Drone Deliveries to Hospitals in Rwanda
Posted on June 25, 2017 Comments (0)
Partnering with the Government of Rwanda, Zipline serves 21 hospitals nation-wide. They provide instant deliveries of lifesaving blood products for 8 million Rwandans.
Their drones are tiny airplanes (instead of the more common tiny helicopter model). Supplies are delivered using parachute drops from the drone. Landings are similar to landings on aircraft carriers (they grab a line to help slow down the drone) and, in a difference from aircraft carrier landings, the drone line drops them onto a large air cushion.
Zipline Muhanga Distribution Center launched in October 2016 making Rwanda the first country to integrate drones into their airspace and to begin daily operations of autonomous delivery.
As of May 2017, Zipline had completed over 350 delivery flights to real hospitals and their pace is accelerating. Zipline can cut delivery time from 4 hours to 15 minutes (which is extremely important in time critical health care emergencies).
I wrote in 2014 about the huge potential for drone delivery of medical supplies. It is wonderful to see Zipline improving people’s lives with their effort.
Related: Inspirational Engineer, William Kamkwamba from Malawi (2008) – Using Rats to Sniff Out TB – US Fish and Wildlife Service Plans to Use Drones to Drop Vaccine Treats to Save Ferrets – Water Wheel
The drones can deliver up to 50-75 km (which I believe means they must have a range for 150 km because they must return to their home base). The cost is about equivalent to the current (much slower) delivery methods (can or motor bike).
The current version of the drone plane can carry about 1.2 kg of material to be delivered (via their Reddit AMA). They are working on drones with longer ranges and larger payload capacity. Currently they average about 17 deliveries a day with 2 or 3 units of blood (3 is the maximum capacity).