A ground-breaking drone delivery system saving lives in remote Africa

Zipline is the world’s first commercial drone delivery system designed to get critical medical supplies, such as blood and vaccines, to where they’re needed fast. The multi-partner initiative, featuring Silicon Valley company ‘Zipline – Lifesaving Deliveries’ and the Rwandan Government, aims to put every single one of Rwanda’s 12 million citizens within a 15-35 minute delivery range of any essential medical product.

The Zipline system is elegantly designed from end-to-end. Health workers in remote areas use a cell phone to text an order with Zipline for the medical products they need. The items are then quickly packaged at a safe distribution center and prepared for flight. Within minutes, the health workers receive confirmation that their order has been received and sent. Shortly after, the drone arrives and items are delivered gently by parachute, landing in a designated area.

The Zipline drone’s boomerang approach brilliantly bypasses the inherent drone issue of having to land, which depletes battery power, reducing the drone’s range. Each Zipline drone is designed to carry a payload of 1.5 kilos, has an operational range of 150 kilometers, and can fly 500 deliveries in 24 hours - in all weather conditions. The cost per trip is roughly equal to that of the current delivery method, by motorbike or ambulance.

Hospitals served by Zipline now have access –within minutes, not hours– to all critical components. Patients can get the care they need close to home, doctors and health workers can focus on providing the best quality of care, and the cost of inventory and waste at hospitals is dramatically reduced.

As of 2017, Zipline services 21 transfusion facilities in the western part of Rwanda, which will initially reach approximately seven million people. Recently, Zipline also announced that over the next year they will begin working in Maryland, Nevada, and Washington (USA).

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