As HobbyKing News has previously reported, drones have been used to benefit society in a number of ways. But arguably the most important use of drones has been their ability to save a life. Last week, we reported that Verizon was working on a drone that would be able to transmit cell phone service in times of crisis and natural disaster. This is so that victims of such events would be able to contact emergency services where they otherwise were not able to (read more, here). Now, Silicon-Valley based startup Zipline is finding a new innovative way to combine medicine with drone technology by using drones to deliver blood to patients in rural areas of the world.
In rural Rwanda, two major causes of death are postpartum haemorrhaging and malaria – deaths which could have been prevented with the right tools and resources in place. As observed by Zipline’s team, for these vulnerable patients to travel to the nearest hospital, for a crucial blood transfusion, could take many hours. Time that some of these patients do not have.
In October 2016, the government of Rwanda teamed up with the company to create a team made up of flight ops and health ops to transport blood and medical supplies via drone technology as quickly and reliably as possible.
The way it works is simple and easy. The first step is for health workers in remote hospitals to send orders via WhatsApp or text, it is then quickly packed by the Zipline Distribution Center and the delivery drone is then launched. It can travel over 100km per hour with no pilot required. Through this, patients can now receive a blood transfusion in a matter of minutes, which once took hours.
This type of technology will have the potential to not only affect those living in Rwanda but can also impact the rest of the world. Being able to quickly deliver important medical equipment to people in rural parts of the world, who don’t have access to resources as readily as major cities, is life-saving. Dr Diane Gashumba, Rwanda’s Minister of Health, says “I wish all countries partnered with Zipline to deliver to the needed population.”
Since it’s partnership with the Rwandan government, Zipline has continued to research and develop the technology to continuously improve its services. This month, Zipline unveiled the world’s fastest delivery drone in the world. At the company’s test center in Half Moon Bay, California the company revealed their newest generation of autonomous aircraft which “flies farther, faster and with more cargo than was ever before possible— even in high altitude, heavy wind, or rain.”
The company, which now delivers more than 20% of Rwanda’s blood supply outside of Kigali, is planning on expanding its operations to the United States. They are currently working with state governments across the USA, as well as the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). So watch this space.