The drones are expected to make between 50 and 150 life-saving deliveries each day to far-flung and inaccessible clinics across the western half of the country. Excessive blood loss during childbirth is the leading cause of death in pregnant women in Rwanda.
Zipline, the company behind the technology, said it could complete a delivery in around 30 minutes after receiving an order via a call or text message.
“This commercial partnership between Rwanda and Zipline is expected to save thousands of lives over the next three years. Rwanda is leading the world by using cutting-edge technology to leapfrog the absence of road infrastructure,” Zipline said.
The delivery service was first announced earlier this year. Zipline said it plans to expand into the eastern half of Rwanda in early 2017.
Transfusion clinics in rural Rwanda face a plethora of supply chain problems: blood spoils quickly if not kept at the correct temperature and infrastructure is poor, with roads often washed away during the rainy season.
Because there is a vast number of blood products, and no way to accurately predict what will be needed, many clinics do not store all the blood they may need.
Zipline said its drones can carry a payload of 1.5kg, enough blood to save a life, and can complete a 150km round trip in all weather conditions.
The launch of this service is the latest step in president Kagame’s mission to turn Rwanda into a regional technology hub, and is just one of several drone projects.
The country hopes to develop a network of droneports, initially to support healthcare but eventually to support commercial cargo and e-commerce too. It aims to have 44% of the country covered by 2020.
Zipline is looking to expand its service across Africa, South America and into some parts of the US. It is also looking to increase the variety of medication it can deliver.
Adapted from an article in SupplyManagement