After Delivering Thousands of Units of Blood in Rwanda, This Company is Headed to Tanzania
Drones can avoid hills and mudslides to make speedy medical deliveries.
While Amazon is still ironing out the kinks in its plan to use drones to deliver your impulse buys to you within 30 minutes, Zipline has been using drones to deliver lifesaving blood and medication in Rwanda and has now set its sights on Tanzania.
Keller Rinaudo, the California-based startup’s CEO and co-founder, was first inspired to start Zipline while visiting Tanzania in 2014, according to NPR. At the time, Tanzania’s Ifakara Health Institute had developed a database to track nation-wide emergencies and collect information in real-time. Unfortunately, the country’s terrain, much like Rwanda’s, and supply chain issues made it difficult for people to actually receive medical attention in time.
Using drones costs about the same amount as using traditional vehicles would cost to roll out the delivery service, Rinaudo told NPR. However, the drones are able to quickly fly over hills and other rough terrain that pose challenges to vehicles.
And when it comes to medical emergencies, the time saved by drone flights can literally mean the difference between life and death.
Last year, Zipline launched its service in Rwanda and has successfully performed around 1,400 deliveries there, according to Wired. The company hired mostly locals to operate both the drones and its distribution centers and has delivered 2,600 units of blood in less than one year of operation, according to the Verge. Most of the blood and supplies delivered have been used to treat new mothers experiencing postpartum hemorrhaging and children suffering from anemia caused by malaria.
On the heels of its success in Rwanda, Zipline has just partnered with Tanzania’s ministry of health to bring Zipline to Tanzania. The service is expected to launch in January and the Tanzanian government hopes to be able to make up to 2,000 daily deliveries, according to Wired.
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Tanzania is nearly 36 times the size of Rwanda and has a population about five times that of Rwanda, so Zipline will be using an updated model of their custom drones to deliver supplies to 5,640 different public health facilities, Wired reports.
Zipline’s service is intended to bolster the government’s efforts, which use overland vehicles, to deliver medical supplies like emergency vaccines and HIV medicine.
For the time being, Zipline’s services are limited to drop-offs, as landing and loading drones can be complicated. However, Rinaudo told NPR that pick-ups, particularly of lab samples, is something Zipline is definitely planning to do in the future.
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