Drone Delivery Begins in Rwanda

When drone delivery was first announce, many were skeptical about its success levels. Questions including interference with the air space, use by terrorists and possible injury to humans were raised. Despite many countries being adamant to this technology, Rwanda in collaboration with California-based Zipline, saw its potential in delivering medical supplies to hospitals located in interior regions of the country. This vision has just been achieved with the first drone delivery of blood, plasma and coagulants taking place.

The working of the drones in this case is plenty simple – Doctors in remote clinics uses a mobile phone to contact Zipline distribution center and make their request. The center’s staff then packs the blood into an aerial drone which gets flung into the air and flies to the medical facility. Once it arrives, the drone drops the parachute-equipped package onto a target the size of about three parking spaces. The drone then heads back to the distribution center without landing or needing to recharge. Watch the drone delivery in this video.

Zipline’s drones have a range of 150 km (93 Miles) round trip. They travel at a speed of 130 Km (75 miles) an hour. Currently the drones only travel to 21 regions within the country. According to Zipline, they can process up to 150 blood delivery per day though they seek to increase this number over time.

While flagging of this project, Rwanda’s President, Paul Kagame, noted that drones are very useful in both commercial and for improving service in the health sector. He expressed his joy in the launch of this innovative technology and hoped to continue working with partners to develop it further.

Drone delivery in Rwanda according to Keller Rinaudo, Zipline’s chief executive should replace the ad hoc system in clinics in rural areas, where staff have to travel for several hours to the nearest blood bank, because their clinics don’t have the capacity to store blood. This Journey might be long especially in places with limited infrastructure.

Zipline long-term goal is to deliver the entire medical supply chain including vaccines, anti-venom, rabies prophylaxis, oxytocin as well as other medical products that might run out in hospitals.

This video shows the whole process of drone delivery in Rwanda.

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