Factualising Fictions: Drones are making medical deliveries now – Believe it or not!

It was an amazing moment of joy in Muhanga, Rwanda when a small fixed-wing drone propelled its way through the air towards the Kabgayi Hospital with a distance of 2 kilometres from the source.

drones medical delivery

Rwanda has started a life-saving revolution by using drones for supply of medical care in the rural parts of Africa for the very first time by delivering brackets of blood to over 21 clinics.

Africa has the sky high maternal mortality rates all round the globe due to the post-haemorrhage caused by lack of access to blood transfusions.

Rwanda is yet another major setback of African country and the scenario becomes worse by the topography country having intense seasonal rains. Due to this weather conditions round the year, it becomes quite herculean to deliver blood by road in the nick of time.

 “Blood is a very precious commodity so you cannot just stock a lot of it in every health centre,” said Keller Rinaudo, CEO of Zipline. Zipline is a California-based robotics company that has designed 15 drones in Muhanga which is located 50 kilometres west of Kigali.

Rinaudo is having high hopes regarding the fact that by the revolution that his company has created will allow the government to quickly deliver life-saving transfusions to any citizen in the country in just a short time span of 15 to 30 minutes.

US based package-delivery giant, UPS and the global vaccine alliance Gavi has joined hands and invested in the Zipline project with a whopping amount of $1.1 million and are seeking to cherish the amazing capability of delivery drones to move out of the poor infrastructure conditions.

The blood delivery by drones is quite over-the-top in terms of investments but it promises to be a life-saver since it promises timely and fast delivery in cases of emergency.

medical delivery drones zipline

These drones called “Zips” have quite a unique structure and design with two-metre wingspan. It is just like a miniature plan with a fat belly to keep the medical care supplies in it. These Zips are powered by batteries and have a control range of around 150 metres and weigh around 13 kilograms. It can carry a cargo of around 1.5 kilograms which makes 3 bags of blood. Such type of drones can easily be used for delivery of medical supply.The flight speed of this stupendous wonder is 70 kilometres per hour and according to estimates, it can make over 150 deliveries per day!

In the so-called launch station which is a special tent designed for the med-delivery task, Zipline technicians are engaged in monitoring the drone activity from their laptops while the other people are busy in preparing the payloads for the drones. These payloads include small cardboard boxes with paper parachutes that hold the blood bags and are dropped from a height of around 20 meters.

medical delivery drones Zipline

When the test flights were taking place, some residents were curious enough to peek through their houses through their fences to see this wondrous life-saving drone returning back to the station after dropping their cargo to the desired destinations and landing on the mattresses after their heroic duties.

Zipline is planning to open a second base station in Rwanda by next year so that the whole country is within the radar of these marvellous life-saving drones. These drones are changing the face of technology and also are helping the world by giving their bit in this humanitarian task.

“These flights will save lives,” said Gregg Svingen, head of communications at UPS. “Today it is blood, tomorrow it will be vaccines.”

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