Drone Deliveries to Hospitals in Rwanda

Posted on June 25, 2017  Comments (5)

Partnering with the Government of Rwanda, Zipline serves 21 hospitals nation-wide. They provide instant deliveries of lifesaving blood products for 8 million Rwandans.

Their drones are tiny airplanes (instead of the more common tiny helicopter model). Supplies are delivered using parachute drops from the drone. Landings are similar to landings on aircraft carriers (they grab a line to help slow down the drone) and, in a difference from aircraft carrier landings, the drone line drops them onto a large air cushion.

Zipline Muhanga Distribution Center launched in October 2016 making Rwanda the first country to integrate drones into their airspace and to begin daily operations of autonomous delivery.

As of May 2017, Zipline had completed over 350 delivery flights to real hospitals and their pace is accelerating. Zipline can cut delivery time from 4 hours to 15 minutes (which is extremely important in time critical health care emergencies).

I wrote in 2014 about the huge potential for drone delivery of medical supplies. It is wonderful to see Zipline improving people’s lives with their effort.

Related: Inspirational Engineer, William Kamkwamba from Malawi (2008)Using Rats to Sniff Out TBUS Fish and Wildlife Service Plans to Use Drones to Drop Vaccine Treats to Save FerretsWater Wheel

The drones can deliver up to 50-75 km (which I believe means they must have a range for 150 km because they must return to their home base). The cost is about equivalent to the current (much slower) delivery methods (car or motor bike).

The current version of the drone plane can carry about 1.2 kg of material to be delivered (via their Reddit AMA). They are working on drones with longer ranges and larger payload capacity. Currently they average about 17 deliveries a day with 2 or 3 units of blood (3 is the maximum capacity).

5 Responses to “Drone Deliveries to Hospitals in Rwanda”

  1. Dave P
    July 14th, 2017 @ 1:00 pm

    This is great! Hopefully now people will be getting the medicine that they need much quicker. Great article!

  2. Alex
    October 19th, 2017 @ 9:39 pm

    This is certainly the future. It is hart warming to see developing countries benefiting from such innovations.

  3. China’s Investments in Africa at Curious Cat Investing and Economics Blog
    October 2nd, 2018 @ 11:57 am

    […] While there are big government backed efforts (including those with Chinese state owned company participation) there are many small companies making entrepreneurial investments led by Chinese entrepreneurs seeing a opening to build successful companies. […]

  4. curiouscat
    February 25th, 2019 @ 6:23 am
  5. curiouscat
    May 18th, 2019 @ 10:04 pm

    “With a valuation of over $1 billion and $190 million in new financing, Zipline has become the latest contender to be the leader in the game of drones.

    Zipline said it will use the new funds to expand its medical supply delivery services across Africa, the Americas, South Asia, and Southeast Asia.”


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