A request for information from The Government of Sierra Leone’s Directorate of Science, Technology & Innovation Medical Drone Delivery Design Team to shortlisted drone suppliers.

February 5, 2021 Off By admin

A request for information from The Government of Sierra Leone’s Directorate of Science, Technology & Innovation Medical Drone Delivery Design Team to shortlisted drone suppliers.

Deadline for response: Midnight Sunday 14th February 2021.

Published: 4th February 2021.

Submit to: proposals@dsti.gov.sl and drones@dsti.gov.sl

Table of Contents:

  1. Introduction

  2. Timeline

  3. Overview of Use Cases

3.1                       Sample Collection

3.2                       Resupply Blood to Blood Bank & Hospitals

3.3                       Resupply of High Value Commodities to Cold Chain Capable Facilities

3.4                       On Demand Delivery of Non-Cold Chain High Value Medical Products

3.5                       Delivery to remote Health Facilities

3.6                       On Demand Delivery of PPE in a Pathogen Outbreak

  • UAS Platform Specifications Matrix

5.              Required & Preferred Vendor qualifications

6.              Mandatory Documents

7.              Submission conditions

1.           Introduction

The Directorate of Science, Technology & Innovation, supported by UNICEF and Crown Agents, are leading a three-month, data-driven, design project to examine the viability of integrating drone technology into the medical supply chain of Sierra Leone.

The RFI stage of the supplier selection process aims to collect enough information about suppliers to conduct a desk-based selection process and reduce the number of suppliers down to three finalists. The finalist will be based on their deemed appropriateness to the prioritised use cases and the Sierra Leonean context.

The DSTI Medical Drone Delivery Design Team currently consists of a Team Lead, Project Manager, practising doctor, UAV technician, CAA authority and data analyst. They are working in partnership with the Ministry of Health & Sanitation to critically evaluate and prioritise the various medical drone use cases in the context of Sierra Leone. This process is happening in parallel with the supplier selection.

The first review of the use cases will be by the MDDP Technical Committee which includes the Chief Medical Officer of Sierra Leone, the Managing Director of the Sierra Leone National Medical Supplies Agency & other technicians with an aggregate experience of over 100 years in the medical supply chain in Africa. The Technical Committee will meet and asses the use case in four review meetings. Once the concept has been authorised the Design Team will hold a two-tier workshop where select members of the MoHS, CAA and development partners will have an opportunity to critically evaluate the uses cases and the implementation plan. Once the use cases have been approved, they will be incorporated into the proposal and an RFP released to the final suppliers.

Once the RFIs have been evaluated, the suppliers will be narrowed to finalists, who will be asked to complete a Request For Proposal (RFP). This will comprise of an in depth technical and financial proposal. Once the RFPs have been evaluated on a weighted score basis, the selection committee will make its recommendations to the DSTI project leadership. The finalist will be given the opportunity to demonstrate their capabilities within the DSTI drone corridor later this year. Required demonstrations will include technical feasibility, demonstration of the drones’ performance as per the RFI and regulatory compliance. A limited amount of funds will be made available to support this testing process.

2.           Timeline

The following timeline captures the key dates in the solicitation process:

3.           Overview of Use Cases

A summary of these use-cases is detailed below. All additional information about incidence, levels of demand, location, topography and meteorology will be provided to the finalist of the desk-based selection once the RFI responses have been received.

3.1.        Sample Collection

Sierra Leone has a limited number of diagnostic centres which, combined with challenging weather conditions and access, means that collection is expensive, and samples are unable to be analysed before degradation.  Drone may provide a cheaper, safe and more efficient mode of transport for these samples. The possible type of samples include blood, tissue biopsies and compartmental specimens. Significant potential interventions include Covid19, Lassa and other neglected tropical diseases. The potential location of use may be anywhere in Sierra Leone however the implementation rolls out may well be by district until scaled to a national program.   

3.2.        Resupply Blood to Blood Bank & Hospitals         

Sierra Leone faces challenges in the availability, storage and management of blood. The ability for drones to deliver blood safely and quickly to the hospitals and health facilities of Sierra Leone create the opportunity to rationalise the reserves of blood at a facilities to minimal level and centralise the majority of the countries blood reserves in a World Health Organisation certified blood bank where it can be efficiently and safely scanned and stored. The benefits of this intervention are expected to be significant increase in availability of safe blood, reduction in wastage and an increase in quality of blood screening and management. The possible location for this intervention will initially be the 80+ hospitals and the 22 blood banks, however this would be trialled in a district before scaled nationally.

3.3.        Resupply of High Value Commodities to Cold Chain Capable Facilities            

The topography, weather conditions and poor road and power infrastructure are all factors contributing to the lack of access of cold-chain, medical commodities, which leads to the high maternal and infant mortality burden of Sierra Leone.

The Design team is sceptical that drones can provide a national, on-demand delivery service for products such as oxytocin as the window to administer to a mother experiencing post-partum haemorrhaging can be less than 5 minutes,  too small for a drone to be called, loaded and dispatched. However, due to shortages of these high value medical commodities there does persist significant stock outs of products such as oxytocin and artesunate within facilities that have functional cold chain capabilities.

Drones do potentially offer the opportunity to centralise scarce stock in a well-managed, World Health Organisation certified facility and rationalise in field stock at cold chain enabled facilities but then resupply after each intervention, at facilities with functional cold chain. Centralise the stocks. Resupply these facilities post intervention to ensure continuance and availability of access.

3.4.        On Demand Delivery of Non-Cold Chain High Value Medical Products

Sierra Leone has high incidences of stock outs of essential medical commodities for multiple reasons.  Drone allow the centralisation of high value items and delivery on-demand anywhere in the country in less than 90 minutes (75% within the “golden hour”). Examples of potential commodities are Rabies PEP; Artesunate; Rectal artesunate suppositories; HIV/Aids PEP; Magnesium Sulphate; Dextrose injections to name a few.

3.5.        Delivery to remote Health Facility           

The mountains, rivers, and islands of Sierra Leone together with the poor road network mean that there are multiple isolated facilities that are challenging and expensive to deliver medical commodities to, for example the facility on Turtle Island. Although not a use case in isolation, the distribution of medicines to these facilities is undoubtedly a worthwhile consideration.     

3.6.        On Demand Delivery of PPE in Pathogen Outbreak

A key element of combatting future pathogen outbreaks is early identification and containment especially for diseases with high r0, such as Ebola. The quicker the vectors can be tested and contained, the lower the risk of the disease spreading, especially in a resource limited environment like Sierra Leone. The most urgent item of equipment required on site is personal protective equipment (PPE). This enables the medical staff to interact and isolate potential victims with less risk of personal infection. Unfortunately, much of the PPE in Sierra Leone’s health units has found its way into the possession of the “ocada boys”, the motorbike taxi drivers who find the all-in-one suit effective protection against the rains. Therefore, drones provide the opportunity to integrate with the country’s surveillance mechanism and deliver PPE within hours of a suspected pathogen outbreak.

4.           UAS Platform Specifications Matrix:

UAV (HARDWARE) STRUCTURE & DESIGNTypeIndicate if the model or models include motor, fixed wing, or hybrid (VTOL) design. Indicate what year model was created. Include pictures and design drawings of the UAV (can also be URLs). Please also indicate if the drone is commercially available.
Propulsion systemIndicate manufacturer and model used as well as the MTTF (Mean time to failure). Describe how all essential elements of the propulsion system are reliable and meet commercial standards.
ErgonomicsDescribe how the design minimizes the chances of human error.
DimensionsIndicate the physical dimensions of the UAV and the box used to transport the UAV.
WeightProvide the weight of the UAV including batteries, the maximum take-off weight, the UAV’s weight when empty, and the weight of the box used to transport the UAV.
Flight ControlsDescribe how flight control design provides continuous control of the UAV by means of a controller unit whose display provides unambiguous operations and clear indications of UAV flight status both in autonomous and manual modes.
Power SourceIndicate if the platform is powered by battery, fuel, or a hybrid of energy sources. Also indicate what type and number of batteries or fuel are required.
System power/electrical loadIndicate maximum electrical load factor, system management during power failure, etc.
UAV control station/remote pilot station and ground support equipmentList and describe any additional ground support equipment to be utilized.
Data linkDescribe ability for continuous monitoring, signal strength monitoring, telemetry monitoring, signal redundancy, etc. (radio, celullar, satellite, combination of those, or other type of connection between ground station and a drone); also, please describe how you minimize the risk of potential interference and a loss of connection
Infrastructure and EquipmentIdentify other equipment that is necessary for flight operations in addition to the UAV and tablet/ computer/controller.
Imaging/Mapping CameraIndicate whether it is possible to attach a camera to the UAV. If so, is it easily attachable/detachable? (more detailed specs to be provided in the table below)
FPV CameraIs a first-person view (FPV) camera already a part of the UAV hardware, or is this an optional addition to the structure? Is it possible to connect with cellular networks or radio to provide a live video feed?
Replacement partsIndicate whether replacement parts are commercially available, 3d-printable or otherwise available. If so, which parts are and are not? What are the costs of the main replacement parts?
UAV CommunicationOn which frequency is the UAV communicating? How is communication managed beyond visual line of sight? Is it possible to communicate with the UAV using 3G, 4G or satellite connection (receive telemetry or control the drone)
SOFTWARE DESIGNFlight logsDescribe the software capabilities to log flights and store flight data. How are the flight logs transferred from the flight system into a readable format?
Flight planningIndicate the software used for planning and programming flight paths, whether custom-built or commercially available.
Automated return featureDescribe how the UAV is prepared for return to home location automatically
CONSIDERATIONS SPECIFIC TO CARGO-CARRYING UAVPayload capacityDescribe maximum payload capabilities (weight) for the distances the UAV is able to travel.
Please fill in the below table with different variations.
Cargo holdDescribe the physical dimensions and volume of the cargo holding space. Is the hold internal or external? Can the cargo hold be customized? What is the maximum weight the cargo area holds? Include pictures of the cargo hold.
Cargo placementIndicate any requirements for balancing the cargo. Does the UAV require counterweights, or specific cargo placement in the hold?
Cold chain capabilitiesIndicate whether there is an option to maintain cold-chain requirements passively or actively (2-8 degrees of Celsius, also subject to different ranges depending on a commodity) and to provide real-time monitoring of temperature.
Cargo hold capabilitiesHow is payload delivered? Is it directly accessed by the recipient? Can UAV land and leave cargo behind? Can UAV release cargo while flying?
How does payload attach/detach? Is it dropped and left behind, or opened manually and potentially
PERFORMANCE CHARACTERISTICSMaximum altitudeIndicate maximum altitude from ground and sea level, as well as the cruising altitude.
Maximum rangeIndicate the maximum flight range. Note some general parameters for how the range is affected by temperatures, altitude, payload, and battery life as applicable. At a minimum provide maximum ranges at these altitudes for each 1, 2 and 5 kg: 1. Sea Level; 2. 1000 m ASL (above sea Level); 3. 2000 m ASL.
Performance envelopeIndicate the performance envelope through a written description or graphic.
AirspeedDescribe the airspeed necessary for take-off, cruise, landing, and stall maximum airspeed.
Maximum rate of climbIndicate the maximum rate of climb.
Maximum rate of descentIndicate the maximum rate of descent.
Number of flights and flight hoursIndicate the number of successfully completed flights and flight hours by all company’s aircrafts
Maximum bank angleIndicate the maximum bank angle.
PERFORMANCE CAPABILITIES & LIMITATIONSTurn rate limitsIndicate the maximum turning rate.
Environmental enduranceDescribe UAV performance limitations due to environmental and meteorological conditions (e.g. wind, ice, humidity, temperature, rain, hail).
Take-off and landingIndicate required distances and/or surface areas required for take-off and landing. List any equipment required, such as catapult or net, or the need to be thrown. Also include the measurement between the landing gear and the body of the UAV.
Flight controllerDescribe flight controller and autopilot type, manufacturer, and working method.
Navigation systemsPlease fill in the below detailed table on navigation systems
GPS TechnologyDescribe the use of real-time kinematic (RTK) or post processed kinematic (PPK) GPS systems for improving performance positioning. Is RTK or PPK GPS system an option?
Sensors and/or telemetryDescribe the controls on the UAV controller, sensors, computers, and actuation parts necessary to control the UAV. What systems are in place for continued control of the UAV in the event of a propulsion or power generation system failure?
EMERGENCY PROCEDURES FOR SYSTEM FAILURESBriefly describe procedures for documenting and handling each of the following scenarios, if applicable.Loss of autopilot
Loss of flight control due to server failure
Loss of propulsion power
Loss of engine power (one engine out)
Low battery voltage
Loss of navigation components (heading or altitude)
Loss of Global Navigation Satellite System
Loss of data link (radio control link failure)
Remote pilot station communication failure
Loss of power at remote pilot station
Loss of remote pilot/UAV observer communication
Structural damage to UAV
Flight control surfaces and actuatorsNote: The UAV flight management system shall include the controls on the UAV controller, sensors, computers and actuation parts necessary to control the UAV. Any single failure of the flight control system should not affect the functions to control UAV recovery.
Failure modes or scenarios other than those listed above that can endanger safe flight shall be identified, described, and managed in a safe manner.
OPERATIONAL FOOTPRINTSetting up a daily operationDescribe how long does it take to set-up a drone for a BVLOS operation? What are the regular procedures to be followed?
Number of personnelPlease describe how many people are usually involved in BVLOS flight operation (from technical, not regulatory perspective), and what are their roles
Equipment required for the operational set-upPlease describe what are the main items of equipment are needed to conduct the BVLOS flight for delivery
International ShipmentsDescribe if any of the drone parts (e.g. large Lithium ion batteries, etc) have challenging shipping procedures. If yes, how have you handled such situations in the past?
Movement, transportationIndicate the number of people typically required to manually move the unassembled and assembled UAV from one position or location to another.
HAZARD CONSIDERATIONS AND FAILSAFE FEATURESIdentification of UAV functionsDescribe how indications and warnings necessary to ensure safe control of the UAV flight path, including collision avoidance, are available in real time with continuous data transmission and with a high level of protection against hacking.
Identification of degradation and failure conditionsBriefly, without technical details, describe how the UAV system provides immediate notification of a system failure.
Management and mitigations of the failure conditionsBriefly, without technical details, describe how the UAV would automatically switch to an alternate or degraded mode of operation.
A list of alarms and methods for troubleshootingBriefly, without technical details, describe how the UAV system software monitors and identifies safety critical aspects.
IP RatingPlease indicate the IP (ingress protection) rating of the platform
Flight terminationBriefly, without technical details, describe the fail-safe system which provides recovery to a predetermined recovery area with programmable capability for maintaining safe flight control or operation within design parameters.
Location of all air data sensors, antennas, radios, and navigation equipment with respect to segregation and redundancyInclude a drawing of the UAV with the locations identified.

5.           Required & Preferred Vendor qualifications

The vendor should have the following qualifications and experience:

  • Proven experience in fulfilling regulatory requirements to obtain certificate to operate drones in beyond visual line-of-sight (required)
  • Personnel with the possession of remote pilot license(s) from a local or other country’s civil aviation authority and ability to train their own staff (required)
  • Proven experience of setting up robust training programs for their own staff and establishing standard operating procedures (SOPs) or other necessary protocols to ensure safe and efficient daily operation of flights (preferred)
  • Strong understanding, and, preferably, experience of working in low-resource settings, including knowledge transfer and capacity building background (preferred)
  • Excellent project and management, organisational skills, professional approach to time and costs, ability to handle multiple tasks under tight deadlines (preferred)
  • Demonstrates initiative, sound judgment and ability to work in harmony with persons of different national and cultural backgrounds (preferred)
  • Proven ability to work in lean and agile ways (preferred)
  • Proven experience in setting up scalable drone delivery operations in resource-constrained environments and running daily drone delivery operations for at least 2 months (preferred)
  • Ability to share any data relevant to the service performance and daily operations (preferred)

Suggested Specific Personnel Profiles (but not limited to):

  • Project and Program manager
  • Chief of Flight Operations
  • Drone Pilot
  • Safety Officer

6.           Mandatory Documents

Please submit the following mandatory documents

  • Standard Operating Procedures
  • Safety Management System

7.           Submission conditions

Please submit your response in a PDF, titled:      “DSTI MDDP [insert company name] RFI”

Please submit to:                          proposals@dsti.gov.sl and drones@dsti.gov.sl  

Please submit by:                          Midnight 14th February 2021

Any questions, please email to proposals@dsti.gov.sl and drones@dsti.gov.sl and the questions and answers will be shared with the other suppliers from the same email

Please note: The DSTI Medical Drone Delivery Team recognise potential suppliers are releasing industry sensitive information. With that in mind the team would like to make the following assurance with regards to confidentiality and data protection:

The DSTI MDDP Design Team agree to establish appropriate safeguards to protect the confidentiality of shared supplier data and to prevent unauthorized use or access. Specifically, DSTI MDDP Design Team shall implement and maintain an information security management policy with standards that are no less rigorous than accepted industry practices, comply with all applicable laws to protect the Supplier Data from unauthorized access, destruction, use, modification, or disclosure, as well as comply with the provisions of this statement. At a minimum, DSTI MDDP Team shall implement safeguards such as ringfenced cloud storage and password protected shared email accounts, with permissions reviewed periodically.

In the same regard we would ask all potential suppliers to maintain discretion and professionalism in the sharing of information with other entities about and throughout the supplier selection process.