The east African country, Rwanda, which is known for its hilly terrain and limited transport infrastructure, has begun using drones to deliver blood to hospitals in rural areas.
In the western half of the country, 21 transfusion clinics can request batches of blood via text. The order will be picked up by Zipline, a California-based robotics firm, at its “nest” base in Muhanga. A small 13 kg drone will then be deployed and, upon arrival, swoop down low to drop the package, which descends safely by a parachute made of a biodegradable material.
“Our long-term goal is to deliver the entire medical supply chain,” said Keller Rinaudo, a 28-year-old Harvard graduate and CEO of Zipline, the company that has developed the technology.
Rwanda uses about 650,000 units of blood per year, said Keller Rinaudo, CEO of Zapline. About half of that goes to mothers who suffer postpartum bleeding and another third is for children under the age of five who have malaria-induced anemia.
The Rwanda scheme is supported by a partnership between Zipline, global logistics company UPS and Gavi, an international vaccine alliance supported by governments and private donors.