KIGALI, RWANDA Oct 14 – Rwandan President Paul Kagame has launched the world’s first national drone delivery service during a ceremony in the country’s centrally located Muhanga District.
The move will see the Rwandan government begin using drones to make up to 150 on-demand, emergency deliveries per day of life-saving blood to 21 transfusing facilities located in the western half of the country.
The drones and delivery service are built and operated by Zipline, a California-based robotics company.
While Rwanda’s drone delivery service will initially focus on blood, an international partnership between UPS, Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, and Zipline will help the country quickly expand the types of medicines and lifesaving vaccines that can be delivered.
“Drones are very useful, both commercially and for improving services in the health sector. We are happy to be launching this innovative technology and to continue working with partners to develop it further,” said Rwandan President Paul Kagame.
Rwanda’s national drone delivery program enables blood transfusion clinics across the Western half of the country to place emergency orders by cell phone text message.
The orders are then received by Ziplineat its distribution center located in the country’s Muhanga region where the company maintains a fleet of 15 drones, called Zips.
The drones will also help in places where roads are impassable and transport inaccessible.
Rwanda plans to expand Zipline’s drone delivery service to the Eastern half of the country in early 2017, putting almost every one of the country’s 11 million citizens within reach of instant delivery of lifesaving medicines.
Each Zip can fly up to 150 km round trip—even in wind and rain—and carry 1.5kg of blood, which is enough to save a person’s life.
Zips take off and land at the distribution center, and make deliveries by descending close to the ground and air dropping medicine to a designated spot called a “mailbox” near the health centers they serve.
Zipline will make 50-150 emergency flights a day to 21 transfusion clinics across the Western Half of Rwanda and can fulfill orders in around 30 minutes.
“The inability to deliver life saving medicines to the people who need them the most causes millions of preventable deaths each year around the world. Zipline will help solve that problem once and for all,” said Zipline CEO Keller Rinaudo.
Rinaudo added that “We’ve built an instant delivery system for the world, allowing medicine to be delivered on-demand and at low-cost, anywhere.”
The work in Rwanda is being further supported by an international partnership between Zipline, UPS and Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance.
Thanks to a $1.1 million grant from the UPS Foundation, the partnership will study Rwanda’s blood drone delivery operation with an eye towards helping the country quickly expanding the types of medicines and lifesaving vaccines that can be delivered.
East African countries have continued to heavily invest in technology to provide health services to their citizens.
In Kenya, First Lady Margaret Kenyatta started the new Beyond Zero Campaign to improve maternal and Child Health outcomes in Kenya.
The campaign has seen the first lady distribute about 41 fully kitted mobile clinics to the counties.
The Beyond Zero clinics will supplement the county government health facilities are a result of joint effort of thousands of Kenyans through First Lady Beyond Zero marathons that raised funds for the clinics.