Document Type



Doctor of Philosophy


Business Administration

Date of Defense


Graduate Advisor

James F. Campbell


James F. Campbell

Haitao Li

Shakiba Enayati

Donald C. Sweeney

Andrea C. Hupman


In recent years, many less-developed countries (LDCs) have been exploring new opportunities provided by drones, such as the capability to deliver items with minimal infrastructure, fast speed, and relatively low cost, especially for high value-added products such as lifesaving medical products and vaccines. This dissertation optimizes the delivery network and operations for routine childhood vaccines in LDCs. It analyzes two important problems using mathematical programming, with an application in the South Pacific nation of Vanuatu. The first problem is to optimize the nation-wide multi-modal vaccine supply chain with drones to deliver vaccines from the national depot to all health zones in an LDC. The second problem is to optimize vaccine delivery using drones within a single health zone while considering the synchronization of drone deliveries with health worker outreach trips to remote clinics. Both problems consider a cold chain time limit to ensure vaccine viability. The two research problems together provide a holistic solution at the strategic and operational levels for the vaccine supply chain network in LDCs. Results from the first problem show that drones can reduce cost and delivery time simultaneously by replacing expensive and/or slow modes. The use of large drones is shown to save up to 60% of the delivery cost and the use of small drones is shown to save up to 43% of the delivery cost. The research highlights the tradeoff between delivery cost and service, with tighter cold chain limits providing faster delivery to health zones at the expense of added cost. Results from the second problem show that adding drones to delivery plans can save up to 40% of the delivery cost and improve the service time simultaneously by resupplying vaccines when the cold chain and payload limit of health workers are reached. This research contributes to both literature and practice. It develops innovative methodologies to model drone paths with relay stations and to optimize synchronized multi-stop drone trips with health worker trips. The models are tested with real-world data for an island nation (Vanuatu), which provides data for a geographic setting new to the literature on drone delivery and vaccine distribution.