The world’s first commercial drone delivery service has launched in Rwanda

The world’s first commercial drone delivery service is in Rwanda, and it’s delivering blood.

The service is operated by Zipline, a US robotics and drone company. The drones drop blood parcels on parachutes outside remote health centers. Rwanda’s govern- ment pays Zipline for the de- liveries, each of which costs about the same as the motor- bike deliveries used previously, according to Keller Rinaudo, Zipline’s CEO. (The company declined to say how much that was, saying it would defer to the government to release the figure)
Health workers can request a blood drop via text message, and it arrives around 30 min- utes later. That makes a big difference in a country where short road trips can take hours. Blood loss after birth is one of the reasons maternal mortality is much higher in poor countries than rich ones; it’s the leading cause of death in Rwanda for pregnant women. And blood has to be stored carefully and matched to the recipient.

For now, Zipline will make between 50 and 150 deliver- ies per day to 21 clinics in the western half of the country. UPS, the US delivery and lo- gistics giant, helped ship all of Zipline’s equipment to Rwanda. The UPS Foundation, the company’s charitable branch, earlier this year invested $1.1 million in a project to investigate how such drone delivery could be expanded to other medicines, and other countries.

And while for now the Rwanda service will just deliver blood, there are plans to expand into other medical areas, such as vaccines. Gavi, a public-private partnership which promotes vaccination, is partnering with UPS and Zipline on the research.

But while drones are being hailed as a solution to many problems across Africa, ranging from HIV testing to elephant conservation, they aren’t a simple business. Rwanda’s regulators are treating them favorably, but those in many countries don’t.

Kenya, worried about terror threats, banned commercial drones in January 2015. Ghana wants all drones reg- istered and licensed, and is threatening hefty prison terms for anyone who doesn’t follow the guidelines. Nigeria has sought to cash in by mak- ing such licenses prohibi- tively expensive. South Africa, meanwhile, appears more lenient, though perhaps not so commercially savvy as Rwanda: it allows anyone over 18 to fly a drone for fun, but using one for business purposes requires onerous paperwork.

Quartz Africa

 

stored carefully and matched to the recipient.
For now, Zipline will make between 50 and 150 deliver- ies per day to 21 clinics in the western half of the country. UPS, the US delivery and lo- gistics giant, helped ship all

expanded to other medicines, and other countries.

And while for now the Rwanda service will just de- liver blood, there are plans to expand into other medical areas, such as vaccines. Gavi,

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Posted by on Nov 16 2016. Filed under African News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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