Blood-Delivery Drones Are Saving Lives in Rwanda

A partnership between Zipline, a Silicon Valley robotics company, and Rwanda’s health ministry has delivered more than 5,500 units of blood via drones to remote regions of the east African country over the past year. Zipline deploys these drones to 12 regional hospitals from a base in eastern Rwanda. Each hospital serves about half a million people.

When a doctor at one of the 12 clinics needs blood, he or she sends a text message to Zipline or places an order through its website. After receiving the order, Zipline staff located at a larger hospital pack units of blood into a container on a drone; that drone then flies to the clinic at up to 60 mph, alerting the doctor via text when it is within a minute of its destination, and drops the package (which is attached to a parachute) into a designated zone before returning to base.

The blood-delivery service is helping to reduce maternal deaths – a quarter of which result from blood loss during childbirth – and malaria-induced anemia. It also prevents hospitals from having to store all needed blood on site.

In an interview with The Guardian, Keller Rinaudo, Zipline’s CEO and co-founder, said, “The work in Rwanda has shown the world what’s possible when you make a national commitment to expand health-care access with drones and help save lives.”

Zipline is working with the Tanzanian government to launch another drone delivery network.

Source: The Guardian, January 2, 2018.