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Zipline Medical Supplies via Drones goes Live in Rwanda

by Milicent Atieno
Zipline Medical Supplies via Drones goes Live in Rwanda

Silicon Valley-based Zipline has officially commenced medical supplies service to remote regions in Rwanda using custom-made drones. The startup has been conducting test pilot programs for some time now after signing a contract with the Rwanda government that gave the green light.

They have already set up a functioning distribution center at Muhanga region, with several houses and 15 custom-built drones ready to take flight. It is all systems go for Zipline looking to mitigate the problem of blood and other medical supplies in the remote regions of Rwanda.

The Zips are capable of covering 93 miles (150Kms), round-trip with a load of 3 pounds (1.5Kgs). The first trip by these birds to 21 health centers across the Northern, Southern, and Western parts of Rwanda were conducted last week.

It takes about 15 minutes from the time a hospital makes an order for blood supply, (which can be done via just an SMS) to the time the drone drops a parachute down to the health center. A lot of saving goes to airborne drone delivery; including avoiding the cost of refrigeration and insulation during transit. They also avoid the cost of buying a delivery car with paid drivers.

The drop is also conducted in a professional manner, ensuring no injury risks to people on the ground or damage to the cargo. They also coordinate with staff at the health center to ensure they will be at the drop point to pick up the load and avoid unscrupulous elements from stealing the drop.

The quick supply of medical supplies will ensure no patient dies because of delayed supplies, as have been the case previously. The President of Rwanda, Paul Kagame, was on site to launch one of the drones that took flight last week.

Rwandans have learned to embrace innovation, especially when it is clear that it can help us solve the challenges we face,” said Kagame.

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