Drones are revolutionizing medical technology by delivering life-saving blood in isolated hospitals in Africa. This drone delivery service is called “Uber for blood,” which is operating in remote areas in Rwanda.
The service is being managed by Zipline, a robotics company based in Silicon Valley, which collaborates with Rwanda’s health ministry. It is reported that they had delivered over 5,500 units of blood in the past year. They delivered blood to 12 regional hospitals in eastern Rwanda. This had saved many lives as each hospital caters about half a million people, according to The Guardian.
How does the drone operate? Once a medical professional needed a blood, he orders blood and sends a message through WhatsApp to Zipline or by logging on to its website. The Zipline drone is sent a confirmation text regarding the destination where blood is needed.
The drone flies at a rate of 60 mph and when it is within a minute of its destination, the medical professional receives a confirmation text message. After about 15 minutes, the drone will reach its the designated area near the hospital. Then, the drone will drop off the package that is attached to a parachute. After dropping the package, the drone will return to its base. It will land for a quick pit stop at Zipline’s distribution center in the regions before taking off again, according to Zipline.
The concept of this drone materialized when Keller Rinaudo, the Zipline’s co-founder and the chief executive officer met a graduate student who had developed a mobile alert system for health workers to send an emergency request for medicines and vaccines through texting in Ifakara health institute in Tanzania in 2014. On the other hand, there were numerous requests and the government could not fulfill the thousands of requests.
Rinaudo and his team then decided to design Zipline to solve the problem. He said that they have the information who needs medicine, when and where and they could get them that medicine as quickly as possible.
Currently, the company is working with the government of Tanzania to launch the drone delivery network. This could benefit the country with a population of about 56 million people. Zipline also aims to deliver some medical products such as blood transfusion supplies, antimalarials, HIV medication, sutures, and UV tubes to four bases in Tanzania this 2018. This could support over 1,000 clinics.