Rwanda has launched the world’s first commercial drone delivery system. The initiative is a partnership between the Rwandan government and Zipline. The drone system is expected to make up to 150 emergency medical deliveries each day. The focus is on delivering blood for transfusion purposes as well as critical medical supplies.
Zipline’s robot plane
Zip is a small robotic airplane. It can carry blood, medicine and vaccines. The plane requires no pilot and can fly at speeds of up to 100 km/h. Zip is designed to be safe and uses the same principles used in commercial airliners. Each Zip can fly up to 150 km round trip in wind and rain and carry 1.5 kg of blood (enough to save a human life). Zip flies below 500ft (152m) so as to avoid interfering with passenger planes.
How exactly does it work?
A health worker can place an order by text message. Within minutes, a Zip is prepared and launched into the sky. Racing along at 100 km/h, Zip arrives faster than any other mode of transport, no pilot required. The medical products are then dropped off, landing gently and accurately at the health facility in an open area the size of a few parking spaces. The flight path is predetermined in the Zipline system thus making flights accurate.
African countries health systems are marred by inadequate access to critical medical supplies. This is due to shortages and often times challenging terrain and infrastructure gaps. Some medical facilities have no infrastructure to keep certain supplies while others are too remote for accessibility. These issues cause millions of deaths on the African continent each year.
Drones have the potential to revolutionise a lot of sectors as we know them. The medical field is one particular field in which drones could save lives. The hours saved when drones are used for medical deliveries are very critical in saving lives especially for lethal conditions and accidents. Someone bitten by a deadly snake would stand a better chance with medicines being delivered to them instead of the patient being carried to hospital.