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Drones being used to deliver medical supplies in remote areas of Africa

Drones have helped reduce delivery times from four hours to less than 45 minutes.

  • Published: January 4, 2018 10:30 AM IST

A Silicon Valley robotics company’s partnership with the Rwandan health ministry has enabled the delivery of vital medicines to hospitals in remote areas using drones in an average of half an hour, the media reported. The ingenious drone delivery service by Zipline, known as “Uber for blood” has delivered more than 5,500 units of blood over the past year in an average half an hour.

“The ministry of health and Rwanda Biomedical Center are happy to use such innovative technology to reduce the average delivery time from four hours to less than 45 minutes, with quick and reliable delivery [of] blood products,” a spokesman for the Rwandan health ministry was cited by The Guardian on Tuesday as saying.

Zipline is delivering blood to 12 regional hospitals — each serving about half a million people — from a base in the east of Rwanda. When a doctor or medical staffer at one of the 12 clinics needs blood, they send a WhatsApp message or log on to Zipline’s order site. They are then sent a confirmation message saying a Zip drone is on its way.

The drone flies to the clinic at up to 60 mph. When it is within a minute of the destination, the doctor receives a text. The drone then drops the package, attached to a parachute, into a special zone near the clinic before returning to base, the report said.

“The work in Rwanda has shown the world what’s possible when you make a national commitment to expand healthcare access with drones and help save lives,” Keller Rinaudo, Zipline’s co-founder and chief executive officer, was quoted as saying to The Guardian. Drone delivery also means hospitals can store less blood, which means less waste as blood spoils quickly.

The use of drones is helping to reduce maternal deaths — a quarter of which are the result of blood loss during childbirth — and high incidences of malaria-induced anaemia, which is common in children. Zipline next plans to work with the government of Tanzania, and aims to deliver a range of medical products – including blood transfusion supplies, HIV medication, antimalarials, sutures and UV tubes, to four bases in Tanzania, supporting more than 1,000 clinics.

  • Published Date: January 4, 2018 10:30 AM IST