Eric is not resting on his laurels either, the sky’s the limit for Swoop Aero’s drones and where their ground-breaking technology can take them.

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