Global Citizen is a community of people like you

People who want to learn about and take action on the world’s biggest challenges. Extreme poverty ends with you.

Finance & Innovation

Drones Are Now Delivering Critical Medical Supplies in Rwanda

The world’s first national drone delivery service for medical aid is literally up and running in Rwanda.

Months ago, drone delivery company Zipline and the Rwandan government launched a partnership plan which has the potential to reinvent the way medical aid is distributed in poor and rural communities around the world.

Now, in the same time it takes to donate blood, a rural hospital in Rwanda can send a text message and receive blood donations within a matter of 15-30 minutes.

Read More: Drones to Start Delivering Blood and Medicine in Rwanda

Zipline had to overcome layers of bureaucracy and tough logistics to create a network  that is filling a gap for medical aid that currently affects more than 2 billion people lacking access to medical aid. For the majority of the those people, rough terrain and minimal infrastructure lies between life and death.

“You have a database of people. You know their lives are in danger,” said Zipline CEO Keller Rinaudo. “Can you get them what they need fast enough? That's been the mission from the start.”

So how do you transport a bag of live-saving blood across mountains, terrain with no roads, and account for times when the weather will be less than perfect?

Slingshot a “Zip” at 100km/hr with precise accuracy. The Zip includes a packaged and tightly sealed blood donation with the specified blood type. Zip drops off the medical supplies to a location range the size of several parking spaces and the healthcare worker who texted for the donation can go pick it up.

This system also reduces the risk of the wrong medical supplies from taking up shelf space in refrigerators at hospitals. Though the Zipline program, countries could save on healthcare costs since they can request and receive supplies as needed.

“What we're trying to do is, instead of them trying to predict what they need and having a large percentage of that blood go to waste, they can basically keep all of the blood centralized in two blood banks in the whole country. Then every single hospital and health center is in a 15- to 45-minute delivery of any blood transfusion regardless of the type of blood, all the time,” said Rinaudo.

Mothers and children need blood the most. Half of blood transfusions are used for mothers who hemorrhage after giving birth. Another 30% of blood goes to give children more iron in their blood who have become anemia – a side effect of malaria.

Now that Rwanda is officially out of “pilot” mode, Zipline plans to expand to other countries and broaden medical supplies.

If you think your country could be helped by their services you can check out their site, or contact Zipline here.

Read More: How One Woman Became the Voice for Thousands of Rwandan Rape Victims