The government of Rwanda has announced a partnership with California startup Zipline International to use its cargo drones to deliver medical supplies, vaccines and blood to remote health clinics and hospitals that are either difficult or impossible to reach via traditional modes of transportation.
More than two billion people lack adequate access to essential medical pharmaceuticals, often due to challenging terrain and gaps in infrastructure. Because of this, over 2.9 million children under age five die every year. And up to 150,000 pregnancy-related deaths could be avoided each year if mothers had reliable access to safe blood.
Rwanda, one of the world’s poorest nations, is the first country in history to use drones in this way. This makes the technology hub for East Africa ahead of places like the United States in establishing a commercial drone delivery network: “The concept of drone ports is something that a very small decision-making unit in the country decided they were going to do,” says Michael Fairbanks, a member of the Rwandan president Paul Kagame’s presidential advisory council. “It took a very short time. It’s something that America could learn from.”
The drones have an almost eight-foot wingspan and use GPS to navigate and communicate via the Rwandan cellular network. They will be able to fly in rough weather and at a temperature needed to provide blood and vaccines. To start they will be able to make 50 – 150 of critical emergency deliveries per day to Rwanda’s 21 transfusing facilities.
Zipline’s mission is to build an automated supply chain for the world, allowing drones to deliver low cost products on demand. The project has the potential to revolutionise public health and save thousands of lives.
Watch the drones drop small packages from very low altitudes with paper parachutes. No roads? No problem.
Zipline will deliver a wide range of medical products in other countries this year. If you think Zipline could help your country, contact them.
Keller Rinaudo, CEO, Zipline International